Madeleine's Reviews > Orlando

Orlando by Virginia Woolf
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Aug 27, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: head-in-the-clouds-nose-in-a-book, our-libeary, the-face-is-familar, maybe-it-s-time-to-live, 2012, blogophilia
Read from September 11 to October 02, 2012

A mere 10-minute drive has separated me from my college best friend since March. Even with my knack for getting hopelessly lost in the wilds of Central Jersey, it’s the shortest distance between us since our days as roomies; unsurprisingly, however, life since we graduated six years ago has been filled with things like work and conflicting schedules and living with significant others whose company we actively enjoy and our shared inclination for decompressing in fabulously introverted ways, which means that we don't get to see each other as frequently as we would in a perfect world.

When she got engaged last month, I was among the first to know. And when she announced her happy news, it was in nearly the same breath that she asked me to be her matron of honor. It’s not like I've been writing my MOH speech in preparation for Maureen's nuptials since college or anything, which is rather fitting: Though our friendship didn’t blossom until we found each other through mutual friends in the final days of our sophomore year, she and I first crossed paths in a freshman oratory class wherein our final project -- a toast of some nature -- was called off when our professor had a family emergency that semester.

Maureen's really the first girl friend who I let bring out the unabashedly, endlessly silly THIS IS MY BESTIE FOR ALWAYS AND I LUUUURVE HER SO MUCH behavior that has punctuated our friendship. Until we glommed onto each other in the wake of another friend's tragedy early in our junior year, I'd thought of myself as someone who'd always have peripheral female friends and much closer guy friends. Not to say that my high-school gal pals weren't an awesome bunch -- they were then and they still are now -- but I didn't know how to appreciate who they were until much later. It took meeting my twin-to-be in some friends’ dorm room as our sophomore year was drawing to a rapid close to realize that I'd spent years looking for this sister figure right in front of me. When I hesitantly friended her after a truly neurotic internal dialogue that summer on LiveJournal ("Is this stalkery?"; "Was she only humoring me and secretly wishing I'd shut the hell up?"; "Will she think I'm trying too hard to be her friend?"; etc.) only to discover that her username referenced "Tristan and Iseult," I had a nagging suspicion that I had discovered a kindred spirit after a lifetime of right-person-wrong-time that neatly summarizes my self-inflicted messy track record with people to that point.

I was proven more right than I could've optimistically imagined when another mutual friend later christened us as twins, which is still how we squealingly address each other. She and I do have a staggering many things in common, save for her ability to, like, actually plan things (an area in which I fail with joyful abandon). So when we recently found ourselves with simultaneously out-of-state mates, she and I had every intention of cramming a whole lot of wedding stuff into an uncharacteristically sans-SO weekend. Actually, I had every intention of catching up on the reading that stupid work kept interrupting but if there's one thing that trumps solitary bookworming, it's a two-day romp through the tri-state area with my beloved and sorely missed twin.

Our university days were a blur of turning the college radio station (Maureen's territory) and college newspaper office (mine, and also her then-boyfriend's) into The Place to Be at Next-Morning-o'-Clock, nursing one cup of coffee after another in flagrant abuse of her Starbucks employee discount, trips to New Hope or Princeton for the hell of it or wherever our friends' makeshift bands were playing that weekend, scenic everythings for mutual shutterbugging, harassing the same roadies over and over again for a setlist after the show, and geeking the hell out over our shared affinities for things like British lit, British bands and British spellings. So when she turned to me during our recent drive through Bucks County and said something along the lines of "Screw the bridal show, wanna go to New Hope?" and later "Oh damn, looks like we'll be spending tomorrow in New York" while ogling dresses from her living room couch, it was like we were carefree co-eds with time to kill together all over again.

So maybe I did do the content of my first non-required taste of Virginia Woolf a great disservice by tackling it in tiny pieces over the course of a month. But having Orlando on the brain while clumsily prancing around in pretty dresses in NYC boutiques, while examining tiny treasures together in New Hope shops (where we found a whole stash of outofprintclothing.com goodies!), while making a mad dash through the Met in the hour before it closed as she played tour guide (where I discovered a love of art I didn't know she possessed) more than made up for that by reminding me of what it means to experience a feminine love to the point where you want to write pages and pages detailing all the things that make this woman uniquely magical so other people come to love this quirk and that idiosyncrasy, too. And I think that, more than anything else, drove home the spirit of the novel better than an uninterrupted reading experience may have. Maureen and I might not have shared the physical intimacy that Virginia and Vita did (I mean, aside from the constant boob grabs and thigh gropes) but she's certainly someone who gets me in a way few others do.

