Last year I took a memoir writing class from Kathi Diamant, and since then–actually since way before then–have been intending to read her biography of her namesake and possible ancestor, Dora Diamant, Kafka’s Last Love. I finally did and was blown away by Kathi’s exhaustive research as much as I was enthralled by the story of Dora, her relationship to Kafka and her life after his death. I wrote about it in my Presidio Sentinel column as one of a series of pieces about local authors. Will it motivate me to read Kafka? Hmmm, we’ll see….
When I saw reviews of An Unexpected Guest by Anne Korkeakivi, it went to the top of my list. The immediate draw was the comparison to Mrs Dalloway. Like Woolf’s masterpiece, Korkeakivi has written a circadian novel–one taking place in a single day–about a woman planning a dinner party and encountering her past. And, like Mrs D, it’s so much more.The novel is a great read and rewarding in itself, a complex story of secrets and lies interwoven with the domestic drama: guest list, menu, what to wear, and, of course, buying the flowers. I posted my “sighting” on BloggingWoolf on the newly-christened “Clarissa Day,” established by Woolfians to keep pace with the Joyceans’ “Bloomsday,” homage to that other circadian novel, Ulysses. Since then I’ve had the occasion to exchange emails with Anne Korkeakivi and ask her about Woolf’s influence. She said: “I can’t say I set out to write a contemporary version of Mrs. Dalloway, but I did recognize early on the similarities between what I wanted to do and what Woolf so brilliantly does in that novel.”
The New York Times Book Review keeps me current on what’s new and notable, and that’s where I first learned about Carol Anshaw’s Carry the One. With raves coming from all over, the queue for that one was longer, but the library came through, and it was worth the wait. It’s a fascinating novel about the aftermath of a tragic accident. And to my surprise and delight, as is often the case, there on page 63 was Virginia Woolf, in a wonderfully evocative passage about “love between women as a languid extension of friendship.” I tracked down Carol Anshaw to ask my familiar question, “Why Woolf?” and we had a great exchange, which I also posted on Blogging Woolf.