May 6, 2011

Virginia Woolf: Flush

Posted in Uncategorized at 09:48 by Miracle

Who would suspect that one of the easiest reads I’d chance upon this year would be one written by Virginia Woolf.  Unthinkable, you might say. Yet, it is true. Nevertheless, it being an “easy” read does not mean that it is no work of art.

Flush is the poetic biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s relationship with her cocker spaniel of the same name.  Virginia Woolf follows them from Elizabeth’s solitary existence in Wimpole Street to life with her darling Robert in Italy.  Written through the perspective of Flush, the reader is made to experience a heightened sensitivity towards sights, sounds, and aromas. There is a certain innocent excitement in the pages and yet Virginia Woolf injects just the perfect and realistic dose of melancholy as she depicts the incomparable closeness and also the inevitable void between such a friendship, while she writes from experience in relation to the bond shared with her own cocker spaniel, Pinka (or Pinker).

There was a likeness between them. As they gazed at each other each felt: Here am I – and then each felt: But how different! Hers was the pale worn face of an invalid, cut off from air, light, freedom.  His was the warm ruddy face of a young animal; instinct with health and energy. Broken asunder, yet made in the same mould, could it be that each completed what was dormant in the other? She might have been – all that; and he – But no. Between them lay the widest gulf that can separate one being from another.  She spoke. He was dumb. She was woman; he was dog. Thus closely united, thus immensely divided, they gazed at each other.  The with one bound Flush sprang on to the sofa and laid himself where he was to lie for ever after – on the rug at Miss Barrett’s feet. Take note, this passage is only at the beginning.

One of the things that drew me to this book was its unVirginia Woolfness.  Rumor has it that she was not quite herself when she wrote this, and I was not quite myself when I read this.  She feared that critics would call it “charming, delicate, and ladylike.” Just as I feared, while reading this, that I was succumbing to weakness by falling in unmyselfness.  And yet, as Virginia Woolf has proved, and as a certain Mr. Garnett attested, calling Flush Woolf’s most perfectly-proportioned book, it is a beautiful thing to explore another aspect of ourselves, for in so doing, we are also made whole. My favorite line from the book? Love was all. Love was enough.



Highly recommended to reading women who love literature and dogs. *Waves at Marie Vic, Kendi, and Jaclyn* =)

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