Of violet eyes

Of violet eyes

Only the second example I have come across of violet eyes, never yet seen in real life. Here the 76th Earl of Gormenghast learns from his physician, Dr. Prunesquallor, that the newborn 77th Earl-to-be, Titus, has this glorious oddity. The other, also of aristocratic...
Cooling the ardour of the Archduke

Cooling the ardour of the Archduke

A wonderful, quirky episode in Orlando: a bizarre game played for hours, days, weeks, by Orlando and the Archduke whose amorous attentions she is trying to rebuff.  They play the Fly Loo Game, which seems to involve trying slip dead flies unnoticed where live ones...
On growing up

On growing up

An interesting definition of growing up – losing your illusions.  But then humanly allowing the possibility that you will acquire new ones. ‘I am growing  up,’ she thought, taking her taper.  ‘I am losing my illusions, perhaps to acquire new...
Toads versus rapiers

Toads versus rapiers

Having roundly failed to deter the advances of an Archduke by brazenly cheating him out of tens of thousands of pounds, Orlando resorts to even baser means.  Her self-justification is a wonder, as if a rapier were a more noble way of dealing with an unwanted suitor...
Trick or miracle?

Trick or miracle?

I love the idea of trusting in Nature, but have to wonder whether it is capable of such apparently conscious agency in our lives, whether playing tricks or working miracles. If such agency is real, may it ever work miracles for you. ‘And then Nature, in whom she...
Dead or alive?

Dead or alive?

This marvelously stark encounter with a dark stranger proves to be Orlando’s first meeting with the man she will marry.  Her energetic statement is a reflection of having been pursued for a century or so with a sackload of court cases, many of which revolve...
Up and out at dawn

Up and out at dawn

Orlando, who at this stage in her 400 year life has only quite recently woken up to find herself transformed into a woman, has finally come back to her vast old family home.  Her staff, who accept her new gender without batting an eyelid, still detect signs in their...
Of life, lovers, spaniels and sympathy

Of life, lovers, spaniels and sympathy

Orlando’s four hundred year span seems to boil down to the search for Life, Love and Authorship.  Here she is learning that lovers aplenty may not be enough to provide either Life or Love (let alone Authorship). This is not the first time that it is to a dog she...
Of long and short time

Of long and short time

While I have seen many comments on the elasticity of experienced time, this is the first one connecting its length or shortness with whether the time is spent doing or thinking. I can’t immediately see the correlation, as it would surely depend on what it is you...
Sickle and circular

Sickle and circular

What a beautifully fresh alliteration for the usual ‘wax and wane’ of the moon. ‘He saw the moon sickle and then circular.’   Source: Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography, ed. with an introduction by Rachel Bowlby (Oxford: World’s...
Time of the mind

Time of the mind

Time and our perceptions of it fascinate me.  Here Orlando comments on its strange elasticity inside the mind. Indeed in need of further investigation. ‘The mind of man, moreover, works with equal strangeness upon the body of time.  An hour, once it lodges in...
A comprehensive indictment

A comprehensive indictment

Orlando’s elaborate life includes a depressing barrage of lawsuits as conflicting as they are outrageous.  While the law trundles through its processes, she is allowed to retire to her estates and live incognito and in limbo between being male or female on the...
Poetry pressed out by pain

Poetry pressed out by pain

Poetry is one of the strongest channels for expressing pain, and I liked the use of the word ‘pressed’.  It implies a wine-making process, as if you emptied vat loads of painful must and then pressed out a small quantity of distilled language to be...
Which would you choose?

Which would you choose?

I would be hard put to choose but I think I would opt to leave behind a wall where peaches ripen.  And certainly better to go unknown than to burn like a meteor. ‘Better was it to go unknown and leave behind you an arch, a potting shed, a wall where peaches...

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