Queer Classics: Orlando by Virginia Woolf

orlando cover picMy second queer classics review, and first genderfuck Friday. In celebration of creatively messing around with gender, I thought I’d review Woolf’s Orlando, as it’s one of my favourite books.

As an avid reader and massive weirdo, I was a huge Virginia Woolf fan in my teens. Orlando was one of the first gender bending characters I came across. Woolf described Orlando as a writer’s holiday, and she dedicated it to her friend, muse and sometime lover, Vita Sackville West. You can see in Orlando’s love of their ancestral home echoes of Sackville West’s love of Knole, the estate she lost due to entailment down the male line.

Orlando is definitely a departure from Woolf’s usual dense, poetic stream of consciousness novels, in that it’s much more playful and light-hearted, as well as being simpler in style. Most wonderful of all, and the feature that warmed my little magic realism heart before I even knew what that was, the main character never ages or dies, but begins in Tudor times and ends in the 20th century, and halfway through the story, goes to bed a man and wakes up a woman. No explanation, no fuss. Orlando is really just a lot of fun, a lovely historical romp.

Special mention to the 1992 film adaptation with Tilda Swinton. Lush historical costuming, and Tilda Swinton. What more do you need? Don’t be greedy.

I’m going to set aside Fridays here for creative gender bending, whether it’s creative work, specific characters, critical work or real individuals. Your nominations for GenderFuck Friday welcome.


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