The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume 2, 1912-1922

What an utter joy to have access to these letters; Woolf was a fantastically funny and engaging and relentless letter writer, her friends saved most and we benefit from that squirreling away. These letters range through the tumultuous era of the Great War and the deadly influenza and I found comfort in her words.

Beyond pandemic thoughts, she writes of social outings and seeing art and going to the 1917 Club (describing a meeting of conscientious objectors at the club “met here to croak like so many dull raucous vociferating and disgorging cormorants”) and losing Asheham but finding Monk’s House, buying Hogarth House, becoming better friends with Morgan Forester and T.S. Eliot, losing her friendship with Katherine Mansfield, cozily comfortable with Lytton and Leonard and Nessa and Roger, gossiping with her various correspondents and letting her pen fly across the page. She loathed Joyce’s Ulysses and swooned over Proust, and throughout it all was working on her first experiment in a new direction with Jacob’s Room.

Her unconventional life caused a rift with more somber family members and I loved her chastising letter to cousin Dorothea who objected to Nessa’s odd domestic setup (ostensibly married to Clive, but living with Duncan): “You, for example, accept a religion which I and my servants, who are both agnostics, think wrong and indeed pernicious. Am I therefore to forbid you to come here for my servants sake?… If after this you like to come with Katharine, by all means do; and I will risk not only my own morals but my cook’s.” (October 1921)

“It is lovely down here, and I read as a weevil, I suppose, eats cheese.” (10 Aug 1922)

“I wish I could discuss the art of writing with you at the present moment. I am ashamed, or perhaps proud, to say how much of my time is spent in thinking, thinking, thinking about literature. It is a dangerous seed to plant in your children. Still, I doubt whether anything else in life is much worth having—so there is the philosophy of an old woman of 40.” (Aug 25, 1922)

“My great adventure is really Proust. Well—what remains to be written after that? I’m only in the first volume, and there are, I suppose, faults to be found, but I am in a state of amazement; as if a miracle were being done before my eyes. How, at last, has someone solidified what has always escaped—and made it too into this beautiful and perfectly enduring substance? One has to put the book down and gasp. The pleasure becomes physical—like sun and wine and grapes and perfect serenity and intense vitality combined. Far otherwise is it with Ulysses; to which I bind myself like a martyr to a stake, and thank God, now finished…” (Oct 3, 1922)

“And at my age, my dear Carrington, life I may say melts in the hand. You think a day quite long enough. But I sit down, just arrange my thoughts, peep out of the window, turn over a page, and its bed time! Nothing is accomplished. Moreover, at my age one ought to be doing something violent.” (Aug 24, 1922)

Finally, as someone who is making her way through reading the bible, I enjoyed this: “I read the book of Job last night—I dont think God comes well out of it.” (12 Nov 1922)

 

 

Jacob’s Room

I’m having a hard time exiting my dreamy state of mind from reading this. The words take over, pull you under, lull you with mystic rocking into the deep.  Ghostly characters swim into view then vanish. We get scratches on the surface about who they are, why they live. Time accumulates and coagulates as the clocks tick and ring out the hours. Jacob is searched for but unknowable.

I’m overcome with goosebumps by reading the end of chapter 11, just awash with beauty. Chills. Awe. Respect. Nothing happens, it’s just that my soul has been wrenched out of my body and transported to a time before the Great War, a time when everything was still possible.

There is humor (“Probably,” said Jacob, “we are the only people in the world who know what the Greeks meant”), there is poetry (describing the cheap weekly magazines: “the weekly creak and screech of brains rinsed in cold water and wrung dry”), there’s an explanation of the best way to read (“any one who’s worth anything reads just what he likes, as the mood takes him, with extravagant enthusiasm”).

Jacob Flanders, his widowed mother, his two brothers, the married Captain who pays daily house calls to Betty Flanders, his disabled wife taken out for an airing, Jacob’s pals at Cambridge, his various prostitutes and female conquests, his gay friend Bonamy who is perhaps in love with Jacob, we get waves and wave of people crashing into our consciousness. Like the girls spotted crossing the Waterloo Bridge “striding hand in hand, shouting out a song, seem to feel neither cold nor shame. They are hatless. They triumph.” Bright, vague creatures. Snippets of conversation. A peek inside a Parisian artist studio.

