Archives de Tag: Virginia Woolf

The Waves – Virginia Woolf

« … and lie under this thin sheet afloat in the shallow light which is like a film of water drawn over my eyes by a wave. »

Virginia Woolf.

She writes The Waves, as with the last of her books I read, Mrs. Dalloway, similarly indistinct. Mrs. Dalloway written with words that flow, this written with disparate senses that speak her mind, each moving one to the next. She has no division of section, no separation of scene. As with Mrs. Dalloway, there are no chapters, only space.

The Waves has passages, verse written with a beginning. An introduction which tills the senses for a new day. She sets each beginning, each scene, through streams of words, both poetic and ethereal. Starting at the shore… with waves. It seems as if, since there is always some seashore beginning or ending a day, it’s a good place for her thoughts to rest. As if, overtaken by phrases and images, her mind seeks footing.

Her verse is written through individual soliloquy, seems to me to be mono-percepted; she sees only what she, herself, is seeing – her mind possesses her. She writes from ‘within’ her mind – as if to say, « I am not out of it, but completely within it. »

Her six characters are split by gender, male presents as strength, they are more celebrated within this society. Percival, not one of the six, instead is the source of all strength; an enigma, his is the attention they seek. Percival is loved by Neville. She regards the six ‘friends’ thoughtfully. She is both careful to allow herself acceptance of self-comfort and understanding of these platitudes according to perspective, yet harsh in her portrayal of each voice’s existence. These personalities together, she commands.

Neville, the observer, the connector, giving these three boys a place to secure themselves to the strength of Percival. As the boys approach their commencement from education to their adulthoods, Neville then regards Percival, (p. 60), « He will forget me… He will pass from my life. » Then, (p. 152), death is not discerning, since Percival is dead, yet « I watch people pass; holding tight to rails… determined to save their lives. » Neville seems God’s authority to which she watches, yet can’t brazenly dismiss.

The boys, Louis, Bernard, they are image. They seek imagery. Louis despises ‘dabblers’ in imagery. He resents the power of Percival, (p. 57), « yet it is Percival I need, for it is Percival who inspires poetry. » Bernard is the voice of imagery, the storyteller. He is authorship, the author of the body, not the writer of this book.

Susan is fear, she is judgment – she cries, (p. 40) « I do not pray. I revenge myself upon this day. I wreak my spite upon its image. » Of the three girls, she embodies tradition. She exemplifies this life according to female interpretation. As God wishes, this is what He would want.

Jinny is female as a girl would look. She is the essence of female. She is prettiest, popular, colorful … with « my dress billowing around me … » (p. 62, p. 34, p.46). Female is demure, watched. Then, (p. 101), she gets ‘achy’, « … silk is on my knee … my feet feel the pinch of shoes. » Female is hypersenstive, delicate. She is youth, (p.102), « Wine has a drastic, an astringent taste. I cannot help wincing as I drink. » Female is peevish, impulsive. Jinny, the source of all imagination, (p.220), « My imagination is the body. » She is the writer’s portrayal of all that is feminine.

The least of these is Rhoda. Rhoda is vague, she is « not here, » (p. 43), « … I have to look first and do what other people do when they have done it, » she needs to see before she can do. Name-less, face-less, she is watched « from behind bushes. » She feels impercepted, though she is seen since she is observed. She is withdrawn, goes unnoticed, (p. 106), « Hide me, I cry, protect me, for I am the youngest, the most naked of you all. » Rhoda is exposed, susceptible, vulnerable should those upon whom she relies be negligent or inattentive. Rhoda seems the writer’s anxiety.

These six are one body in Christ, one body within the host’s mind’s forever.

Mrs. Woolf seems to find life in this world to be monotonous. Her words repeat, her phrases re-surface, as if washed anew. It’s poetic. The book at times, though, is tiring. An exhaustion of symbolism, her writing has compassion for arrogant perspective. These words, and other of her works, have morbid credibility.

