Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Virginia Woolf, advertising mogul

I'm not making this up. In my local branch of Marks & Spencer there are shopping bags for sale in M&S branded colours bearing, in florid 'artistic' writing the following phrase:

                    One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

The line comes from A Room of One's Own and is duly attributed to the author on the bag. But - and this is what made me do a mild double-take - she is described thus: 

                                    Virginia Woolf, Author & Publicist (1882-1941)

Publicist? Publisher, certainly, and a distinguished one, at the Hogarth Press. But 'publicist'? Could it be that whoever had the idea that M&S 'bags for life'  should bear the words of a great modernist writer simply confused 'publisher' as 'publicist'? He or she presumably signed off the oddly-punctuated and randomly capitalised text, as well as nodding through 'publicist'

Writers tend to be rubbish at advertising, as I've blogged about before.

As for the choice of author - M&S marketing specialists are presumably unconcerned by Woolf's snobbism and anti-semitism, nor troubled by the inanity of the quotation. One can think, love and even sleep well without scoffing a Marks and Sparks deep-filled chicken pie with shortcrust pastry lid.  I'm with Hemingway. In A Moveable Feast, his unreliable and hugely entertaining memoir of Paris in the 1920s, he recalls foregoing lunch to look at paintings by Gauguin. You should look at such pictures when hungry, Hemingway writes, because the artist was hungry when he painted them. Not because of poverty but because he was so completely absorbed in the act of creation that he forgot to eat. 

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