In my last post I reviewed Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway. Woolf is a hard author to review, so I want to share my thoughts on her writing to perhaps communicate why I like her. Mrs. Dalloway was the first Virginia Woolf book that I read, and I hated it. I read it again and still hated it. Then I read it again, then again. Somehow this book I despised grew on me, became imbedded in my brain and drew me back to it again and again.
When reading Woolf the best recommendation I can make is: let everything go. Don’t think about plot. Don’t think about what’s happening around the characters or where you are in the story. Just open your mind and let yourself sink into the words. Don’t think about the chapter or the page or even the paragraph: read a single sentence. Let it sit in your mind. Stop, and notice the words, the picture, the character. Stop, and take it in.
What I love the most about Woolf is her use of the English language. I didn’t know that words could be manipulated in such a way, to make a sentence seem at once disconnected and yet incredibly intertwined with itself. She uses this language to create imagery. Woolf, to me, is more artist than novelist. She creates amazing images that surround her characters, imagery that sometimes exists solely in their minds and their thoughts.
Yes, stream of consciousness novels can be hard to read. (To define: a person’s thoughts and conscious reactions to events, perceived as a continuous flow.[Google]) Stream of consciousness can be tedious. And yet the complete immersion within a character is an extraordinary experience, one more realistic than any novel I’ve ever read. While the characters’ thoughts may jump from subject to subject, you can truly imagine these thoughts darting through the mind of a person as they go about their day. The observations, the worries, the self-conscious thoughts amongst the thoughts of tasks, plans, and the vague memories that drift up from the smallest reminders. There is a lot going on within a person’s head, and I have to love Woolf for even attempting to capture it.
While I recognize that many people will dislike Woolf, will not understand her writing, and be unable to emotionally connect with it, I have to suggest trying her at least once. For there is something, that tantalizing something, that is worth the effort.