I was tromping through my library, knowing that I had found everything of Virginia Woolf’s that they could offer–when lo! There: a teeny-tiny book in the literary crticism section that had Woolf’s name on the spine. Immediately I grabbed it.

It’s called Carlyle’s House. It’s a book of sketches. As Doris Lessing says in the Foreword: “These pieces are like five finger exercises for future excellence.” Excercise, exercise, exercise.

To give you a taste of the scope of Woolf’s subject matter in her sketching, here are the titles for the sketches: “Carlyle’s House,” “Miss Reeves,” “Cambridge,” “Hampstead,” “A Modern Salon,” “Jews,” and “Divorce Courts.” Basically, it covers places and people. (And it has to be said that it is not all complementary, not at all. Prejudices, biases–she left it all on the pages that weren’t supposed to read.)

I don’t ‘journal’ per se. My blank books and whatnot are reserved for sketching like what Woolf has done here. Sometimes I’ll go off on a piece that I’m working on, and use a lot of curse words. Mostly though, it’s all about trying to improve or see something better.

In the interest of complete disclosure and exposure, I have below a very early sketch of my own. I pulled the notebook off of a dusty shelf, sorted through the crumbly yellowed pages, and found something that wouldn’t be too embarassing. (Though, trust me, the beginner-ness of these early sketches are embarassing enough…and nothing like Woolf’s early work. I am now insanely jealous.) I invite you to share a sketch in the comment section, or tell me about how you do your ‘five finger exercises.’

Child in Schoolyard
The drive took her past the drugstore, the gas station, and continued along the winding road to Baker Elementary. It was a smooth ride and she passed the schoolyard with half an eye out as she drove. That was when she saw him. A small eight or nine year old sitting under a tree with a pen and paper in his hand. All of his concentration was on that sheet of paper. The focus of his attention and the deep penetrating furrow of his young forehead stood out in comparison to the running, laughing peers beyond him. Swings moved to and fro, kids played tag and kickball, and this little boy jumped to her eye from his very stillness.

Carlyles House Exercises

jenny maloney View All →

Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.

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