January 25th, 2012 | Magazine

Buying the flowers yourself

The author bought these flowers himself.
The author bought these flowers himself. Photo by YDN.

Screw April — January is the cruelest month. February’s pretty cruel, too. They’re boring and cold. This morning was ordinary. I woke, finished a problem set, thought about blogging, decided not to blog, showered, dressed, went to Thai Taste. As I stared dumbstruck at an enormous plate of drunken noodle, I remembered something that makes today extraordinary: today is Virginia Woolf’s birthday. Were she alive today, she would be 130.

Virginia Woolf is super important to me, and everyone. Whenever I am studying and feeling unmotivated or dumb or both, I watch clips from “The Hours” and “Orlando” to get my gears grinding. I owe Virginia Woolf some major thanks. Today, I celebrate, and you can too. But how? First, like Mrs. Dalloway or Clarissa Vaughn, I bought the flowers myself. Pink ones, to be precise, from G-Heav. Second, I emailed English Prof. Margaret Homans ’74 GRD ’78, who teaches a seminar on Virginia Woolf, who recommended the following:

We could celebrate by reading what Woolf wrote to celebrate her own birthday in 1920:

Jan. 26, 1920

The day after my birthday; in fact I’m 38. Well, I’ve no doubt I’m a great deal happier than I was at 28; and happier today than I was yesterday having this afternoon arrived at some idea of a new form for a new novel. Suppose one thing should open out of another[here she details the pros and cons of the new method of writing she has begun to devise for her third novel, Jacob's Room]. My hope is that I’ve learnt my business sufficiently now to provide all sorts of entertainments. Anyhow, there’s no doubt the way lies somewhere in that direction; I must still grope and experiment but this afternoon I had a gleam of light. Indeed, I think from the ease with which I’m developing the unwritten novel there must be a path for me there.

(From The Diary of Virginia Woolf, 5 vols., ed. Anne Olivier Bell and Andrew McNeillie (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1977-84), vol 2: 13-14.)

A path, indeed – Jacob’s Room was her breakthrough novel, her first great contribution to pioneering modernist form. Happy Virginia Woolf’s birthday to all who love her novels.

All seconded. Happy Virginia Woolf’s Birthday, Yale! It’s already kind of close to Spring Break.

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article neglected to name February as a cruel month. It is just as cruel as January, if not moreso.