Books: Infinite Strange Shapes

THE LETTERS OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, VOLUME ONE: 1888-1912

Edited by NIGEL NICOLSON and JOANNE TRAUTMANN

531 pages. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. $14.95.

"A true letter," she wrote to Clive Bell in 1907, "should be as a film of wax pressed close to the graving in the mind." Virginia Woolf composed such letters by the thousands—quick, nervous jottings of the moment, full of teasing, deliberately haphazard and unliterary.

A staggering 3,800 of them survive. Editors Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann have decided to publish most of the missives in a series of six stout volumes. This...

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