by cheri block
I read Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse several years ago.
At first, I resisted her style, often harrumphing about her scattered stream of consciousness and disorder that defy categorization.
Irritated, perhaps, by the stop and start of topic, interrupted by her random thoughts, sparking here and fizzling there– lights out, lights on–I struggled with her every word, sometimes writing her off (after all, she killed herself by walking into a river and drowning). How tragic. What a waste.
This past March, skimming my reading list for my graduate class, Virginia Woolf’s name jumped out (just like a confused gazelle). Oh goody. I’ve read her stuff. Oh goody.
Now, I am reading Mrs. Dalloway.
It’s the same: no order, time is awash, characters who come and go, go and come, like Dante’s shades in the Inferno, shadows who peer around corners and comment. Her characters are like people who just step into the street, causing you to brake, so as not to run them over.
This time, however, I don’t need the order. I’ve let go. Hooray!
It doesn’t matter, Virginia, that you put rocks in your pockets and ended your life. I can separate your brilliant modernism, your work, from your profound mental illness and distress (just like Nietzsche’s).
It isn’t you who have changed, Virginia. It’s me.
I am with you on your tour around London, Clarissa Dalloway.
Carry on, my dear.
I will backtrack as much as needed.