The final passage resounds with reluctance. The end of the book, the last passage, she speaks as all of the book, not as each or any one view. As, (p. 288), « I have been talking of Bernard, Neville, Jinny, Susan, Rhoda, and Louis. Am I all of them? Am I one and distinct? » And, here, (p. 289), she proclaims to be Percival, too, with the feelings He may have felt, « Here on my brow is the blow I got when Percival fell… ». Then she continues with the senses each character by name, may feel or has felt, as she has written each one throughout the book. She doesn’t speak of God, but of church, chapel, priest, (p. 266), « Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends…, » and hers, her view, is to be washed, again, « And in me too the wave rises… « .

She closes with dramatic consequence. These words are final…

The End.

The next Virginia Woolf book I seek will be « Night and Day » …

I read.


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« Virginia Woolf »

She does not have God. She does not know God.

I read the biographical novel, as told through the eyes of Alexandra Harris. My first biography.

God is the ever-present mortar creating sense through thought distortion. The necessary ingredient for an artist to make sense from delusion. (Feel free to quote me.)

Virginia Woolf was not grounded. She had no one to orient her life, never having recovered from her mother’s death, she was 13 year’s old.

P.16 – The young Virginia respected her father’s « free-thinking intellectual integrity that made him speak out as an atheist. »

I continue reading despite my horror at the waste of her talent. Her work parallels my own; meager formal education, she was an essayist, a reader who writes reviews. We separate ways where she becomes a feminist with a writer’s complex. She is exceptionally talented (for a woman in a man’s world). She is ahead of her time, yet unwilling to sacrifice any of her intellect for pursuit of a faith.

Still I’m reading. In some ways the comparison and the likenesses between our empassioned literary reasoning, (her’s with more of a voice, mine with more of an ear), makes her life difficult for me to ignore.

The year 1911, living as the only female occupant, the landlady, in a « respectable middle-class » time (p.47). She lived a questionably unconventional life, almost as if enticing others to wonder about her morals. This says to me that she was craving attention as removed and unconventional, rather than crazy or sick.

She suffers breakdowns in which she attempts death. She falls into despair and is hospitalized. She writes. The cycle of her life.

There are 46 illustrations accounted for in this account of a life’s history. Many are photos of Virginia. She looks mostly distracted, uninvolved, distant.

I’ve only read one book authored by Virginia Woolf (so far). In it, I get the feeling she’s written a statement, firm and direct, that her style, her talent as a writer, having been questioned one too many times, needs justification and proof. She provides it soundly.

A life inspired by Greek Tragedy.

P.57 – « It is the glimpse of clarity towards which all Woolf’s novels strive. »

Born into a home, a family, which respected art. A home-full of writers, artists, art and work. Though she has no trouble keeping her individual voice (her terrific confidence evident in her writing), she caved to illness by willful disinterest toward enforceable psycho-medical interference.

This biographer/author conceives that all of Mrs. Woolf’s novels are written towards seeking clarity… I read her work, instead, as a statement to sanity. She has lucid moments.

To be without God, is to be unreachable, and she denies God.

Her philosophy for her writing was abstract. Her words profound, and simultaneously debilitating, « …there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven » … she denies there is God (p.98). She claims victorious over all art « we are the words, we are the music, » we are all that exists.

She was despondent.

Ch.7 – A Writer’s Holiday.

With the appearance of the book « Orlando, » this biographer reiterates Mrs. Woolf’s range of talent but only mentioning it as being a « departure » from her previous works. Again, her belief being that part of Mrs. Woolf’s « appeal is her tremendous variety » (p.99), yet this chapter being dedicated to a « holiday » from the writer’s intention. Specifically, she notes that, as with « Night and Day », the tone was different from all her previous works. This seems to me an indication of irrational whimsy. Flighty speculation, which caused some of those who followed her work to wonder if this book was a « prank ».

This biographer provides specifics, references to facts known. I’ve never read a factual account of a life, a biography. This is the first, as I said. They seem jaded. Interesting, but dry. This biographical work, though well-written, would have been better if it had a more focused path. It gave this reader the impression that opinion was the purpose for the endeavor. It makes me wonder what Virginia would have thought – having a well-educated, writer, historian, documenting her life with factual opinion.

This book leaves me questioning whether the biographer is a reader, or an educated professional seeking publicity. In my opinion, a true reader, reads as the writer in an attempt not only to understand, but to know the author through their work. Perhaps the difference between a reader, a writer, and a biographer… one who seeks, one who professes, and one who decides.