Poetry poetry poetry: “Often, even at night, the church seems full of people. The pews are worn and greasy, and the cassocks in place, and the hymn-books on the ledges. It is a ship with all its crew aboard. The timbers strain to hold the dead and the living, the ploughmen, the carpenters, the fox-hunting gentlemen and the farmers smelling of mud and brandy. Their tongues join together in syllabling the sharp-cut words, which for ever slice asunder time and the broad-backed moors. Plaint and belief and elegy, despair and triumph, but for the most part good sense and jolly indifference, go trampling out of the windows any time these five hundred years.”

“Stretched on the top of the mountain, quite alone, Jacob enjoyed himself immensely. Probably he had never been so happy in the whole of his life.”

In August 1922 she wrote in her diary: “On Sunday L. read through Jacob’s Room. He thinks it my best work. But his first remark was that it was amazingly well written. We argued about it. He calls it a work of genius; he thinks it unlike any other novel; he says that the people are ghosts; he says it is very strange: I have no philosophy of life he says; my people are puppets, moved hither & thither by fate. He doesn’t agree that fate works in this way. Thinks I should use my ‘method’, on one or two characters next time; & he found it very interesting, & beautiful, & without lapse (save perhaps the party) & quite intelligible… But I am on the whole pleased. Neither of us knows what the public will think. There’s no doubt in my mind that I have found out how to begin (at 40) to say something in my own voice; & that interests me so that I feel I can go ahead without praise.”

Pub’d 1922, her first experimental novel although she’d shown flashes of this in the short stories published previously.

Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

Leviticus

Jesus Christ, Leviticus is boring! It’s one long list of rules and regulations with an occasional threat thrown in for good measure. I miss the rock’em sock’em good times of the first two books. Really detailed instructions on sacrificing sheep, fowls, etc. Salt makes an appearance in 2:13, we’re veering into recipe territory and it seems god has quite the appetite. The cooking show get sizzling with 6:21 “in a pan it shall be made with oil; and when it is baken, thou shalt bring it in”. But before you get too cozy with eating, chapter 11 tells you what NOT to eat (including camel, coney, hare, swine, things without fins and scales in the water, eagle, ossifrage, ospray, vulture, kite, raven, owl, hawk, cuckow, owl, swan, pelican, stork, heron, lapwing, bat). But feel free to eat locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers.

There’s some real voodoo shit, and specific details about dealing with leprosy and gonorrhea. Oops, we are sorry to inform you that incest is now not permitted (18:6), sorry for those thousands of years of confusion before this. While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and outlaw homosexuality as well (our bad—it just got too popular! 18:22).

Things get real with 19:29: “Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.” And since we like making specific regulations about women, there’s a proclamation that the daughters of priests who commit adultery “shall be burnt with fire” (daughters of regular folk were just strangled, not burned). Know any flat-nosed rabbis? I don’t think you do, according to 21:18.

Numbers

There are a lot of numbers in this book, but not a lot of action. Numbers, numbers, numbers, and more of those tediously specific instructions you’ve got to follow exactly or suffer the wrath of god. There’s some really graphic torture that god inflicts, like 5:21’s causing thighs to rot and bellies to swell. The patriarchy is in full force here, with women bearing the brunt of all punishment (5:31 – men are guiltless, women shall bear her iniquity).

Yadda yadda yadda about sacrificing, gold spoons, but again don’t complain because that throws god into a tizzy and he burns people up who complain (11:1). Nice reminiscing about all the good food they used to have in Egypt: cucumbers, fish, melons, leeks, onions, garlic. But cry about it? I’ll give you something to cry about, god says, giving you enough meat to “come out at your nostrils” (11:20).

More patriarchal rot in chapter 12 where both Miriam and Aaron are talking shit about Moses for marrying an Ethiopian woman but only Miriam is punished by being turned into a leper and cast out of the community.

More bitching and moaning from the people so god starts killing people again. 21:6-“And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.” Do not mess with pissy- mood god.

More graphic violence: a grandson of Aaron takes a javelin and thrusts it through a man and a woman, through her belly, in order to keep a plague from killing people. Patriarchal bullshit continues in chapter 30 where women’s choices get overridden by their fathers or husbands.

The height of tedium is reached in chapter 33 which reads like directions printed out from MapQuest: “And they departed from Kibrothhattaavah, and encamped at Hazeroth. And they departed from Hazeroth, and pitched in Rithmah. And they departed from Rithmah, and pitched at Rimmonparez.” The whole chapter lulls you to sleep with this singsong list of arrivals and departures.

Is Moses dead yet? Ugh, no. One more book to go.

