Virago Reading Week Wrap Up

Oh what a delightful week this has been! And thank you all for joining in and sharing your love for the green spines and bitten apples. I’m including the photo to show that my small Virago collection has grown this week — I found a copy of Miss Mole by E.H. Young in the only used bookstore in the nearest prairie farming town earlier this week, just after posting about wishing I’d read it when I had access to a bigger library! And today, at the largest shopping mall in North America (that would be West Edmonton Mall)… I found my first Virago Modern Classic in a bookstore!!! (Books in other editions don’t count.) I looked for Pym, Comyns, Lehmann, just hoping for something. And then Taylor… and there was another Elizabeth, waiting to leap into my arms. I’m wondering if the popularity of Cornflower’s book group pick back in November of A Game of Hide & Seek was what got it onto the shelves? (It was the only one of her books there.) Could it be that bloggers can get these books back on the shelves??

I have to say, I love the new cover and was looking at it all the rest of the day with deep satisfaction, what a great way to end Virago Reading Week!

Right, now on to the last two prizes! Rachel has already given out three — congratulations to Thomas, Cristina, and Carol! Go put something green on! So now, drums please…

First, one prize for Best Review. I had my eye on two early on, the very first day Claire of The Captive Reader wrote movingly about Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark, which has convinced me that I must try this author so many of you rave about and I must start with this book, “about desire and about devotion to oneโ€™s art.” But on Wednesday, Danielle of A Work in Progress wrote beautifully about the experience of reading The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim, saying that she only wanted to read it in “peaceful, quiet corners” — in a garden. This made me instantly pick up Elizabeth and Her German Garden and now I’m longing for The Solitary Summer too, which is the sequel. So this award goes to Danielle! And thank you to both of you for blogging so enthusiastically throughout the week.

Secondly, the prize for the Photo Contest. I said show us your Virago books and the more creative the better and you took me at my word! There were pets (also here), there was baking (featuring apples of course),ย  there were Viragos all over the bed (in a heart shape, because we heart Virago)!

But the winning photo incorporated pets and baking and gave someone “sweaty damp patches and a border collie now wary of aprons”… you all know which one that is!

Oh Darlene, you had us giggling all week! Congratulations and thank you for laughter with our serious feminist reading. (You must share the award with Deacon! Actually, on second thought… maybe a doggie biscuit will do!)

Danielle and Darlene, thank you so much for joining in this week, you truly light up our little corner of book blogging. Please email Rachel about the prizes. (Edit: there’s still Thomas’s give-away to be announced for whoever can guess the paintings from the four book covers on our button!)

Thank you all who shared photos of your collections as well (I particularly envy Simon and Hayley’s Virago loot), any chance to look at and long for other people’s books! Which obviously showcase better selections than that found in most bookstores, I was despairing a little, seeing the piles of fluffy escapist books all over the bookstore I was in today, until the Virago authors began smiling from the shelves — Zora Neale Hurston, Daphne du Maurier, Angela Carter, Margaret Laurence, Muriel Spark and Elizabeth Taylor. I just wish there were more of them, back in print and available in bookstores where I live. I am going to do my best to read and promote more Virago books, to get them into more people’s hands.

If anyone would like to join me in the occasional group read of a Virago Modern Classic (or books we think ought to be on the VMC list), I’d be thrilled! Let me know in the comments if you’re interested and let’s do something about keeping smart books for women (and men) on the shelves.

As Carmen Callil says,

And so, if founding Virago was my first light bulb, dreaming up the Classics was the second. How could I publish Frost in May? The answer came quite easily: here was the celebration and fun I was looking for, here was a way of illuminating women’s history in a way that would reach out to a much wider audience of both women and men. I would publish a multitude of novels, I would publish them in a series, I would market them as a brand, just like Penguin. If one novel could tell the story of my life, there were hundreds more, and thousands of readers who would feel as I did.

