Monday, June 12, 2006

Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf

I just finished the most amazing book I've read this year (After Sputnik Sweetheart though) and its called "Between The Acts" by Virginia Woolf. This was the last work of a gifted genius and the first that I read of this author. Amazing! Simply Superlative to the core!The story goes like this:Written in 1939 - the year Woolf Died..."Between the Acts" is a masterpiece in its own genre. Lyrical and highly poetic, this is one of its own.

The story goes like this:

On a single day of June, 1939--with the war imminent but virtually unperceived--the action takes place at Pointz Hill, an English country house. It revolves about a pageant played upon the lawns by the local villagers. Despite her necessity, the solitary, thick-legged, masculine Miss La Trobe,who knew how "vanity made all human beings malleable," is not one of the principal characters. The chief actors are the members of the Oliver household. The head of the house is old Bartholomew Oliver, who like so many retired English soldiers has only his India to cling to. He marvels at his widowed sister's orthodoxy. ("Deity," as he supposed, "was more of a force or a radiance, controlling the thrush and the worm, the tulip and the hound;and himself too, an old man with swollen veins.") This aging sister, Mrs.Swithin, who would have become a clever woman is she could ever have fixed her gaze, is the most sympathetic figure in the book. Living with the older Olivers are Isa, the poetry-quoting daughter-in-law, temporarily attracted to a gentleman farmer, and Giles, the stock broker son, handsome, hirsute,virile and surly.
To this special group are added buoyant, big-hearted Mrs. Manresa, "a wild child of nature" for all that her hands are bespattered with emeralds and rubies, dug up by her thin husband himself in his ragamuffin days in Africa. Uninvited she drops in at luncheon, bringing along with the picnic champagne a maladjusted, putty-colored young man named William Dodge, whom Giles contemptuously sizes up as "a toady, a lickspittle, not a downright plain man of his senses, but a teaser and a twitcher, a fingerer of sensations;picking and choosing; dillying and dallying; not a man to have a straightforward love for a woman."

William tries dallying with Isa, and Giles, partly to annoy his wife, pays court to the full-blown charms of sparkling Mrs. Manresa, who confesses she loves to take off her stays and roll in the grass.

The cream of "Between the Acts" lies between the lines--in the haunting overtones. And the best of the show--the part onereally cares about--happens between the acts and immediately before the pageant begins and just after it is over. So the play is not really the thing at all. It is merely the focal point, the hub of the wheel, the peg on which to hang the bright ribbons and dark cords of the author's supersensitive perceptions and illuminated knowledge. It is in her imagery,in her "powers of absorption and distillation" that her special genius lies. She culls exotic flowers in the half-light of her private mysticism along with common earthgrown varieties and distills them into new essences. Her most interesting characters move in an ambiente of intuition. With half a glance they regard their fellow-mortals and know their hidden failures. They care less for the tangible, the wrought stone, than for fleeting thought or quick desire.
"Between the Acts" has no more ending, no more conclusion than English history. The pageant is played out, the guests depart, night falls.

The physical embodiment of Virginia Woolf is no more, but her inimitable voice remains to speak to generations yet unborn. The first line of her last book begins, "It was a Summer's night and they were talking"--The last paragraph ends: "Then the curtain rose. They spoke."
A Must Read for Everyone!!


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