Tag Archives: Orlando

A number of important people have emailed me over last week’s blog…

Stanley Reynolds Crime Novelist


Readers, yet more maundering.

A number of important people have emailed me over last week’s blog. In it I wrote of stormy weather aiding an author’s plot. Lady Ottoline Morrell 1V, Mr Osbert Sitwell 111, Madame Jacques Reverat, the Viscountess Cecil, V.Sackville-West, Mr T.S.Eliot OM, and Vanessa Bell V, and many other distinguished personages have written to tell me that Virginia Woolf, a leading female in the 20th Century paper trade, exceeded all others with her weather in her novel Orlando in 1928.

Sparing no effort in my desire to right wrongs (NB Miss Desirée, who does my typewriting: that’s right wrongs, not write wrongs, dear) I searched through the numerous piles of books displayed on the floor where I, with an unmade bed by my side, write both books and blogs, also cheques to duns.

There, next to The Waves (1927) and The Years (1937) which was the only novel of Virginia’s to sell 40,000 copies and make it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. It topped the list in early June and remained there through July and finally fell off altogether only in late October.

I recently asked an Oxford-educated novelist friend what she thought of The Years. She had a PhD in Virginia Woolf and somehow managed never to have read or even heard of The Years.

In the 1970s when I was fleet of foot and sound of wind and limb I turned down a job to teach literature to the imbeciles at Harvard. Perhaps, if Oxford is anything to go by, I should have gone to Massachusetts and taught the swine.

I digress. In Orlando in the time of King James there was according to Virginia The Great Frost, which historians tell us, was the most severe that ever visited these islands.

She wrote:

“Birds froze in mid-air and fell like stones to the ground. At Norwich a young country-woman started to cross the road in her usual robust health and was seen by the onlookers to turn visibly to powder and be blown in a puff of dust over the roofs as the icy blast struck her at the street corner. The mortality among sheep and cattle was enormous. Corpses froze and could not be drawn from the sheets. It was no uncommon sight to come upon a whole herd of swine frozen immovable upon the road. The fields were full of shepherds, ploughmen, teams of horses, and little bird-scaring boys, all struck stark in the act of the moment, one with his hand to his nose….”

Virginia was such fun among the Bloomsbury Circle.

This excellent stuff comes because in my new summer holiday read, The Summer Stock Murders, the weather rescued me from not knowing what the hell I was going to do for a plot.

I recommend my book, and Virginia Woolf’s, to my many blog-fans.


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I have hardly ever read Virginia Woolf

sHere at Blog Manor, pouring vintage pre-phylloxera port, only slightly crusted, down the red lane, it comes as a surprise to moi that I have hardly ever read Virginia Woolf.

I wonder what was the reason?

I sent Harrington, the only slightly lame second footman, to the bookshop to correct this fault.

I discover that Ginnie was a gal after my own heart. In Mrs Dalloway (1925) she relates that things went to hell when water closets started to be talked about; and written about in otherwise respectable magazines. Did she mean Plumbers Weekly or the Gentleman’s Quarterly Cistern?

Even more telling was the road to hell being littered by skirts short enough to expose the ankles – particular Arabs will know from whence the Woolfette was speaking. They like their gals wrapped up in cloth with only the eyes looking through.

As well as writing educated chick-lit Virginia was not as other women. Unlike the liberated rug-chewers of today she kept quiet about it.

      An Old Lady enters the Blog

      Old Lady: Young man, must you be so disgusting.

      Me: I’m working my way out of it.

Virginia Woolf is amazing. She should have written poetry. In fact, she does. The first chapter of Night and Day (1919) is like T.S.Eliot; like, in fact, Eliot’s Portrait of a Lady (1917).

Eliot: “Among the smoke and fog of a December afternoon/ You have the scene arrange itself…”

Woolf: “It was a Sunday evening in October. . . the remaining parts of her mind leapt over the little barrier of day which interposed between Monday morning and this rather  subdued moment…”

She is very popular among some, mainly intellectual, ladies who are usually professors and make a living out of her. Night and Day and her first novel, The Voyage Out (1913)
were published by her step-brother’s firm Duckworth. After that Virginia started self-publishing with her husband Leonard Woolf at the Hogarth Press at 52 Tavistock Square London WC. To The Lighthouse (1927) was perhaps her best-known and loved novel; a granddaughter of mine did it for A Level.

One of Virginia Woolf’s most talked about novels is Orlando (1928). This is because it was written for Vita Sackville-West and the morons think it might be pretty steamy lesbo fare. It isn’t. It’s fun with history, starting with a page to Queen Elizabeth I and working its way, (with gender changes) to the 20th Century. Orlando stands history on its head and rewrites literature with wit, vigour and exuberance.

Virginia’s one and only big bestseller was The Years (1937); a novel hardly known these days, even by fans.

It sold 40,000 copies and went to number one in the New York Times  bestseller list. It topped the list in June, remained number one in July and only fell off the list in late October.

The Years is the story of the Pargeter from Victorian years (1880 and 1891)to the 20th Century: 1907 to 1918 to “the Present Day”.

Leonard Woolf didn’t like all this success. He said it was the worst thing she ever wrote. One wonders how good he was for Virginia’s brain. All her life she suffered nervous breakdowns. Fearing another coming on in 1941 she filled her pockets with stones and drowned herself.

What, if anything, does this have to do with Murder In A Cold Climate, that jovial stocking-filler now weighing down the library shelves at Blog Manor awaiting the Christmas rush?

Not much. But I counted them and I seem to have eight women in Murder In A Cold Climate, all playing big parts, a couple of them major roles.

      A LITTLE OLD LADY re-enters

OLD LADY: Are there any little old ladies? Do they appear in chemis?

THE AUTHOR: Only young nifty numbers in their step-ins and other unmentionables.

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December 12, 2013 · 2:16 pm