Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, June 28, 2010

Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf- Hear The Only Recorded Interview with Virginia Woolf

Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf (1922, read via

This is the second Virginia Woolf novel that I have read, the first was The Waves.     I have long wanted to read some of her work (I now hope to read a great deal more) and winning The Waves in a contest gave me my motivation.      Some say it is her most experimental work.    Having just completed Ford Madox Ford's The Parade's End I felt I had at least the germ of an understanding of how to read The Waves.   I next decided to read Jacob's Room not in terms of any great literary logic but because it was the shortest of her three works available on!-    I liked Jacob's Room a lot but before I say a bit about it I want to share with others a great video I found on recording of one of Virginia Woolf's BBC interviews which includes an interesting montage of photos.   It is reputed to be the only recording of her voice.

Jacob's Room is a stream of consciousness work that centers on the impressions the women in his life have of him.   The novel begins in pre-WWI England, takes Jacob through his college years at Cambridge on into adulthood.    The two central women characters in the book are Florinda, a young art student with whom Jacob had a romance and Clara Durrant who was too conservative to entered into a relationship with Jacob.   We also go along on his travels to Greece and Italy.    I enjoyed trying to reconstruct what happened in Jacob's life from the information given by Woolf.   I really really like her prose style and sort of approach her work as if it  were a beautiful very ethereal poem whose pure sumptuousness  would be  desecrated by anything as plebeian as a prose recasting.   There are some great things said about books in Jacob's Room.   I loved this line in all its lovely  refined cattiness:

Dowdy women who don't mind how they cross their legs read Tom Jones.
When I read this I laughed out loud then I thought about how much about how deep these words can take us into the consciousness of the speaker.   My next Woolf will be A Room of  Her Own.   Additionally I will be posting soon on more of her short stories.  

If you listen to the recording of the interview with Woolf please leave a comment as to how you reacted to hearing her voice.

Mel u


Rebecca Chapman said...

That sounds really interesing. I have yet to read anything my Woolf I have to admit. I can't listen to the audio at work but I will look forward to listening to it at home when I get a chance!

Rebecca Chapman said...

That sounds really interesing. I have yet to read anything my Woolf I have to admit. I can't listen to the audio at work but I will look forward to listening to it at home when I get a chance!

Unknown said...

I've heard this piece before. It's such a wonderful, fanciful, serious piece. It's also a perfect choice, as if someone knew there would only be one recording of Virginia Woolf's voice.

B said...

Wow this is great! Her voice is really engaging. I've read Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse and liked them both very much.

Thanks for the review.

ds said...

Some of the truly dry humour of that essay on words gets lost in her upper-class accent, but still I could listen to her (as I could read her) forever. And now I will have that voice in my head. Thanks, Mel!
Great review of Jacob's Room, too. All I remembered was his mother. Time for another look.

Anonymous said...

That's amazing, thanks for sharing, Mel. Her inflections sound like one of my professors in university. What she said was so beautiful, I wish it were written in some form so we could hold it in our hands to read whenever. "Words do not belong in dictionaries; the belong in our minds.."

I'll be reading Jacob's Room soon..

Mel u said...

Becky-I never read any Woolf until two months ago-no matter how many books one has read or how long you have been reading-there will always be huge holes in your reading life


Breanna-I hope to read Mrs Dalloway and To The Lighthouse soon-

ds-yes it was great to hear her voice

Kiss a Cloud-you are very welcome-

Rebecca Reid said...

I recently found this book at a sale table for less than a dollar. I'm glad that you enjoyed it. I loved Mrs Dalloway and I've come to appreciate To the Lighthouse. A Room of One's Own was also very satisfying. I'm hoping to get to The Waves in the next few months too.

I didn't listen to the Woolf recording (don't have time right now) but I'll have to come back! How fun!

Ash said...

I adore Virginia Woolf. I have read a good portion of her works and enjoyed them all, although I was a little disappointed with Orlando. It's strange to hear her voice, I studied her for an entire semester and never heard this or her voice at all. Somehow she sounds exactly like I thought she would though.