Deuteronomy

Hooray! Moses finally dies at the end of this book. But first, lots of reminiscing about god’s greatest hits, some rehashing of the commandments, and god generally acts like an abuser, reminding people that he’s jealous and then pretending he’s merciful.

There’s a lot of weird emphasis here on creating refuge cities in case anyone accidentally kills someone, they can escape to these cities for safety. Also weird to specifically describe that if you accidentally hit your neighbor with an axe, it’s ok to flee to a refuge city.

I guess the vengeful god is more interesting than the nice one. God threatens to send hornets to kill people if they disobey. Not chill.

Also in here is the concept of releasing people from debt every 7 years and helping the poor.

A bunch of bullshit about the patriarchy, like if you want to take a wife from people you capture, go for it, and if you later find you “have no delight in her,” you can let her go but you can’t sell her. Bummer. There’s specific instructions that women can’t wear men’s garments and vice versa. If you take a wife and “go in unto her, and hate her” then pretend she wasn’t a virgin, her parents have to provide “tokens” of their daughter’s virginity and if they can’t provide them, the daughter gets stoned to death.

The whole end of chapter 22 is nuts. If a married woman is raped in the city then they both get stoned to death, but if she’s raped in a field then only the man dies because there was no one to save her. Oh, and if the raped woman wasn’t married then she has to marry her rapist (22:29).

The rules start to get bizarre and arbitrary, like not plowing with both an ox and an ass together, and not wearing clothes that mix wool and linen. If your balls are crushed or your penis cut off you can’t worship god?

Ladies have to marry their dead husband’s brothers. If you try to help your husband in a fight by grabbing the genitals of his assailant, you get your hand cut off!

Chapter 28 is classic—10 verses about how god’ll be nice if you follow the rules, and then 40+ verses on the curses and damnation he’ll bring if you don’t obey. Pestilence, fever, inflammation, burning, sword, blasting, mildew, drought, eaten by vultures, boils, scabs & itches that can’t be healed, madness, blindness, poverty. God will make another man sleep with your wife if you don’t obey. Kill your animals, give away your children, “smite thee in the knees and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head.” He’ll bring locusts and worms to eat your crops.

God is apparently a lawyer because 28:61 is the kind of cover-your-ass clause you’d find buried in a website’s terms and conditions: “Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the lord bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed.”

Monday or Tuesday

This is the only short story collection Woolf published in her lifetime, out via the Hogarth Press in 1921. The eight stories show her shift away from the more conventional novel form in her first two books towards the more modern approach that she launches in Jacob’s Room. She’s writing that novel over the same period that this collection of stories comes out, and has a conversation with Lytton Strachey about writing where he asks about her novel, and she says “Oh I put in my hand & rummage in the bran pie.” (The OED defines bran-pie as: “a tub full of bran with small gifts hidden in it to be drawn out at random, as part of festivities at Christmas, etc.” – apparently a Victorian tradition.)

These are the stories included in Monday and Tuesday:

  • A Haunted House
  • A Society – Poll’s dad leaves her a fortune but on condition that she read all the books in the London Library.
  • Monday or Tuesday – short, experimental swirl of sounds, colors, snippets of conversation, a heron flies past, time passes.
  • An Unwritten Novel – brilliant imagining of the life of a stranger commuting by train.
  • The String Quartet – penetrating description of London society as one goes to an afternoon concert.
  • Blue & Green
  • Kew Gardens – delightful, previously published in 1919, a first glimpse at a more free flowing form. I think she felt the riskiest part was the conversation between two women b/c she was nervous about certain women reading that section.
  • The Mark on the Wall – first pub’d in 1917; spoiler alert, it’s a snail!

Exodus

I’m not planning to write about the entire Bible, but the second book is just as bananas as the first. Compared to Genesis, which has tons of stars, co-stars, and even a few leading ladies (who have actual lines!), Exodus is a one-man show—all Moses, all the time. The god that seemed somewhat benevolent in Genesis becomes kind of a dick in Exodus.

Ok, so we all know the story of Moses, right? Placed in a basket on the river, abandoned by his mom in order to save his life, adopted by the daughter of the Pharaoh? Yeah, but do you remember that Moses’s sister is chilling right by the river and when the Pharaoh’s daughter is like “hey, here’s a Jewish baby,” the sister says “Oh snap, you want me to find a Jewish nurse for it?” and runs and gets her mom, then Moses’s mom ends up nursing her own son into a young boy before handing him back to the Pharaoh’s daughter.

