Ilana Simons's little self-help book, A Life of One's Own, could have been awful. Its subtitle is A Guide To Better Living Through the Work and Wisdom of Virginia Woolf, and it makes a person wonder: how about just reading Virginia Woolf? Who needs an intermediary? And also: life advice from a person who committed suicide? How's Simons going to play that one?
But isn't it a pretty book? It's got rough-cut pages, too. It was hard to resist. And I'm glad I didn't, because it's a really nice book. I love Virginia Woolf, though I haven't read all her work. I find it hard going and emotionally taxing; I've started Jacob's Room several times but reading it makes me want to cry. I do have her diaries, though, and they're wonderful.
So I don't mind this distillation of some of her ideas. Simons is modest and intelligent and subtle, and I think she gets it right, though a Woolf scholar might disagree. Some of the chapter titles are Accept Solitude, Work Hard Even Without A Sign of Success, Be Aware of Prejudice, Find a Political Voice, Make Use of Time, Read and Be More, and Simons uses the life and work of Woolf to make these points. The writer I know and love is fairly represented here. It would make a great Mother's Day present. (Suddenly the blog has turned into the bookstore newsletter...)
I've been taking a bit of a break from reading fiction lately, which I do now and then and feel bad about but then I remind myself that reading fiction, especially very good fiction, is hard. It works your imagination, your emotions, your intellect, your empathy, and requires much more sustained attention than nonfiction. The occasional break can renew the energies. Unless you take too long a break and get all out of shape. I think some short fiction. Anyone read any good collections recently?