cover image A Moment's Liberty: The Shorter Diary

A Moment's Liberty: The Shorter Diary

Virginia Woolf, Anne Olivier Bell. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $22.95 (516pp) ISBN 978-0-15-161894-1

Woolf's diaries of 1915-1941, published in five volumes between 1977 and 1984, were swiftly written whenever she had the time and inclination to record her dismay or delight, visits or visitors, encounters with creative minds, society ladies and servants, or was moved to ponder literary conundrums, book sales or nasty reviews. Abridged to a fifth of their original published size, the diaries here may appeal to a larger audience, not least because each year represented is prefaced by a wonderfully succinct overview. Here are Woolf's superbly drawn portraits of Max Beerbohm, T. S. Eliot, John Maynard Keynes, Katherine Mansfield--and her occasionally acerbic remarks on what they said and did. But the diaries are also a repository for luminous thoughts on birds and weather, the pleasures of walking or listening to music, and witty jabs at unwelcome guests and importunate journalists. ``I walk; I read; I write, without terrors or constrictions,'' Woolf observed. ``I feel that I have had a good draught of human life, and find much champagne in it.'' (May)