Short and Sweet Reviews // Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf

I’m new to Virginia Woolf, but I wish that I had begun reading her work years ago. Like Jane Austin I assumed that her writing was shallow, all romance, and marriage, and manners. I mean, all of that was covered in this book, but there was so much more. I was wrong, so very wrong, but I’m growing and learning like everyone else.

In Orlando: A Biography Woolf tells the story of a nobleman born in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He joins the queen’s court, becomes a favorite, falls in love with a princess, get his heartbroken, and all the while works at becoming a poet, but none of that compares to the adventure of his miraculous transformation. Orlando, at the age of 30 turns from Lord Orlando to Lady Orlando and lives for over 300 years more.

“For here again, we come to a dilemma. Different though the sexes are, they intermix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above.

― Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography

Obviously one of the major themes covered is gender and the ways gender shapes the way we act and the choices we make and the choices that are available to us. Surprisingly Woolf is critical of both men and women and our assumptions about the ways the other thinks. Men do not understand women, and women do not understand men because both refuse to believe that the other has the very same feelings, qualities, wants, and needs.

Another is time and change. Orlando lives a very long time and sees the world change around him and later her. Her inner world goes through many changes too, and he/she struggles to understand who she is and what she wants to be against the backdrop of “the times” which are always changing and seem always to be at odds with people living in them.

“I’m sick to death of this particular self. I want another.”

― Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography

A lot of time is also spent on literature and the life of a writer. In the moments when mass production and critique was the focus of Orlando’s life, I had the feeling that I was reading an inside joke between Woolf and the writers of her time. I got the jest, but I’m hoping through further reading I can gain a deeper understanding of Woolf views on the subject.

Woolf covers all this as well as wealth and privilege, society, individuality, and, of course, love.

But the real interesting bit about this book is the dedication. Orlando has been called “the longest love letter in literature.” The character of Orlando was inspired by Woolf’s close friend and lover, the writer Vita Sackville-West. At the time of its writing, their affair was waning. Vita, the more adventurous and fickle of the two was moving on to other lovers.

In fact, many of the other characters were also pulled from real life as well, and I imagine I will be reading about Woolf’s personal history for a long while to come.

The style was a shock, at first. From the very beginning, it reads like an old fairytale. The language is flowery, complicated and hard to follow, at first. After a few chapters, it becomes beautiful and poetic, interesting and lively. There is a lot of description and not much dialogue, and sudden jumps through time, which can be hard on the brain too, but I promise it is well worth the effort to stick with it. I have never read anything quite like this.

I am afraid my little review here has done the book very little justice, and you’ll just have to read it for yourself to understand how amazing this story is. As for me, I am firmly a Virginia Woolf fan from here on out and have already picked up a copy of Mrs. Dalloway to read next.

“The flower bloomed and faded. The sun rose and sank. The lover loved and went. And what the poets said in rhyme, the young translated into practice.”

― Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography

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If you like this post heck out my weekly-ish newsletter for some existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering + some interesting reads from others. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Check out Vita Sackville-West on the necessity of writing and Virginia Woolf on space to spread the mind out in.

Featured image via Book Republic

If We Were Having Coffee // Happy Pride (and Orange is the New Black) Weekend

Hello dear readers, thank you for stopping by for some strong brew and some good conversation. A lot has happened since we last sat down and I’d love to catch you up. If you don’t mind, it will be cold brew again. I’ve grown to like the convenience of it and since I have figured out the ratio of either equal parts milk and cold brew with lots and lots of ice or one-third each cold brew, water, and milk, the jitters and stomach aches have been relieved.

We’ll stay inside if you don’t mind that too. It is supposed to a hot one today, and the beating sun can already be felt. My phone is telling me it is already 90 degrees out and still climbing. In a few hours, it will start to get very uncomfortable in my house, even with the evaporative cooler.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that, luckily, in a few hours I will be out celebrating Father’s day with my dad, his wife, my sister, and her kids. We’re not doing anything too crazy, just going to a fun little Mongolian grill that has become our default place to meet. I wish my other sister and my brother could be there too, but she’s in another state, and he has to work.

I suspect the one sister I see today will be leaving to live in another state soon too. I’ve known for awhile that the day would be coming—her husband has already left to find work and housing—but part of me still hoped something would happen, a change of heart maybe, that would keep her and my niece and nephew here. It’s going to be very hard to be so far away from them.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that despite a busy schedule and my feelings and fears about the Orlando shooting, I was able to go out and celebrate Pride weekend last night. I won’t lie to you; it wasn’t an easy decision.