There was so much of Orlando him/herself that had the part of me that needs to find myself in every artwork, song, film and book I love underlining passage after passage in a story that, like my twin, I first encountered as a college freshman but didn't fully appreciate until later. Thanks to my first big-girl's film-appreciation class, I was introduced to the whimsy of "Orlando" via its cinematic incarnation during the same semester I read "A Room of One's Own," which should have been enough to make me a fan of VW had being an English major not left me with such an incongruous lack of reading time (speaking of things that never change....). Anyway. The things I foggily recall from the film -- frozen bodies underwater, positively scrumptious costumes, blocking choreographed down to an inch -- came screaming back and actually started adding to the sweeping narrative of this gorgeous novel.

But when I saw "Orlando" nearly a decade ago, I had no idea that the novel itself was dedicated to Vita, nor did I know that Woolf's lady lover inspired the titular gender-bending character. Knowing that, plus having a better understanding of the historical guideposts that pop up throughout Orlando's centuries-long existence, turned this novel into the best kind of brain candy. I'm a sucker for literary allusions by the armful and lush symbolism (I'd rave about my late-to-the-party realization that Orlando is the oak tree she'd been immortalizing in verse for 300-some pages but hasn't this so-called review gone on long enough?) and pages soaked in true-to-life humanity, so it's only natural that I'd enjoy Virginia's ode to a woman for whom her passionate love most definitely stands the test of time. Way to throw down the gauntlet for the rest of us, Woolf. Challenge accepted.
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Quotes Madeleine Liked

Virginia Woolf
“Yet it is true that there was an absent mindedness about her which sometimes made her clumsy; she was apt to think of poetry when she should have been thinking of taffeta; her walk was a little too much of a stride for a woman, perhaps, and her gestures, being abrupt, might endanger a cup of tea on occasion.”
Virginia Woolf, Orlando


Reading Progress

09/12/2012 page 65
19.0% "I had no idea this was dedicated to Vita. BONUS SQUEE."
09/13/2012 page 94
28.0% "Sometimes, Goodreads is completely detrimental to my reading habits. Today was one of those days." 1 comment
09/14/2012 page 121
36.0% ""Bad, good, or indifferent, I'll write, from this day forward, to please myself....""
09/21/2012 page 206
61.0% ""Yet it is true that there was an absent mindedness about her which sometimes made her clumsy; she was apt to think of poetry when she should have been thinking of taffeta; her walk was a little too much of a stride for a woman, perhaps, and her gestures, being abrupt, might endanger a cup of tea on occasion.""
09/28/2012 page 267
80.0% "Oh, GR and time for reading, I have missed you in a totally inappropriate way."
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Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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message 1: by Jenn(ifer) (new)

Jenn(ifer) but it has the fabulous Tilda Swinton on the cover!


Madeleine Hey! Don't cloud the issue with your logic! I AM RIGHTEOUS IN MY ANGER.

.... but you are so right. So, so very right.


message 3: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason I especially don't like that the title actually says 'movie tie-in'. That is stupid, and one of us librarians should change that.

But I do love me some Tilda Swinton.


Madeleine Jason wrote: "I especially don't like that the title actually says 'movie tie-in'."
Yerp, that's where my problem lies.

That is stupid, and one of us librarians should change that.
It IS stupid and one of us librarians SHOULD change it! Time to use those powers for both good and awesome.


message 5: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason KI'AI!

karate


Madeleine Whoa. He knows double kung fu.


rachel Hah, have you seen the Wide Sargasso Sea movie tie in cover? Being a fan of Jane Eyre I need to read it at some point, but I wouldn't even buy the MTI for 25 cents at the thrift store, it's that bad.


Madeleine rachel wrote: "Hah, have you seen the Wide Sargasso Sea movie tie in cover? Being a fan of Jane Eyre I need to read it at some point, but I wouldn't even buy the MTI for 25 cents at the thrift store, it's that bad."
I had not (I actually wasn't familiar with the book, either -- A JE prequel? WANT.) until your comment had me searching for it. And... ooof. It looks like what happens when a self-published erotica writer doesn't want to shell out the extra dollars for a decent cover designer. Also? It makes me think of vampires. And I am so. tired. of vampires right now.


message 9: by rachel (last edited Sep 12, 2012 03:23PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

rachel I actually wasn't familiar with the book, either -- A JE prequel? WANT.