Moses’s name is apparently a play on words. (Thanks to my Biblical scholars here: The Egyptian form of the name was probably Mesu, which signifies “born, brought forth, child,” and is derived from a root meaning “to produce,” “draw forth.” Egyptian has many roots common to it with Hebrew, whereof this is one. The princess’s play upon words thus admitted of being literally rendered in the Hebrew – “he called his name Mosheh (drawn forth); because, she said, I drew him forth (meshithi-hu) from the water.”)

Despite the mostly turgid prose in this book, there are some elements of poetry, like 2:22: “for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land” and 28:34: “A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, on the hem of the robe round about.”

But back to Moses, since this entire book is about him. One day he’s chatting with god, as one does, and is like “How are the Egyptians going to believe that I mean business?” and god is like, “No worries, I’m gonna give you some magic tricks to play on them.” These include: the rod that turns into a serpent (nice touch that the Egyptian magicians also turn their rods into snakes but Moses’s eats theirs), turning water into blood, filling the land with frogs, turning dust to lice, filling the land with flies, killing all the cattle belonging to the Egyptians, festering boils on people, hail + fire, locusts, days of darkness, and then finally the night of Passover where god kills the firstborn of every house not protected by a smear of lamb’s blood.

Before all this happens, god almost kills Moses (4:24) for not circumcising his son (I cannot BELIEVE how big a deal circumcision is to this dude), but his wife “Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband are you to me.”

Changing names continues to be a thing. In 6:3 god declares that his name is JEHOVAH. Compare this to 3:14 after Moses asks what his name is and god gets all huffy: “I AM THAT I AM.” And 34:14 has “the Lord, whose name is Jealous…”

Anyway, Moses is a bit shy so he has to rope in his older brother Aaron to be the spokesperson, and Aaron’s the one doing all the magic tricks (rod turning to snake, water turning into blood). I love that the Egyptian magicians clap back and turn their own rods into snakes and turn water into blood.

Long story short, the Pharaoh finally has enough of these shenanigans and says get the hell out of my land. But god has Pharaoh change his mind and he sends chariots after them, leading to the famous parting of the Red Sea scene (Ch 14). After this little victory, we have the first song in the Bible, Moses singing that the lord is his strength and song and salvation, the lord is a man of war. (Yikes!)

The people start to get restless after days and days wandering the wilderness but Moses keeps them fed with miraculous bread and water out of nowhere. Finally in Chapter 20 we get to the commandments. THERE ARE SO MANY! Way more than the famous ten that we all know (thou shalt not kill, commit adultery, steal, lie, covet, etc.). In fact, the entire section between Chapters 20-23 are injunctions on what to do and what not to do.

In this section is the bit about an eye for an eye, only it’s so much better than that: “thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Daaaaaamn. Tooth for tooth! Foot for foot!

Here’s another of the many more than 10 commandments: (22:18) “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” WTF! The next line calls for death to bestiality practicers: “Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.”

In Chapter 25 god starts to get greedy and REALLY specific about the dream house he wants built. This goes on for several chapters as he micromanages the exact dimensions and decorations of the ark of the covenant and its surrounding flourishes. Same thing happens with the details of the garments the priests must wear, and number of loops in a curtain (50), and colors of linen used, etc etc. If anyone is having a bad day and wants to kvetch about their terrible boss, I recommend they come read Chapters 25-30 and feel better about their work life.

At the end of Chapter 31, god sends Moses down the mountain with a to-go box packed with rules and regulations, the famous tablets (double-sided printing is specified!) “written with the finger of God.” (Shout out to the Biblical scholar who says: ” It is idle to speculate on the exact mode of the Divine operation.”)

But what will Moses find at the bottom of the mountain?! In his absence, good old Aaron has built a golden calf for the people to worship- uh oh! God sees what’s going on and starts calling these sinners “stiff-necked people” which comes up a lot (apparently meaning stubborn). Moses is like, wait dude I can fix them, slow your roll. Then comes my favorite verse yet (32:14): “And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.” Hell yeah, take that!

Moses sees the party going on and breaks the tablets in frustration. Then he called for teams– who’s with me, who’s against me, and his team swept through the camp and killed “about three thousand men.” These are his own people. Nice!

He has to go back up the mountain which probably makes him crabby, or maybe it was having to fast for another 40 days and nights, but then he gets a second copy of the tablets. The final chapters (35-40) are extremely boring since they repeat all the details of god’s micromanaged wish list from Ch 25-30, only by saying that they are following the orders and executing that punch list.

