Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Can't Figure out How to Stop It

I'd like to hear from any Virginia Woolf fans. I was supposed to read To the Lighthouse for a class once, but after the first ten pages and the first class discussion in which I began to see what I was up against, I didn't even really make an effort. (I certainly hope Professor Case never finds this site.) The one thing I remember is that you would start out a passage knowing who was thinking, and about what, and by the end of the paragraph two pages later, you would have no idea who or what was under discussion.

I loved A Room of One's Own, though, because I thought it was well argued, with the right amount of incidental and anecdotal information, along with the more sweeping points. I also thought she was very clear, when she wanted to be, in that essay.

Orlando, my first even completed Virginia Woolf novel, was...well, I couldn't figure out how to make the book stop except by finishing it. The wonderful things about it were the very, very funny moments, and some of the very well-parodied characters (the first and last man ever to toast cheese in the Italian marble fireplace large enough for a tall man to stand in). The hard parts--well, the magical realism wasn't that hard. I might even put that in the "assets" column. The bizarre interludes where Modesty, Chastity, and Purity come and dance around the young man Orlando, who then wakes up a woman...well, that was pretty weird. But the unlikeable parts were the soliloquizing that I just couldn't figure out. I found myself, in long passages, forgetting what the point of the description was. I definitely lost track of a number of points the author must have been trying to make.

Clearly, the whole thing was a parable. What was I supposed to learn? There was something important about writing, about finding the role of writing in the writer's life, and the writer in society. Okay, I think I mostly got that. There were quite a few lessons about being a woman, though not as many as I expected at first. By turning from a man to a woman, Orlando really ends up being a woman who had a boyhood, and also someone who has both and neither sex. It's a very modern viewpoint, actually--I feel that, often enough in my life, it doesn't matter that I'm a woman. Based on other things I've read, I hadn't expected Woolf to come across this way. Cool.

But there was a whole thing about "The Spirit of the Age," and then another thing about Orlando's philandering, and I don't know what-all else. Let's just say, I feel like I missed a lot of the book, enjoyed a great deal of what was there, and will see the movie. I think that's all I have to bring to this; I wish there was more.

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