It's been a few days since I have read more from Katherine Mansfield's Journal, but there were some interesting things I have been reading in the introduction to Mansfield's Collected Stories that I wanted to share. I am planning on starting her short story 'Prelude' as soon as I finish the rather lengthy introduction (I tend to like to read intros after I have read the work, but in this case I want to know as much about Mansfield as I can). I mentioned earlier that Mansfield's brother was killed in WWI in 1915--apparently accidentally while training soldiers how to use grenades.
"From this point on something sobered in Mansfield. She settled to her first real work, a long story called 'The Aloe', based in the New Zealand of their childhood and dedicated to Leslie. It would become 'Prelude'; the Woolfs would publish it as their third Hogarth title in 1918, and it would take some time for readers and critics to appreciate the strangeness in its form, its poetic distillation, its surprising open-endedness, its characters seen in their immediacy, as if historyless, and its tacit inference that story can be differently seen and understood. These are just some of the reverberations of this deceptively simple-seeming, hugely innovative story."
Although she lived a very short life, she accomplished much in terms of her fiction. I'm always curious about what or how an author has changed the way see see/read/think about literature.
"Katherine Mansfield's fiction, for all its innovation, reads surprisingly easily. Though her concern with consciousness and psychological relativity, her projection of the notion of self as both fragmented and fluid, the fixation with displacement in her stories and her vision of aesthetic shape itself as negotiable, are all clearly identifiable as modernist concerns, she's what you might call an unassuming modernist, a sly, laughing kind of modernist. It's almost as if she'd never want to be caught being pompous, or in any way too present in her stories (or as if to us now nearly a hundred years later, unwilling to be caught taking any single literary fashion or 'ism' too much to heart.)"
"Beside the other great modernist fiction writers, her work seems to go out of its way not to demand of its reader. It isn't marked with any of the self-conscious experimenta of, for instance, contemporaneous work by Joyce, alongside which it appears quite conventional; and alongside the meditative, spare and rich, mono-voice and poetics of much of Woolf's fiction after Night and Day, Mansfield's work seems almost theatrical, like a transcription of social performance. She often used the verb 'perform' when referring to the act of her own writing. 'Now I must play my part,' she tells herself, steeling herself to write 'The Aloe' after her brother's death."
As I have been (very slowly) reading some of Virginia Woolf's work as well, I am very interested in both authors in relation to each other. They appeared to have a love-hate relationship. I have read, however, that Woolf was bereft on the death of Mansfield.
"Virginia Woolf, in her more rivalrous moments, dismissed Mansfield herself for her 'cheap' realism, the ABC tea-shop, waitress-peopled, downmarket settings of her stories. But Mansfield's aesthetic question was the same as Woolf's own. What was reality? Who were the judges of it? As early as 1909 she was pondering structure, and the ways in which meaning is expressed in fiction. 'Realism, flesh covered bones...' But then - 'supposing ones bones were not bone but liquid light'. Mansfield senses, in the very structure of things, a different kind of realism."
Sorry to quote so much from the introduction of Mansfield's Collected Stories (written by Ali Smith by the way), but there is so much great information there. I wonder if Virginia Woolf wrote much about Mansfield in her diaries? I really need to start reading them as well, I think. I am almost ready (I need to get through some of my piles of already started books first) to start reading Woolf's Jacob's Room, the first of her experimental writings. First, however, I will be finishing reading Mansfield's Journal and finally getting to her short stories. I really like reading about authors working at the same time and seeing how their writing plays off each other or at least compares. I hadn't planned on doing so, but I am enjoying reading both Woolf's and Mansfield's work!