We are those readers today, over 30 years after Virago began, those women and men who choose something different than the conventional choices. We are a wide range of ages, we are single and married, in and out of university and a variety of careers, with or without children, we are gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, whatever. We live all over the world, we speak different languages. These are our stories, not about princesses and heroes, but about flawed, ambitious, aching people like us. And we can influence what’s published, what’s available in bookstores, what’s sold and read and thought about and discussed and taken to heart, what changes lives. Book bloggers can make a difference.

17 thoughts on “Virago Reading Week Wrap Up

  1. Alex says:

    Ah what a beautiful post. Thank you again for hosting such a wonderful week. I’m so pleased Darlene won the photo prize – you are right – that photo made me giggle all week! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Lyn says:

    I knew Deacon would win. As soon as I saw the photo I knew no one could possibly top that! Thank you for hosting the week Carolyn, it’s been a great experience & a lot of fun.

  3. Joan Hunter dunn says:

    Thank you for hosting and what a wonderful wrap it up post. Truly wrapped up in beautiful wrapping paper… I think an occasional group read would be a splendid idea.
    I wanted to comment on your previous post last night but my computer was too slow. It was another brilliant post. If you want to challenge cosy domesticity then read Union Street but Pat Barker. Your post has prompted me to mull over a post on it. Happy February.

  4. Cristina says:

    Superb wrap-up and thank you again for being such a wonderful host! Your last paragraph was poetic, inspired and so true.

    Congratulations to Danielle and Darlene – and Deacon!

    P. S. Oh well done on finding that Taylor! It is my favourite so far and I think Virago’s too as they saw fit to publish it in a special hardback as part of the Virago Birthday celebrations a few years back. I do hope you’ll like it.

  5. Darlene says:

    Such a lovely way to start the day, Carolyn! That silly boy and I have just come back from our six a.m. walk. He drags me around the neighbourhood while I sip my tea half-asleep. And really, I deserve every minute for putting that apron on him!

    I can not tell you how much I enjoyed last week and everyone’s company! There are several new Viragos on my shelf now so I would love to join you, and anyone else, in a read-along. In fact, Simon and I have planned one already!

  6. Penny says:

    So glad you found ‘Miss Mole’! It’s one of my favourite books and not just in Virago!

    Excellent choice of photo winner! I love it!

    And I must ration my exclamation marks!

  7. Thomas at My Porch says:

    Carolyn, many thanks to you and Rachel for hosting. It was a lot of fun. I was surprised at how many people entered my contest who were new to me. I thought the entrants would all be bloggers known to me, but the vast majority were newcomers. That is very exciting to meet new bloggers.

  8. Darlene says:

    In my excitement I was remiss in congratulating Danielle on her winning post! A Work in Progress is one of my favourite places to visit…well done, Danielle!

  9. Virginia says:

    Carolyn, I already thanked you over at Rachel’s blog, but I’ll just say it again here. Thanks so much for the wonderful VMC week!

    And I won’t promise anything about a group read because not all the VMCs appeal, but if you suggest one, I will definitely consider joining in. I love having the opportunity to talk about books with others.

  10. Danielle says:

    Sorry about my tardiness in leaving my comment–you and Rachel have done such a wonderful job in hosting this reading week–I thoroughly enjoyed it and would be very happy to join you in any Virago reading you plan this year. I, too, want to continue reading them and have been bad (well, not really–I think it’s a good thing actually) in continuing to collect them. I had not been familiar with E.H. Young but after so much talk of her this week she has instantly made it on to my wishlist. And thanks very much for picking my Elizabeth von Arnim post out of all the other very wonderful posts there have been this week. It’s actually flattering to just think that you picked up a book to read from something I might have written about! I like to think I’m enthusiastic about the books I’m reading and enjoying and EvA certainly deserves attention–and it’s always nice to think someone else will have the same pleasure I am having while reading an author! I’m savoring The Solitary Summer and only wish I could really sit out in a real garden at the moment–this is the next best thing. And Darlene’s photo is great–Deacon deserves a treat for being such a good sport! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Carolyn says:

    Thank you all (belatedly) for your enthusiasm in joining Virago week! It was a wonderful experience for me too. And the Virago read-along will still be on in the future, at some point.

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