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The Years by Virginia Woolf

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virginia20woolf20at20windowNow that I’ve had some time to digest Virginia Woolf’s The Years I have come to the conclusion that while very enjoyable there is something disagreeable about reading about the characters that she presents the readers. The novel follows a single family, the Pargiters. The novel begins in the year 1880 and spans the turn of the century up until “present day” which at the time of the publication of the novel is 1937.  As I’ve mentioned before there is nothing significant about any of these characters or their lives, in fact they are very self obsessed and arrogant in their concern and worries of their own lives and that is what I find to be difficult in reading these characters. Virginia steps back outside of these characters and we take that step with her. And with this outside view, the reader sees how our own lives match the lives presented in the book and this is not necessarily a great thing. Their obsession with the mundane goings on of their lives is just sad to me. 

The brilliance of the book I find is located in the way that Virginia weaves the changing world in the background, the introduction of the automobile, the world war, the changing face of communication [ telegraph, telephone ]. These are introduced in subtle ways that seamlessly interweave with the lives of the characters. 

I’ve read many of Virginia’s non-fiction and shorter fiction works but up until now I had not ventured into her novels. I think this is an amazing introduction into her work and if you have ever considered reading her work, this is a wonderful place to start. My only advice is to be patient as the novel is a bit heavy in that it drains you as you see bits of yourself in the lives of the characters she presents. If we all step back and look at the lives of people the way she does, stepping back and look at ourselves I think all of our lives seem to be petty and mundane. It does make you think though and reflect that we’re not so different as past generations, each new generation seems to distance itself from the previous, but what Virginia shows us is that we often have more in common than we’d like to admit.

Written by thebeliever07

May 10, 2009 at 12:48 pm

The Years….still…

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Still fighting with Virginia, it has not been pretty. The reading is going slowly. Do not get me wrong, I’m enjoying The Years immensely, it is just taking its sweet ass time.

Written by thebeliever07

May 3, 2009 at 1:50 pm

The Years by Virginia Woolf

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I’m currently engaged in a battle with Virginia Woolf’s The Years. The book is amazing and the way in which Virginia draws focus on one particular family as it confronts birth, death, joy, and sorrow through various ‘years’ at the turn of the century is amazing.  It is written like a literary soap opera.  The various ups and downs of a family that deal with jobs gained and lost, marriages, etc. It is a slow read though and I find myself wondering why I really care about this family. Virginia has created a large cast of characters in such a way that focus is not given on any one single character. Just as you find yourself starting to become wrapped up in one character, she changes focus onto someone else which is both enjoyable and yet frustrating.  It is a slow book but one that allows you to sink your teeth into the text. Virginia also deftly weaves the changing face of society and time in the background of these characters lives.  Small scenes that step outside of the the characters point of view and glance at men and women walking down the street, railways, trams, trolleys, carriages, etc. Well worth picking up. Will write a proper review soon. Cheers.

Written by thebeliever07

April 16, 2009 at 8:29 am

Lush Life by Richard Price

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Lush Life by Richard Price reads exactly as you’d expect from someone who has written for HBO’s The Wire. The strength of this book rests in the characters that are given to the reader.  A wealthy restaurateur who may or may not be connected with the wrong people, a young bar-tender who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, inner city youth who lack options, a grieving father; all of these characters who live in our world, the world outside of fiction and that as I’ve said is the strength, real characters that just happen to be placed in a world of fiction. lush-life1

By the time Eric made it around to the front of the store again, Fenton Ma had been spelled by an older cop, his shield reading LO PRESTO.

“Can I ask you something?” Eric said lightly, not knowing this guy. “Have you seen her in there?”

“Who, the Virgin?” Lo Presto looked at him neutrally. “Depends what you mean by ‘seen’.”

“Well, I’ll tell you.” He looked off, palming his chest pocket for a cigarette. “About eight this morning? A couple of guys from the Ninth Squad went in there, you know, curious? And kneeling right in front of that thing is Servisio Tucker, had killed his wife up on Avenue D maybe six months ago. Now, these guys had been turning that neighborhood upside down looking for him ever since, right? And this morning alls they did was waltz on in there and there he was, on his knees. He looks right up at them, tears in his eyes, puts out his hands for cuffs, and says, ‘OK. Good. I’m ready’.”

“Huh.” Lo Presto finally fired up, exhaled luxuriously. “Did I see her? Who’s to say. But if what I just told you isn’t a fucking miracle, I don’t know what is.”

The city of New York comes alive with Price and if you have not had the joy of watching The Wire and are worried about getting involved in a long show with many seasons you cannot afford, then at the very least pick up this novel and give yourself a treat.  Price allows you to get frustrated along with the detectives that have been assigned to the case in question. The politics and bureaucracy of the police and their worries of how crime is perceived by the larger public, these are all issues that Price lays bare for the reader.  The novel is quick and fast paced (455 pgs) and I was tempted to quit half way through, not out of any lack of interest but because Price frustrates you as a reader. It is hard not to get involved with the characters and become upset at the walls that keep on popping up as the detectives struggle to figure out the crime. That is what Price is wanting to happen though, for you as a reader to become involved and annoyed at how frustrating it is to solve the crime, to put every little piece together in order to lay out a proper case for the district attorney.

Check it out, and in case my recommendation is not good enough. [ As if! ]. This book is number 3 on The 2009 Believer Book Award Reader Survey.


  1. 2666—Roberto Bolaño
  2. Unlucky Lucky Days—Daniel Grandbois
  3. Lush Life—Richard Price
  4. The Lazarus Project—Aleksandar Hemon
  5. Netherland—Joseph O’Neill
  6. Vacation—Deb Olin Unferth
  7. Unaccustomed Earth—Jhumpa Lahiri
  8. Arkansas—John Brandon
  9. A Mercy—Toni Morrison
  10. Indignation—Philip Roth
  11. Death with Interruptions—José Saramago
  12. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle—David Wroblewski
  13. Bottomless Belly Button—Dash Shaw
  14. A Heaven of Others—Joshua Cohen
  15. So Brave, Young, and Handsome—Leif Enger
  16. How the Dead Dream—Lydia Millet
  17. Personal Days—Ed Park
  18. A Fraction of the Whole—Steve Toltz
  19. The Drop Edge of Yonder—Rudolph Wurlitzer
  20. Ghosts of Chicago—John McNally


Next up on the chopping block: The Years by Virginia Woolf

Written by thebeliever07

April 12, 2009 at 3:19 pm