Saturday, April 14, 2007

BOOKS | Want To Read Mansfield

My interest in Katherine Mansfield was piqued when I first read Rereadings. In the collection of essays by various contributors on rereading memorable books, Patricia Hampl's portrait of Katharine Mansfield made a strong impression on me. According to Hampl, Katherine Mansfield was the only woman Virginia Woolf considered a rival. What struck me most vividly was Mansfield's penetrating perception of Woolf:

... the strange trembling, glinting quality of her mind ... She seemed to me to be one of those Dostoevsky women whose innocence has been hurt.

This single statement - sharp and hard as diamond. I wonder at the clarity and brilliance of such a mind, and I wanted to read her.

Ali Smith salutes the "awesome spirit" of Katherine Mansfield recently in The Telegraph. And she made note of Mansfield's sharp, incisive perceptiveness:

There was also her ability to get to the guts, the enmity, the unspoken judgmentalism and the surreality of things, suspended just beneath the politest tea-time conversation.

Not a mild person, and she made herself almost universally disliked with the things she observed. A mild person would not have experimented as she did in her youth, opening herself to the various spice and flavour of life. As she wrote in her journal, "I must experience first, how can I write about things if I don't experience them." A full-on engagement with life, where she paid heavily for some choices - and yet.

I have the Penguin Modern Classics (the Silver one) version of The Collected Stories by Katherine Mansfield awaiting my attention. Ali Smith's tribute made me pick it up and move it to the TBR pile next to my bed. I am halfway through too many books and I really need to finish some of them before I even attempt another book. And from the calendar, I have the Non-Fic Five Challenge coming up in May also.

I cannot afford to read Katherine Mansfield right now. But I want to.

1 comment:

Rebecca H. said...

To get such high praise from Woolf says a lot in my book. I read her story "At the Bay" and liked it a lot.