Yeah, it's Bertha's story. I have heard wildly mixed reviews, but hey, it's got to be better than the oodles of terrible Lizzie and Darcy totally doing it!! Pride and Prejudice spinoffs (for example).

That cover looks like an 80's porn VHS sleeve was ripped off and slapped onto the book, and the neon slapdash title lettering doesn't help. I would be ashamed to be seen with it in public, and I have so little shame that I read 50 Shades of Grey openly over lunch at Taco Bell.


message 10: by Jenn(ifer) (last edited Sep 12, 2012 04:18PM) (new)

Jenn(ifer) I happen to be reading Wide Sargasso Sea right now! No creepy MTI version though (but the cover of my version is lame enough in its own right)(p.s., between you and me -- no one else is reading this, right? I'm not loving it)(and I loves me some Jean Rhys).


message 11: by Madeleine (last edited Sep 13, 2012 07:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Madeleine Rachel!

I have heard wildly mixed reviews, but hey, it's got to be better than the oodles of terrible Lizzie and Darcy totally doing it!! Pride and Prejudice spinoffs (for example).
Hah! Having read "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" (which, I mean, could have been worse but could have been a lot better) and calling it quits on the altered Austen craze immediately after that makes me agree with you. Emphatically.

I would be ashamed to be seen with it in public, and I have so little shame that I read 50 Shades of Grey openly over lunch at Taco Bell.
This cracked me up. I love that "50 Shades" is the new easy target that we can all sneer at together.

Jenn!

I just wanted to say that you're really making it difficult to keep "Quartet" on the shelf. And that your WSS review is still amazeballs. An ace in my face, even.


message 12: by Jenn(ifer) (new)

Jenn(ifer) Madeleine wrote: I just wanted to say that you're really making it difficult to keep "Quartet" on the shelf.

my work here is done. ;)


message 13: by Jason (last edited Oct 05, 2012 05:47AM) (new) - added it

Jason Pictures of the groping would be grand, please.


message 14: by s.penkevich (new) - added it

s.penkevich GRAND review! I realized I knew nothing about this book and the him/herself through me for a loop. Now I know, and now I want to read it more.


message 15: by Kris (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kris Wonderful review, Madeleine! Beautiful job tying the novel to your experiences over the past few weeks -- you do that so well.


message 16: by Madeleine (last edited Oct 05, 2012 09:29AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Madeleine Jason: I think most of the good stuff has been stricken from FB when we were attempting to make our profiles more professional post-graduation but there has to be some kind of photographic evidence of the way I inappropriately love my friends. If nothing else, you've given me a new goal for the next time I see/maul my bestie.

Penk: Thank you so much! The gender-switch can be a little baffling when you're not expecting it. Coming into this book with a little background information and a vague memory of how the plot shakes out was pretty helpful, which was a pleasant surprise because reading the book after seeing the movie usually ruins everything for me. But, yeah: You totally want to read it. :) It reminded me that I absolutely have to fill the Woolfian void in my reading habits. "Mrs. Dalloway" and "To the Lighthouse" (plus a few Kindle freebies) are patiently waiting for me to get on that....

Kris: Beautiful job tying the novel to your experiences over the past few weeks -- you do that so well.
I suppose that's one of the benefits of connecting to the world more adeptly through books than flesh-and-blood people. :)

Seriously, thank you muchly. Your kind words and thoughtful comments are always greatly appreciated.


message 17: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason ♥ Mrs. Dalloway ♥


Madeleine Jason wrote: "♥ Mrs. Dalloway ♥"
The Woolf-love among my GR pals (Woolf pack?) is what sold me on coming back to her stuff. I am even more excited to eat up more of her works than I was to find "Mrs. Dalloway" at my favorite used bookstore.


message 19: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason I believe ole' Mizz Dalls is available as a Kindle freebie, too, mah dears.


message 20: by Natalie (new)

Natalie I like your long reviews. Do you blog anywhere? You should.


Madeleine Aw, thank you so much for all of this, Natalie! I do not blog but keep toying with the idea (I also think I self-sabotage a little too much to be a reliable blogger). I wanted to do a dog blog when Dave and I finally HAVE a dog but who knows when that'll shake out.


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