« Night and Day » from the description provided by this biographer was written while she was under observation, post-attempt at suicide. She being allowed only one hour per day to write. The biographer notes that this style, form and content is a departure for Mrs. Woolf, and that the belief is that the book deals with the question of « how to live » (p.57), then she goes on to describe attributes of the book.

I would believe, more to the point, that, if this book was so very « contained » and not like the rest (« not a tragedy, but a comedy » – p.56), it may have been designed as more of a statement. Perhaps pointing to resignation since she was being watched. Not « how to live » but « is this life. » I’ve never read the book. The next V. Woolf book I will seek out will be « The Waves. »

Where this book’s author feels that Virginia Woolf’s writing « was a counter to transcience » (p.16), creating permanence for her work (« if you wrote something down, you could make it stay put » – again, p.16), I am more inclined to think her work was written medication. She was a true authoress, a writer, not a scholar… and she was partially insane.

So begins my adventure into the writings of Virginia Woolf.

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Mrs. Dalloway

There are no chapters in this book.

Virginia Woolf writes as if she could stand no interruption until she finished penning the words which had to have a place to fall.

Reading this, the first scenes seem like a dream. As if the author creates the stage through character identification in alternating glances as a waltz through the town, and in which the reader becomes a fly on the wall.

The story then moves to Clarissa Dalloway as the life-force, the living – not asleep, but engaged in the realization of some of her life’s interruptions, speculating upon choices proposed, and decisions she’s made. But, since wishing for better prospects won’t create healthier relationships, she’ll just throw a party and wear her favorite dress. Clarissa Dalloway does not mourne.

The story then flashes back to viewing the world as through a dream, seemingly through the eyes of Virginia, herself. Vague images, as if wandering unobservedly through the township until settling on independent thought through individual character. This particular character, Peter Walsh, Clarissa’s lost love, the other voice of concern and reason, offers insight, as he perceives townspeople, the war, his self-worth by way of class and duty. He begins to imagine his place in this society since returning from the war. He recalls Clarissa’s husband, Richard Dalloway, and Peter bestows confidence, allowing that Richard is a « thorough good sort » (wasted on politics, in Peter’s opinion), and Clarissa is absorbed by her husband’s sense of poetic injustice… Richard believes Shakespeare’s sonnets to be indecent, not worthy of noble discretion since they, in Richard’s opinion, degrade privacy, as if « listening through keyholes » (!)

(Interesting that she weaves attitudes with British class perspectives, makes one wonder what she, herself, thought of Shakespeare.)

Depth of character interest.

This book, Mrs. Dalloway, provides every possibility for a personality to exist.

She writes about suicide, « how does one set about killing oneself » … « uglily, » she decides.

Then, a tirade, she rambles over health and wellness through the vague storyline of Septimus and Lucrezia, with her idea seeming as a Shakespearean respite – the tie to the storyline being a literal bloom, with Lucrezia’s roses as an indication of Clarissa’s talent for decorating the lives she touches. Mrs. Dalloway loves flowers and playing mistress of the house.

« Prophetic Christs and Christesses, » Sir William Bradshaw denounces the weak.

She imagines sanity through the sentiments of Sir William, a notable professor of human nature by way of psychiatric remedy. He promotes well-being as « proportion » and imagines proportion as being a rare combination of « family affection; honour, courage, and a brilliant career. » In the absence of this « divine » proportion, his diagnosis is solitude.

« life with its irreticences… »

She writes with currents of ramifications and lives in these pages. Her storyline washes her point, so that the plot remains in its depths. She describes by aquatic metaphor, her position within this world of high society and observance to class propriety.

Her prose is vaguely reminiscent of insanity. Beautiful, yet disturbingly chaotic, and even more disturbing that it is so easily read and followed by the reader. The story meanders and captivates before capturing credible thought. I found it to be almost frightening in the sense that it feels so much as if you’ve ventured too deeply into a lunatic’s mind.

Reading this book sometimes feels as if you’re watching a train wreck.

That said, it’s a must-read.

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