Wit and lightness of being waft from the pages of "Orlando." A quirky, fantastic, enigmatic story, it entices the reader to willingly suspend belief. -Mary Treacy
by Mary Treacy
"Orlando," one of Virginia Woolf's brilliant stories, has lingered on my mind since my first read in English 101. I was at the same time grappling with an assigned paper on "the idea of progress."
Recently, it was probably this nostalgia that sent me on a quest for just the right copy of "Orlando." When my eclectic home library failed me, I checked a couple of indies that offered options I instinctively eschewed on the basis of gaudy covers that didn't represent the "Orlando" of my youth.
The deep reaches of the Minneapolis Central Library yielded just the right tome-a yellowed hard copy published in 1928, rebound, sturdily sewed and untouched for decades-a perfect format for going back to an old read with an open mind.
Wit and lightness of being waft from the pages of "Orlando." A quirky, fantastic, enigmatic story, it entices the reader to willingly suspend belief. The gay and lesbian theme is there, although I think it's overplayed on many paperback covers.
At one point, Woolf declares: "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 is above. Of the complications and confusions which thus result every one has had experience." On the next page she muses that, though "Orlando" could drink with the best of men, she exhibited the female trait of thinking that South and downhill are synonymous.
Rereading "Orlando" reminds me of an interview with Toni Morrison I once read in which she opined that "there are some writers without whom certain stories would never have been written. I don't mean the subject matter or the narrative but just the way in which they did it-their slant on it is truly unique."
Woolf's "slant" is truly unique, elegantly subtle, open to the reader's-or the critic's-interpretation.
Mary Treacy is a retired librarian, independent journalist, amateur historian and blogger (Poking Around with Mary). She lives in Minneapolis. marytreacy.wordpress.com
BookShelf: Mary Treacy recommends these books with LGBT themes by women writers: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing by May Sarton
The Small Room by May Sarton
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin
What's on your bookshelf? Send us 450 words about your booklife, plus your list of five related books by women authors. firstname.lastname@example.org