 

The Complete Essays of Montaigne: Book Three

This final book was tacked on later, after the initial publication (1580) and you can tell that Montaigne lets his hair down a bit, settles in and gets comfortable, lets fly with his last bits of wisdom before he wanders off into that good night, his final repose.

Helpful thoughts for the pandemic: “We get hardened to anything to which we are accustomed. And in wretched circumstances such as ours now it is a most kindly gift of Nature that we do grow accustomed to it, so that it deadens our sense of suffering many evils.” (3:9)

On old age: “If we were always progressing towards improvement, to be old would be a beautiful thing. But it is a drunkard’s progress, formless, staggering, like reeds which the wind shakes as it fancies, haphazardly.” (3:9)

On solitude: “Wretched the man (to my taste) who has nowhere in his house where he can be by himself, pay court to himself in private and hide away!” (3:3)

On laziness: “… my chief aim in life being to live it lazily and leisurely rather than busily…” (3:9) “For me nothing is expensive save toil and worry: all I want is to be indifferent and bovine.” (3:9)

On books: “… days and even months on end may pass without my using them. ‘I will read them soon,’ I say, ‘or tomorrow; or when I feel like it.’ Thus the time speeds by and is gone, but does me no harm; for it is impossible to describe what comfort and peace I derive from the thought that they are there beside me, to give me pleasure whenever I want it, or from recognizing how much succour they bring to my life. It is the best protection which I have found for our human journey and I deeply pity men of intelligence who lack it. I on the other hand can accept any sort of pastime, no matter how trifling, because I have this one which will never fail me.” (3:3)

Some Zen thoughts: “… there is in truth no greater silliness, none more enduring, than to be provoked and enraged by the silliness of the world—and there is none more bizarre. For it makes you principally irritated with yourself…” (3:8) “… we have to live among the living and let the stream flow under the bridge without worrying about it or, at the very least, without making ourselves ill over it.” (3:8)

On friendship: “Most of all I am able to make and keep exceptional and considered friendships, especially since I seize hungrily upon any acquaintanceship which corresponds to my tastes. I put myself forward and throw myself into them so eagerly that I can hardly fail to make attachments and to leave my mark wherever I go… In commonplace friendships I am rather barren and cold, for it is not natural to me to proceed except under full sail.” (3:3)

Odds & ends

There’s a reference to a great legal tale in Rabelais: “a chef complained that a poor man was savouring the smell of his roast beef: a fool, called in to judge, ordered the smell to be paid by the jangle of coins.” (3:5)

“You ask me, ‘What is the origin of our custom of saying Bless you when people sneeze?’ Well, we break three sorts of wind: the one which issues lower down is very dirty; the one which issues from the mouth comports an element of reproach for gluttony; and the third is sneezing, to which, since it issues from the head and is blameless, we give that honourable greeting.” (3:6)

Montaigne knew a dude who made you look at 8 days worth of poop in his chamberpots when you visited. (3:9)

Like all good Frenchmen, he mixed his wine with water. “I water my wine, sometimes half and half, sometimes one-third water… It is said that this custom of mixing wine and water was invented by Cranaus, King of Athens—I have heard arguments both for and against its usefulness.” (3:13)

Genesis

Saying that you’re reading The Bible has such a charged effect; you look like a kook. And yet it’s one of the classics, one of the oldest tomes, the book of books. I ordered a copy of the authorized King James Version years ago so it would feel less bible-y while reading, once I got around to it. What a perfect pandemic read! We’ve got nothing compared to the fire and brimstone of these old stories. Step right up and get circumcised, one and all!

I don’t think I’ll document every book of the bible but I felt compelled to get some thoughts on Genesis down because it’s a humdinger. Twenty pages in and you’ve already got murder, incest, drunkenness. Now that I’ve finished it, I have to wonder if anyone has ever made Bible-themed porn? Unexpected to find so much sex and violence.

Considering making t-shirts with Genesis 1:29 printed on them to promote veganism: “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”

1:27 – God creates men and women at the same time (later in 2:22 god steals that famous rib, but I prefer the earlier verse)

Adam and Eve have their sons, then all of a sudden Cain’s got a wife– hmm, who that could be? Yes, his sister. Unnamed, of course.

In chapter 5 we’ve got all sorts of nonsense. Adam lives to be 930 years old? Seth 912 years? Enos 905? I guess we’re getting shorter and shorter lifespans but then Noah gets 950 years.