Yesterday afternoon my girlfriend and I had a talk about how we felt and whether we wanted to stay home or go. It’s easy to say that if you don’t go then, they win but is another to consider that you could be putting yourself and your loved one in danger. I know my fear is out of proportion to the chances of anything like that happening again, but I can’t help thinking that not one of those victims probably thought the chance of it happening to them was very high either.

We did go out, though. It was too important to celebrate. It was too important to be around people who would understand how I felt. There was a point in the night when someone set off fireworks in the lot next to the club we went to. It scared the crap out of me. We all agreed it was a cruel trick, and no one blamed anyone else for having been afraid.

I’m glad I went. I had a great time, and I only wish more of my friends could have made it.

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If we were having coffee, I would want to move on to a lighter conversation. Too many emotions wrapped up in that one.

If we were having coffee, I would ask you if you have watched any of the new seasons of Orange is the New Black yet? If yes, what episode are you on? If no, why the hell not? I’m on episode 12, almost done. I watched all day yesterday before Father’s Day gift shopping late in the evening when it had begun to cool down outside.

I’ll try not to give too much away but season 4 has been pretty good. More revealing of the inhuman treatment prisoners often receive, the ways they are set up to fail, and the ways they are forgotten. It reminds me of a movie I watched just a bit ago on the Stanford Prison Experiment. Guards think they are better by virtue of having been made guards. They don’t see prisoners as people, and they don’t consider how easily they could have been one themselves.

Watch the season and let me know what you think!

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that while my work schedule has alternated between nothing at all and very very busy, my girlfriend’s never seems to leave a state of always on the clock, always in crises mode, and always more work to be done.

I’m glad we finally decided to plan and book a long weekend trip to the hot springs. We still have to get through this week of work, but after that, I’ll be out until next Wednesday. We’ll spend the time soaking in warm mineral water, checking out a few cave tours, and sleeping and more sleeping.

It isn’t the most exciting vacation, but we have a camping trip two weekends after that so we couldn’t go all out. There may be a longer trip in October. We’re hoping to get out of state and see a bit of the world we never have before.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m not sure what will happen with the blog while I am gone. Part of me likes the idea of staying up late in a quiet hotel room and writing. I may put the blog on hold and work on some other writing instead. There are a few “Call for Submissions” I’ve wanted to submit work to, a few poems that are only half completed, and a bit of novel writing can be done too.

Speaking of the blog, I’d like to thank, and welcome all my new followers. I continue to be surprised and honored that people care enough to like, comment, or follow anything I have to say. I hope to keep learning, doing better and better, and being useful and helpful to you all. I hope you will keep reading, giving feedback, and inspiring me with the conversations we have and, for some, the writing I see you doing as well.

Thank you again.

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If we were having coffee, I would say that I have taken up enough of your time with my musing and rambling, and I’d thank you again for stopping by. I love our little chats; it’s nice to look back on the week, to organize my thoughts around the events of my life, and to share them with you.

I hope you are doing well. I hope your week was a good one and if you have a moment, please, leave a comment and let me know what you’ve been up to. If you’ve written a coffee chat of your own I’d like to know that too, drop a link and I’ll check it out.

Until next time, take care of yourself :)

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Featured image via Paul Arps

 

 

The Week’s End // Remembering Orlando

In the interest of raising awareness and highlighting stories from those who were affected, this week’s The Week’s End is dedicated to the victims of the Orlando Shooting, their friends and family, and the entire LGBTQ community.

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Since the shooting I have kept this page up in my browser, so I can read the updates as they come in. While a lot of the news has been sad, there are also stories of love. Stories of the victims. Read them and never forget.

The world is getting less and less safe for more and more people. Every time this happens it will touch more and more of us. We are all going to have to learn to cope in that world.

In the wake of the shooting, Democrats moved to force gun legislation. Whether or not they will get it, and whether or not it will mean anything remains to be seen.

In the meantime, we have to remember not to remain silent. Don’ you forget and don’t let anyone else forget either. Keep talking and keep fighting, every day.

Let’s go back to where it all began.

One reason this hurts so much is that for some, the club is all we have. It’s not ideal, and it isn’t always healthy, but it was a place to go to be yourself.

Some clubs are where people learn who they are and how to be themselves. What will we go now?

So many different kinds of hate came together that night, homophobia, misogyny, and racism. We have to fight all three.

What we haven’t talked much about is what kind of world we are creating for young queer kids growing up now. The ones who are suffering the way we did in school and if nothing gets better, will suffer more than we ever did as adults.

And finally to those who are hurt by this act but not apart of our community. We know you want to help, but please help in the right ways. Do not hurt us all over again.

