Anything of importance should be written down to be conserved. Not everything is traceable, not everything has a flashpoint, a crater; a flag planted, a voice in the incessant chorus of history. Chatter dies, syllables on the page last, if only longer. So much is lost, if there are no attempts at conservation. I am a conservationist and I am in the conservation business. But of what exactly, other than language, am I preserving I’m unclear, other than I record that which speaks to me in a tug, or a whisper, a repetitive presence perhaps or simply a yearning to make sense of time — excerpt from “Dead Me Scrolls,” found in leaves.
This piece looks at the many sides of Virginia Woolf through the various books published about her in the past few years; especially interesting is her work as a diarist and a reader of other people’s diary.
At one point in The Value of Virginia Woolf, Madelyn Detloff talks about variations in categories of identity. She gives examples of relatively new ones (such as intersex, queer, or transsexual) and points out that the arrival or departure of viable statuses is not in itself a new phenomenon. “It was simply not possible to identify as an American, for example, before the seventeenth century.” This must have been hard. Even more unexpectedly, she continues: “Nor is it possible today to identify as the King of France, although the category certainly existed in the seventeenth century”. I don’t know how many people are (or were) personally affected by this cancellation of potential. But there is at least one king of France who has been alive and well for some time. Bertrand Russell brought him into legitimate existence as a logical problem of reference, with the announcement, in…