Eccentric Musings (jakaEM)

"I have undergone sharp discipline which has taught me wisdom; and then, I have read more than you would fancy." Emily Brontë


still figuring this place out - Jen W

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Currently reading

Friend of My Youth
Alice Munro
Progress: 115/288 pages
Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
Margaret Atwood
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf All I know right now is that:

a) I liked it better than [b:Mrs. Dalloway|14942|Mrs. Dalloway|Virginia Woolf||841320] (purely subjectively/emotionally, which would seem to be the best way to take in and then respond to this work), and
b) my trick of using Atwood as a lever to catapult me into the depths of Woolf seems to have worked, at least partially, for some strange reason.

In trying to come up with points of comparison (see comments below) between Woolf and Atwood while reading this, I first of all could only find contrast, but secondly came to appreciate BOTH authors more. My esteem for Atwood was already high; mine for Woolf has now risen (like the tide? ouch, I promised not to do that).

I struggle with Woolf -- I still struggle with her. But I'm finding the struggle more enjoyable -- perhaps like the peace that is said to come upon one as one freezes to death (I would have said drowning, but I don't think drowning is a peaceful death, and I've vowed to avoid water metaphors here. How am I doing so far?).

I need to let her be what she is, let the halo of intimidation that still surrounds her work fade to a dull glow and allow myself to be ... immersed ... in her prose.

I will say, she doesn't *last* for me. I don't go to bed, after reading, mulling over what I've read. As deeply immersed (there is no other word) as I am when the book is open, as soon as I close it and look up, I am dry. Powerful as she is when I'm reading, with those startling insights and the pace of those revolving point-of-view scenes (the dinner party in this one is extraordinary!), and as much as I admire her craft, I find -- perhaps because she is only, or primarily, engaging me at an emotional level? -- that I can't hold on to those insights and process them once I close the book and look up, leaving her internal landscape and re-entering my own.

Some of this is because I truly can't identify with her characters -- not that she's much for rich characterization, or plot -- and perhaps that is my number one issue with stream-of-consciousness overall. Mrs. Ramsay seems like a version of Mrs. Dallaway to me, neither one of whom seems much like me. Their thoughts are not my thoughts. More importantly, they're not much like anyone I'd want to spend much time with.

For here it is: if I had to spend much time with someone that navel-gazing, that flighty, that emotionally labile, that ... needy, I would -- I swear to God -- have to slap them silly.

I'm sorry, so sorry. I realize that brands me as a certain kind of person, with a certain lack of sympathy/empathy for a certain kind of female character -- a female character (or characters) and an author who speaks deeply and eloquently and compellingly to many of you. But she doesn't to me. She doesn't 'get' me, and I don't 'get' her. We do not occupy the same emotional landscape, and as a result, there is a wall between us that -- no matter my attempt at empathy -- I can't seem to scale with her.

That is the nub of the Woolf/Atwood parallel for me. I don't get Woolf's characters, and her characters don't get me. The insights, the remarkable -- truly remarkable -- honing in on the deepest, most core, most raw and unvarnished thought or emotion of one character in response to another, that reads like foreign ground to me in Woolf -- whereas in Atwood, it matches *my* emotional terrain so precisely, that the resonance for me is multi-sensual (hence, my Atwood synesthesia, which I've written about here before).

So and but! Although there's still a wall between Woolf, her characters, and me, I'm still interested in exploring it. I'm heading to [b:The Waves|46114|The Waves|Virginia Woolf||6057263], next.