Long-time readers may remember that I started my Rebecca West project back in June 2006. I read West's fiction and interviews with and books and articles about her pretty steadily for a couple of years, then, through no fault of her own (the first book I read in 2008, her The Birds Fall Down, was in fact my favorite book for the year), I stopped reading her. This was due more to my having become such a distracted-by-life/lazy blogger that I knew I wouldn't do her justice if and when I wrote about her.
And while I still feel too scattered to do her justice (not that I could, anyway), I do feel more inclined to make an effort: I'm getting older every day and I shouldn't count on any right time to do anything anymore. Carpe diem and all of that.
So far I've followed publication dates and read The Return of the Soldier, The Judge, Harriet Hume, The Harsh Voice, The Thinking Reed, The Fountain Overflows and The Birds Fall Down, all the novels published during her lifetime. I've skipped War Nurse, which she ghostwrote for Cosmopolitan and wanted to disown, although I intend to ILL it at some point. This month I read two posthumous novels, This Real Night and Cousin Rosamund, part of the family saga that began with The Fountain Overflows and was intended to continue through a fourth, unwritten novel. I'll be posting my thoughts on the saga within a few days.
There are two additional posthumous West novels that came out in 1986 and 2002, respectively--Sunflower, which fictionalizes her love affair with Lord Beaverbrook and and the end of the H.G. Wells years, and The Sentinel, which is probably West's first full-length novel and draws on her days in the suffragette movement. And there's a 1992 Virago hardback edition of a collection of West's short stories, The Only Poet and Other Stories, with still more uncollected stories remaining to be gathered together. I want to get to these titles eventually, but right now I'm feeling the need to shift direction and delve into her non-fiction.
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is of course her masterpiece, but I'm going to first dip into journalism and essays that don't run on for 1,100 plus pages. A Train in Powder (the first book I bought this year), subtitled Six Reports on the Problem of Guilt and Punishment in Our Time, a volume of uncollected prose entitled The Essential Rebecca West that was published last year, and West's biography of Saint Augustine are the ones most likely to be read this year.
And if you've never considered reading Rebecca West and don't understand the need of such a project, allow me to take the lazy blogger's way of introducing her to you via the Anne Bobby introduction to her previously uncollected prose: she's the "greatest writer you've never heard of."