MAP

With a Certain Manner of Looking

Laura Edbrook—instructions for artwriting from the essays of Virginia Woolf

With a Certain Manner of Looking


Passing Russell Square

Passing Russell Square

Passing Russell Square,
passing Russell Square

the next train will pass Russell Square


Passing away saith the world, passing away… The leaves decay and fall, the vapours weep their burthen to the ground. Man comes…

And then we wake up and find ourselves at Kings Cross


Do not lean out of the window

Do not lean out of the window

Do not
lean out of the window

Windows, yes windows—casements opening on the foam of perilous seas in faery lands forlorn.

We are beginning to face the fact. We are beginning to invent another language. A language of signs. A language for fact but combined unconsciously together leading to fiction. The language of the unreal is detected by specialists, wordmongers, phrase finders—not readers. Picking and choosing, we select now this, now that, hold it up for display. The age of fragments. A few stanzas, a few pages, a chapter here and there, the beginning of this novel, the end of that, are equal to the best of any age or author. The ‘craftsmanship’ of this use of words is testimony to a reader’s rouse of imagination, the memory, the eye and the ear—they all combine in reading. This process is to see what we can do with the English language as it is. How can we combine the old words in new orders so that they survive, so that they create beauty, so that they tell the truth? This is the best way to rejuvenate one’s own creative power. To pick one’s way about among these vast depositories of words. Leave one’s bare and angular tower and stroll along the street looking in at the open windows. We may not claim to stand, even momentarily, upon a lofty pinnacle. One may never sufficiently reach that vantage ground. But, on the flat, in the crowd, half blind with dust, we must shift the value of familiar things.

Sometimes behave so strangely

Sometimes behave so strangely

Sometimes behave so strangely

A sign of some time that will strike the eye of our great-great-grandchildren

Thistime. Thistime it will be written prose, but a prose that has many of the characteristics of poetry. It will have something of the exaltation of poetry, but much of the ordinariness of prose. It will be dramatic, and yet not a play. It will be read, not acted. It will, in fact, be a writing that transgresses name—for in thesetimes what we are to call it is not a matter of great importance. It will be a prose that will take on some of the attributes of poetry, some of the attributes of play and some of the attributes of speech. It will exist on the page, in the mind and exist amongst its site simultaneously. This is not because the book is dead but because its scope is unconstrained. It is the words that are to blame. They are the wildest, freest, most irresponsible, most unteachable of all things. They have been out and about, on people’s lips, in their houses, in the fields, for so many centuries.

At once

The departure of the departure

The departure of the departure

The departure of the departure

At once a departure of form becomes necessary

Fresh and amusing shapes must be given to the old commodities—for we really have nothing so new to say that it will not fit into one of the familiar forms. So we confine ourselves to no one literary medium; we try to be new by being old. For now we must tolerate the spasmodic, the obscure, the fragmentary, the failure. Since, like all living things, its present is more important than its past. Is it the method that inhibits the creative power? This atrocious method attempts to come closer to the source; to preserve more sincerely and exactly what interests and moves us, a principal of control grouping together what speaks to us and discarding the rest. To extend it. To complete it? For it is not finished with because it is read. Life wells up and alters and adds. Even things in a bookcase change as if they are alive; we find ourselves wanting to meet them again; we find them altered. The little wretches are out of temper; disobliging; disobedient; dumb.


Laura Edbrook is the co-editor of MAP