An Uncommon Reading

Recently I discontinued, with consternation, my reading of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. I am thankful for Steven Riddle for providing a passage and his own considered thoughts that suggests my own experience is not uncommon:

Virginia Woolf’s Orlando was first published in London in October of 1928. I remember, the book was regarded with some mistrust by one generation–my own, at that time ‘the younger’. We, in our twenties during the ’20s, were not only the author’s most zealous readers, but, in the matter of reputation, most jealous guardians. Her aesthetic became a faith; we were believers. We more than admired, we felt involved in each of her experimental, dazzling advances. Few of us (then) knew the still-conservative novels of her first period; a minority had informed itself of The Mark on the Wall and Kew Gardens, hand-printed and issued in 1919 by the original Hogarth Press. She broke full upon us, it would be correct to say, with Jacob’s Room, 1922, on which followed Mrs Dalloway, 1925; then, while we were still breathless, To the Lighthouse, 1927. What now, what next? Next came Orlando. It was Orlando’s fate to come hard on the heels of the third of those masterpieces, of which each had stimulated a further hope. We regarded this book as a setback. Now, thirty-two years later, I wonder why this should have been so.
Elizabeth Bowen – The Mulberry Tree

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