Woolf on Writers and Readers

Excerpt from Virginia Woolf’s famous essay, Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Brown:

“In the course of your daily life this past week you have had far stranger and more interesting experiences than the one I have tried to describe. You have overheard scraps of talk that filled you with amazement. You have gone to bed at night bewildered by the complexity of your feelings. In one day thousands of ideas have coursed through your brains; thousands of emotions have met, collided and disappeared into astonishing disorder. Nevertheless, you allow the writers to palm off upon you a version of this, an image of Mrs. Brown, which has no likeness to that surprising apparition whatsoever.  In your modesty you seem to consider that writers are different blood and bone from yourselves; that they know more of Mrs. Brown than you do. Never was there a more fatal mistake. It is this division between reader and writer, the humility on your part, these professional airs and graces on ours, that corrupt and emasculate the books which should be the healthy offspring of a close and equal alliance between us. Hence spring those sleek, smooth novels, those portentous and ridiculous biographies, that milk and watery criticism, those poems melodiously celebrating the innocence of roses and sheep which pass so plausibly for literature at the present time.”

 

About the Author: Elly Bookman

Elly BookmanElly Bookman, Contributor.  Elly Bookman's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, The Journal, Passages North, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of the first annual Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from American Poetry Review, and was featured in Rattle's Poet's Respond Series. Originally from downtown Atlanta, Elly teaches middle school in Wilmington, North Carolina.  

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