Though the fiction of Olive Moore is mostly out of print in the United States, Dalkey Archive Press has managed to keep her 1930 novel, Spleen, available. Since I’m thinking about proposing a paper on Moore and Woolf for the 25th Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf this summer, I returned to the opening sections of it this morning. Some compelling passages:
Morning and evening she had seen them pass, the same woman with angry pointed cries, the same stick, the same blows, possibly the same petticoats, the same children grown to grandchildren, the same goats perpetually renewing themselves, replaced, undulating, docile, the same purple udders, the same golden satyr-eye half-closed, the same acrid smell of goats passing; and twenty-two years had made it hardly more real to her than on the morning on which, leaning out on the ship’s rail, her eyes set to the horizon, she had seen the island lying in glittering staccato relief on its sea-bed of plumed green, the crisp blue-green of early maize. (7)
And Ruth coming from a world where talk if not spontaneous must be induced and where the larynx was the most productive part of the human body, loved and marvelled at these people for their silences. Twenty-two years remained an unreality; but she had been grateful for the silence. She was her sole companion. I am, she quoted Donne, the self-consumer of my woes; and she was glad that her years had not been spent in the wetting of other people’s shoulders in attitudes of varying despair. (14)
Was it possible that because a girl with her apron jutting out in front of her passed through a vineyard, twenty-two years must melt away like a pear-drop on a child’s tongue?
[____] Plaintively and helplessly impatient her voice came to her again over the years. But you see I do not care for men, Dora. I do not care for women. Why can one not have something else, something different, something new, something more worth having if one has to go through all this? (18)
Though the connection with Woolf’s work is tenuous and in need of reading and more reading, there’s something in and around these passages—the repetition of a sense of time’s passage; the repetition of a sense of temporal parallax; the thematic emphasis on solitude; the desire (a futile one?) for difference, newness, and worthwhileness; or the resistance to and rebellion against the script of reproductive coupling?—that presents so much food for thought.
Reading on . . .