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If you have read or written anything that should be included in the list, please, drop a link in the comments. Happy Pride Month, stay safe out there.

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Monday Motivation // Address the Hate, Starting With Yourself

Hello and happy Monday to you all! I know, I know, no one likes Mondays. No one likes to leave the freedom and comfort of the weekend behind to be thrust unprepared into the monotony and boredom of the work week. But life is short and to spend our whole lives hating one entire day of the week seems like a big waste of what little time we have on this Earth. Let’s try to think about Monday’s a little differently, shall we?

I say Mondays are a time for new beginnings. I say Mondays are full of new possibilities and an exciting chance to do it all over again, and this time, get it right.

This Monday is a sad one. I am still thinking about the Orlando shooting that took place over the weekend. Besides being saddened by the news of 50 lives lost, of this being the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, by some of the messages of hatred I saw, and by how quickly people were able to blame an entire religion and move on, I am also frustrated. I hate that this keeps happening.

I don’t understand how we can keep doing the same thing — essentially nothing — and expect that anything will change. I feel like I am on the outside of a nationwide case of clear insanity. So many people are screaming that something must be done to change this country’s culture around guns, and more are screaming that they will never change.

Our love of weapons won’t be overcome overnight. So all we can do for now is start by addressing the hate.

I saw a lot of people jumping to conclusions on social media yesterday, blaming the entire Muslim religion for this attack. I don’t pretend to know what exactly was on this man’s mind, and I don’t even think that religion had nothing to do with what happened. What I do know is that this feels rooted more in homophobia than in anything else.

Homophobia spans across many religions, races, classes, and cultures. (Homophobia itself is rooted in misogyny, the hatred of what is feminine, but that’s a topic for another day.) I saw a few people choosing to use derogatory terms, blaming the victims for their deaths, and even arguing that this was “God’s will.” I know that most people do not feel this way, but the extremists are protected by the moderates who hold the same views but to a lesser degree. That is the problem I would like us to address this week.

This week let’s look at all the ways we perpetuate these ideas and inflict microaggressions on people who are different or are a part of another marginalized group—particularly gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and other people who’s gender identities and sexualities fall outside of the norm.

Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.

Microaggressions: More than Just Race, Psychology Today

You may think you do not hold any unenlightened ideas about any particular group of people. You may think that you are not racist, sexist, or homophobic. You may think that because you are a part of a marginalized group yourself that you could not possibly be part of the problem. I would tell you that most of you are wrong. Most of you have been judgmental, have thought a group of people didn’t deserve something or thought that their suffering was not real.

Have you ever told someone they should dress differently to fit in with gender norms? Maybe you said it in what you thought was a nice way, “You would look so good in a dress.” I hear this all the time. People think in some way they are complimenting me. All I hear is that I don’t look good the way I do dress. I hear that I am less of a woman because I wear baggier jeans and tennis shoes. It hurts.

Have you ever said or thought:

  • I love the person; I hate the sin
  • You’re too pretty to be a lesbian.
  • Gay people are always hitting on me!
  • This is my gay friend!
  • That’s so gay.
  • Bisexual people are just greedy
  • I’m cool with gay people as long as they aren’t, like, really gay.
  • I’m cool with gay people as long as they stay away from me, don’t look at me, don’t breathe my air.

These are just a few examples and on the surface, these don’t sound so bad, if you aren’t gay, transgender, or queer. If you are all you hear are stereotypes, homophobic stereotypes, being reinforced. You hear how you are different and other, and all you feel is singled out and demeaned.

It’s not about being too sensitive; it’s not about political correctness. It’s about not perpetuating ideas that are harmful, ideas that can be deadly.

Statements like these contribute to the collective cultural view that people belonging to the LGBTQ community are not like everyone else. People who hate gay people, who think they should be killed or jailed, they think the same thing. No one wants to think they the have anything in common with the kind of people that kill out of hatred, but you might.

This week examine all the ways you view people who are different from you. Examine the ways you may be hurting someone around you by saying these kinds of things. Take a second to educate yourself. Find blogs and social media circles where people talk about the ways they are hurt. Listen and ask questions, respectfully. Think about the ways you are hurt every day by the things people think and say. Think about the kind of person you want to be. Think about the kind of world you want to live in.

Think about the victims of the Orlando shooting and all the victims all over the world and throughout history who have been killed for being different. Remember them and try to do better. Try to make this world a place where differences are celebrated, not pointed out to be made fun of or critiqued. Try to practice acceptance, empathy, and understanding.

Above all, just try to spread some love today.

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Featured image by Ludovic Bertron from New York City, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons