"Well then, we went and had tea with Henry James today ... and Henry James fixed me with his staring blank eye — it is like a child's marble — and said 'My dear Virginia, they tell me — they tell me — they tell me — that you — as indeed being your fathers daughter nay your grandfathers grandchild — the descendant I may say of a century — of a century — of quill pens and ink — ink — ink pots, yes, yes, yes, they tell me — ahm m m — that you, that you, that you write in short.' This went on in the public street, while we all waited, as farmers wait for the hen to lay an egg — do they? — nervous, polite, and now on this foot now on that." --Virginia Woolf
From today's Writer's Almanac site. (Thank you, dear Garrison.) As solemn as I am today (& lately), this made me laugh out loud. It's the natal day of Henry James. I will elaborate, in the summer, on the big huge embarrassing booboo gaffe scene I made /committed/created in an academic department one fine spring day. Briefly, then...I was caught mocking James, his plots, sentences, & the stentorian-voiced (female) professor who taught his oeuvre--ahem. (Let me be clear: she was a literary luminousa & scary. Grown men quaked in her presence.) My impromptu comedy skit, including different voices--when I go for it, I go big, people--was a hoot; everyone laughed until they cried (or peed their pants.).Then all went suddenly silent. The sickening realization that, holy cow-wow, she's right behind me. Right? Where is everyone going? You're leaving me alone? Cowards!
I blame...my mother (of course I do). Yes, and all relatives & family friends who encouraged me to perform, to mug for their cameras, & generally to entertain them. It had a weird effect of making me even more shy--except when performing. (And now, they want me to pull a Tina Fey. Too late, people. Besides, do you realize that you will be in this stuff? Huh?)
It cannot be overstated how often my mother was stopped & asked: do you know who you & your little girl remind me of? Also what cannot be overstated is how much my second sister looks like the young Shirley. [Photographs by Allan Grant in 1957/LIFE archives]
PS: Mom, et al: you asked for it. What can I say? You have a few months to procure hush money.