‘the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world’

“Anyone moderately familiar with the rigors of composition will not need to be told the story in detail; how he wrote and it seemed good; read and it seemed vile; corrected and tore up; cut out; put in; was in ecstasy; in despair; had his good nights and bad mornings; snatched at ideas and lost them; saw his book plain before him and it vanished; acted his people’s parts as he ate; mouthed them as he walked; now cried; now laughed; vacillated between this style and that; now preferred the heroic and pompous; next the plain and simple; now the vales of Tempe; then the fields of Kent or Cornwall; and could not decide whether he was the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.”

  • Orlando by Virginia Woolf

2 thoughts on “‘the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world’

  1. You just introduced me to a someone who I didn’t know anything about. So I googled “Orlando” and was intrigued that the biography is actually a novel. I hope to find out more about this book and character. Virginia Woolf should have been the tip off.

    John: You are always teaching in some form.

    1. I have always been intimidated by Virginia Woolf, maybe because of the play, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” I recently took a Zoom class on books about lighthouses, not including “To the Lighthouse” by Woolf, but I ordered that book as well. It’s next on my list. Then I read a book I had read many years ago called “Portrait of a Marriage.” It is about Vita Sackville-West, written by her son. Vita was a lover of Woolf’s, and Vita’s marriage was a strange one. Vita is the model of “Orlando,” although that is difficult to imagine that one person’s live of about 70 years could be a model for a biography/novel that spans 400 years and the main character magically changes sex. Such is literature.

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