After the flood, there’s some weirdness with Drunk Noah lying naked in his tent. Ham sees him naked (some scholars say this mean he buggers him!) and his brothers cover him up, when hungover Noah wakes up he gets pissed off at Ham’s son Canaan. Why?!

Things get even weirder with Abram/Abraham (both he and Sarai/Sarah get renamed in Chapter 17?!). When traveling, A pretends that S is his sister (12:13) to save his own life and to give her to the Pharaoh as a wife. Boop!– here comes a plague and the Pharaoh finds out S is A’s wife already. This must have been a common ruse because it happens again in chapter 20 (20:2); Abraham says Sarah’s his sister and so the king took Sarah. Best part: the grand reveal in 20:12 – yep, she is my sister but she’s ALSO my wife!

Let’s see, what other goodies are there. First recorded mention of menopause? (18:11) First recorded mention of women lying? (18:15) The decree of circumcision and the fact that everybody got circumcised that day– Abraham was 99 years old, Ishmael was 13, and all of the men in the house no matter what age they were (moving forward, it was boys at age 8 days).

My two favorite names so far are brothers Huz and Buz (22:21).

Oh, the Sodom section is completely nuts. A couple of angels float into town, Lot gives them hospitality, the townspeople crowd around the house demanding to bugger the angels, Lot says “Nah, mate, but I have two virgin daughters, take them?” Later, when the town’s destroyed, Lot and those two virgins are hanging out in a cave and the virgins decide to get their dad drunk and fuck him to “preserve his seed.”

More craziness with Abraham—when he goes to sacrifice Isaac and the poor kid’s like, “where’s the lamb, dad?” You’re the lamb, kiddo. He binds him up and reaches for the knife! Tell me Isaac isn’t mentally scarred for life from this.

Before Abraham dies, he does one last crazy thing, where he has his servant “put his hand under the thigh of Abraham” to swear something; Bible notes say this is a solemn oath, “Probably it is an euphemistic manner of describing the circumcised member, which was to be touched by the hand placed beneath the thigh; and thus the oath was really by the holy covenant between Abraham and God, of which circumcision was the symbol.” !!!

More pseudo sister shenanigans with Isaac this time who pretends Rebekah is his sister and not his wife.

Jacob has a dream about a ladder, which I guess is the origin of Jacob’s ladder, something I only know of as a cat’s cradle string figure we used to make as kids. Rachel pimps out Jacob to her sister for some mandrakes.

How convenient that giving a tenth of your income to the church is written here (29:22).

Revenge for raping their sister Dinah? Jacob’s sons tricked the townsmen into circumcising themselves because they wouldn’t agree to live in their town unless everyone was circumcised. Why would the men agree?! Anyway, on day 3 after the act, “when they were sore,” Jacob’s sons killed all the dudes in town.

Another inexplicable name change– Jacob becomes Israel.

Ah yes, Joseph and the technicolor coat who’s sold to the Egyptians and is skilled at interpreting dreams, gets in with the Pharaoh, predicts the famine and prepares for it by storing grain, saves his family from starvation when they come creeping up.

Chapter 49 gives us the 12 tribes of Israel, e.g. the 12 sons of Jacob, when on his deathbed he gives his opinion of (disses) them all. Reuben, you no good lout, “unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.” Judah’s eyes “shall be red with wine”, Dan “shall be a serpent”,  Asher “shall yield royal dainties”, etc.

 

The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 1: 1915-1919

So many things to be thankful for. I’m grateful to Woolf for having written diaries most of her life, this is the volume where we witness her getting her sea legs with the diary and read of her delight in re-reading the pages; the shift comes in October 1917. I’m thankful for the pandemic closing the library and thus focusing my energy on this project of reading Woolf sequentially, something I’ve dreamed of doing for years. I’m thankful for her words of wisdom and description of the horrors of the Great War and the influenza of 1918, coffins next door and being laid up several times herself. I’m very thankful to Anne Olivier Bell for being up to the tremendous task of bringing the diaries to print and doing a phenomenal job with the explanatory notes. I’m thankful for the gaps in her pages which remind me that it’s ok not to drudge at it day after day (but it’s also very ok to do so). I love her list of friendships in January 1919, something we’ve all done; while Vanessa and Leonard are missing from the list it’s because she feels something stronger than friendship there. Leonard’s access to her diaries is established early, the 8 Oct 1917 entry mentioning “L has promised to add his page when he has something to say,” which is possibly why she never goes into detail about her thoughts on him.