Today is the birthday of Vita Sackville-West, who is perhaps most famous for being the lover of Virginia Woolf, which made me think of that Bloomsbury group.
I remember in grad school being fascinated by the sexual relationships in that group. I've always been interested in non-conventional relationships, both sexual and otherwise. How do people fight against whatever structure their society tries to impose upon them? I'm interested in people who live in intentional Christian communities, in people who create all sorts of co-parenting relationships, in people who refuse to be boxed in by society's need to classify and sort. It probably shouldn't surprise me that I'd have been interested in the Bloomsbury group.
Now, though, I find myself frustrated in our society's need to talk about everybody's sex lives. Yawn. After awhile, I find myself feeling like I've heard everything. What seemed endlessly fascinating when I was 21 no longer interests me at all.
When I was in my late 20's, an older colleague said, "I'm bored with people's sex lives. Don't tell me about what you're into in the bedroom. Tell me about your investments."
She meant financial investments. I was horrified. I saw her as deeply repressed. Now, I understand.
However, there's still one aspect of human lives that I long to know better; we rarely talk about people's creative lives to the extent that fills my hunger. I've read book after book about the Bloomsbury group, and very few writers talk AT ALL about how the creative individuals influenced each other as individuals and as the group. To me, that's the interesting question: how do we become better artists when we're part of a group? What do we lose when we're part of a group? Do artistic groups influence individual artists differently than other groups (like, say, being part of a group of new parents or environmentalists or grad students)?
No, writers exploring the Bloomsbury group tend to focus on the sex or the upper class background of the group or any number of other things except for the art.
Let me qualify. I haven't read much about the Bloomsbury group since I finished my Ph.D. in the early 90's. This situation may have been rectified.
But I doubt it. Perhaps there's a lesson for us artists: have a boring sex life or risk having your art trivialized--at least for the first hundred years after your death.
Yes, yes, I'm oversimplifying. But many people would tell us that simplifying/making dull more parts of our lives will lead to more interesting art. Or maybe it's just that having a streamlined life will give us more time to make art. If we lose so much time to drama and turmoil, we won't have the time, space, and quiet that much art demands.
Here's a Vita Sackville-West quote (from The Writer's Almanac) for your Tuesday inspiration: "It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?"
The Summer of Reading
2 months ago