Bloomsbury Pie: The Making of the Bloomsbury Boom

Regina Marler, Author
Regina Marler, Author Henry Holt & Company $24 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8050-4416-4
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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""[B]roadcasts, exhibitions, journalism, symposia, postcards, scholarly essays, sharp exchanges in `Letters' sections, midnight readings of The Waves, the first Virginia Woolf teacup, the first exhibition of Carrington's art"" are among the ephemera that fuel the ""nostalgia, adoration, and antipathy"" of what Marler, in this meticulously and lovingly researched book, labels the Bloomsbury boom. How, Marler asks, did ""Bloomsbury"" evolve from a private joke describing the group of artists, critics and writers surrounding Virginia and Leonard Woolf in 1920s and '30s England into a cultural phenomenon? More importantly, why has the Bloomsbury Group always inspired such ""fierce emotion"" and how has the booming Bloomsbury industry fueled such passions? Starting with Leonard Woolf (""the bridge between Bloomsbury itself...and what would become the Bloomsbury industry""), Marler looks at the array of writing that stripped away the group's secrets and clothed it in myth--often simultaneously. Marler sees the boom starting in the early 1970s and continuing on with the various members being recast as exemplars of feminism or homosexuality. A journalist who edited Vanessa Bell's letters, Marler brings Bloomsbury to accessible and vivid life by quoting liberally from magazines, newspapers and books to capture such heated debates as those between pro- and anti-Bloomsbury factions or American feminists and British scholars. Most compelling is her examination of how the ever-shifting interpretations of the Bloomsbury texts reveal what Marler calls ""the almost infinite malleability of documentary evidence."" (Sept.) FYI: The following books from the past several months show the bloom's not off yet: Hermione Lee's Virginia Woolf (Knopf); Panthea Reid's Art and Affectation: A Life of Virginia Woolf (Oxford); Quentin Bell's upcoming Charleston: A Bloomsbury House and Garden (Holt); Peter Stansky's On or About December 1910 (Harvard).
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