Monday, 28 November 2016

Moments of Being: Slater's Pins Have No Points by Virginia Woolf.

Slater's Points Have No Pins, also known as Moments of Being, was written by Virginia Woolf as she was preparing to write The Waves (1931), but it was not published until after her death when it appeared in A Haunted House (1944), a short story collection prepared by her husband Leonard Woolf (which also includes the stories first published in Monday or Tuesday, 1921). Slater's Pins Have No Points and other stories from around this period were, as Woolf told Ethel Smyth, little sketches written every morning "to amuse myself".

The story begins,
Slater’s pins have no points—don’t you always find that?” said Miss Craye, turning round as the rose fell out of Fanny Wilmot’s dress, and Fanny stooped, with her cars full of the music, to look for the pin on the floor.
Fanny Wilmot imagines the moment Miss Julia Craye bought the pins:
Did she stand at the counter waiting like anybody else, and was she given a bill with coppers wrapped in it, and did she slip them into her purse and then, an hour later, stand by her dressing table and take out the pins? What need had she of pins? For she was not so much dressed as cased, like a beetle compactly in its sheath, blue in winter, green in summer. What need had she of pins—Julia Craye—who lived, it seemed in the cool glassy world of Bach fugues, playing to herself what she liked, to take one or two pupils at the and only consenting Archer Street College of Music (so the Principal, Miss Kingston, said) as a special favour to herself, who had “the greatest admiration for her in every way.”
This marks the beginning of the stream-of-consciousness writing so familiar to readers of Woolf. Fanny pontificates further on Miss Craye, and a friend of Miss Craye, Miss Kingston, which goes on to consider the nature of marriage in terms of independence (or lack of, more pertinently), freedom, and potential loneliness. These thoughts on men and women and the relationship between the two is suddenly brought to an end:
Julia blazed. Julia kindled. Out of the night she burnt like a dead white star. Julia opened her arms. Julia kissed her on the lips. Julia possessed it. 
“Slater’s pins have no points,” Miss Craye said, laughing queerly and relaxing her arms, as Fanny Wilmot pinned the flower to her breast with trembling fingers.
Slater's Pins Have No Points is a remarkably in depth study of imagination, facts and reality, and what it is to be a woman in this time, all in six pages. Like An Unwritten novel Woolf uses one character to imagine the life of another which has the effect of almost losing the author entirely; the character Fanny essentially becomes the author. Like many of Woolf's short stories it is brilliant; so clever and so immersive, yet so very brief. This "little sketch" is perfectly Woolf.

And that was my 48th title for the Deal Me In Challenge. Hard to believe I only have four titles left! Next week - How to Become a Critic by Samuel Johnson.


  1. how brilliant! i haven't read VW's short works much, but this sounds exceptional... tx, i must get it right now!...

    1. I've only just started getting into Woolf's short stories to be honest - plan to read more next year. This is a great one, hope you enjoy it :)

  2. Ah, this one sounds like a gem! I'm so impressed with your stick-to-it-ness with the Deal Me In challenge. Like last year, I fell off, but at least I did read some. Some is better than none at all.

    1. Indeed :) This is my favourite challenge, which makes things a lot easier. If I only did one yearly challenge it would be Deal Me In!


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