Virago Modern Classics

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humblebee
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Virago Modern Classics

Post by humblebee » Tue Oct 09, 2007 10:20 am

Did anyone read Jonathan Coe's recent piece about discovering the Virago list?

I think the only things I've read from it must be Antonia White's Frost in May, and the obligatory Atwood... but this piece has made me want to check some more out. Have any of you read Rosamond Lehmann, May Sinclair, Dorothy Richardson, or any of those others?

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Re: Virago Modern Classics

Post by crystalball » Tue Oct 09, 2007 10:43 am

That was a really nice piece, wasn't it? I love it when writers get excited about other books and new discoveries and all that. It's as good as seeing pop musicians revealing themselves as pop nerds.

When I was at uni I was massively into Rosamond Lehmann and read a lot of her books in one go. I can't say I remember them all now but Invitation to the Waltz was definitely my favourite, followed closely by A Note in Music. The writing is fantastic: really engaging and emotional without being soppy. I have a horrible feeling that if Lehmann was writing now she would be labelled chick lit in those supermarket bookshops because of her subjects. I am glad she's a modern classic instead. :)

The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall is a great book in that series as well. Ooh, and the book I'm currently reading, Rebecca (by Daphne du Maurier) is a Virago Modern Classic too. Um, also Antonia White is great, and Rose Macaulay.

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Re: Virago Modern Classics

Post by noLooking » Fri Aug 01, 2014 12:32 pm

humblebee wrote:Did anyone read Jonathan Coe's recent piece about discovering the Virago list?

I think the only things I've read from it must be Antonia White's Frost in May, and the obligatory Atwood... but this piece has made me want to check some more out. Have any of you read Rosamond Lehmann, May Sinclair, Dorothy Richardson, or any of those others?
Whilst we're dredging up old book requests, I was wondering if you read any of those, and thought they were any good?

I got a box of VMC books about ten years ago, cheap from a magazine that came thorough the door. I seem to remember the whole 'female authors evade cannon and fall into obscurity' thing intrigued me as well, as I'd been reading lots of 'this is very important and if you don't like it there's something wrong with you' books and had simply concluded that, whilst they sometimes weren't bad, there was probably something wrong with me - I still think Tolstoy is a nob.

Anyway, they were a bit hit and miss, but there were some real gems in there. I agree that 'Invitation To The Waltz' is marvellous, and I also read a lot of Edith Wharton and Willa Cather. A good EW one is 'The Children', which I reckon is better than her famous ones, but was a bit overlooked at the time because it was about a man who falls in love with a fifteen year old girl and it wasn't considered 'genteel' to discuss such things, especially as a woman (whether it was considered genteel to marry off sixteen year old girls to men four time their age I suspect was a different story). Willa Cather is a bit less 'cannon', but just as good, all pioneer farmers in the mid-west and meaningful glances over the asparagus (I"m a sucker for meaningful glances over the asparagus) if I remember rightly, it's been a while.

However, the best one was 'The Enchanted April', by Elizabeth Von Arnim, wherein a couple of disaffected housewives go on holiday to Italy with some objectionable, advertised-for travelling companions, and the spirit of the place manages to get inside them and make them better able to confront their problems. This, of course, sounds like complete slush and in many ways it is - as much as I enjoyed it (and I enjoyed it a lot), I can't think of anyone I've ever recommended it to - I think I used to be ashamed of having such an extreme sentimental side. However, given I can safely say that the part of me that loves this book is the same part that enjoys singing along to 'My Boy Says' and doing the finger-clicks at the same time, this seemed to be an appropriate place to make a confession.
crystalball wrote: I have a horrible feeling that if Lehmann was writing now she would be labelled chick lit in those supermarket bookshops because of her subjects. I am glad she's a modern classic instead. :)
I think you're right. I've read bits of chick lit, and although most of it's bloody awful, it does have it's high points - 'In Her Shoes' by Jennifer Weiner (upon which the film was based) is very good. I think the great thing about VMC is that it frees these things from the dreaded 'woman's book' tag, and so make you feel a bit cool and feminist for reading them, rather than having to look over your shoulder on the bus. The other thing is, at that distance, they can get rid of all the rubbish - having read about half of one of my Nan's Mills and Boons once, I shudder to think what some less talented romantic authors got away with in the thirties.

I'm quite interested in Dorothy Richardson, did anyone read that? I liked 'Dance To The Music Of Time' and she sounds in the same vein, although the relationship I have with the other comparison, Proust, echoes the one I have with recent Scott Walker albums - they stare balefully from the shelf, daring me to pick them up, knowing that I never will.

Christ, I've gone on a bit - do either of you even remember this thread? Ho-hum...

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Re: Virago Modern Classics

Post by Cloudy Cat » Tue Sep 23, 2014 8:46 am

Barbara Comyns. Read The Vet's Daughter or Our Spoons Came From Woolworths. And anything else.

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Re: Virago Modern Classics

Post by humblebee » Thu Sep 25, 2014 2:30 pm

OK, I did quite badly here. Started reading... I think it was The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West, and didn't finish it. Bad humblebee.

noLooking

Re: Virago Modern Classics

Post by noLooking » Thu Sep 25, 2014 2:35 pm

Cloudy Cat wrote:The Vet's Daughter
This may be the quintessential VMC title!
humblebee wrote:OK, I did quite badly here. Started reading... I think it was The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West, and didn't finish it. Bad humblebee.
If you read no others, read the Elizabeth Von Arnim one. The covers are a bit shitty and off-putting sometimes, but it helps if you get ten for a tenner and have nothing better to do.

Yay, Anorak's started reading again! I thought you'd all dumbed down and started watching 'Pressure Pad' or something...

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Re: Virago Modern Classics

Post by Cloudy Cat » Fri Sep 26, 2014 10:33 am

humblebee wrote:OK, I did quite badly here. Started reading... I think it was The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West, and didn't finish it. Bad humblebee.
Her book The Return of the Soldier is excellent.

I've embarked on this mammoth task of reading every book recommended in that doorstep tome 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I've a slight head start having read roughly 17% of them. I'm not sure I'm up to reading Wyndham Lewis simply because you have to have a dictionary to hand to combat every page; reading Lewis is a bit like going to war with the main casualty being your belief in your intelligence. Currently fighting my way through The Green Hat by Michael Arlen, a very singular work.

I'm sort of hoping I might die before I have to read Anthony Trollope, however morbid that may sound.

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