Search This Blog

Sunday, August 29, 2010

News Flash: Modern Fiction to Include a Snail as Lead Character!

     I’m not sure if it’s my easily distracted nature, or if “Mark on the Wall” was just a little difficult for me to read. I understood it, I “got” it, but I kept having to redirect myself to the text. It was hard for me to pay attention while reading. I don’t know if it’s the lack of plot, or if I kept wondering back to how can I make this a page in my altered book. Three things in the story piqued my interest: 1. her use of ellipses, 2. her concern of health, and 3. “Whitaker’s Table of Precedency.”

     Her use of ellipses characterizes wondering thoughts. The thoughts go somewhere, but not anywhere we need to know. Perhaps they just wonder away somewhere that words don’t have a use, so she can’t share that part of the memory with her reader. And maybe it’s just a typical aspect of thoughts; they just trail off without a definite end and just jump to a new, unassociated thought.

     Twice concern for health popped up. The first instance was on page 157: “And the less we honour them as our superstitions dwindle and our repsect for beauty and health of mind increases. . . .” She specifically designates the health of the mind, a topic that weighs heavily on her. The second instant on page 158 is less definitive: “I understand Nature’s game—her prompting to take action as a way of ending any thought that threatens to excite or to pain.” That infers that her caretakers through the years have kept her from situations that might threaten her mental health. She was taken away from London, was she not?

     Lastly, I wondered, “Just what the heck is Whitaker’s Table of Precedency?” I give thanks for Google; if I were Polly Purebred, Google search engine would be my Underdog because it always comes to my rescue. Apparently, it is a record of tradition, convention, and a list society’s heirachy. It was a rulebook on how certain people in certain classes should act in formal situations. Her main reason to include this was to point out how many traditions and conventions died after the war.

     Although I didn’t list it, I also found the first line interesting in that it informs us that this is not a present memory; this is a memory from the past, but she remembers such detail. I might remember a one line thought from a week ago, but not a whole short-story worth of thoughts, much less thoughts about a spot on a wall. Is this her re-living a thought or perhaps creating a memory for artistic reasons.

     Now, moving to her essay “Modern Fiction,” we learn that there is nothing materialistic in “Mark on the Wall.” She has accomplished what this essay entices writers to do. She goes on to categorize some writers she thinks as materialistic writers. I think she would be satisfied, and maybe even happy, to find that her idea of stream-of-conciousness writing has made its way into films. I saw a British film Cashback that mimics the stream of conciousness. I don’t believe a film could be based entirely on thought, but this one comes close. As I liked the beginning of her memoir because of the beautiful images she created, I enjoyed this movie because I felt the main character’s idea of beauty.

     I’ll make my comments short for Goldman’s article on Woolf’s fiction. One line really stood out to me: “People should not leave looking-glasses hanging in their rooms” (CSF 225). It brings back the image of her looking into a mirror as a child and feeling shame. So, here’s another thing for which I’ll have to keep an eye out – looking-glasses.


Sketching the Past

     While living in Talland House, Virginia Woolf refers to her mother as being “the very centre of that great Cathedral space which was childhood” (VRW 15). In phrasing it that way, she gives this portion of her life a religious relevancy. When she describes one memory, she uses the word “rapture” in three back-to-back sentences. I wonder if she doesn’t use this word with an intended double entendre. She seemingly appears to reminisce devotedly on the Talland House days in the time before her mother’s death. Perhaps that is why I preferred reading of her early life. She filled it with beautiful imagery that would become a thread sewed throughout the rest of her writings. She adored those years, but they weren’t without their own difficulties. In the early life at St. Ives, one can see the seeds of her eventual break with sanity; the fondling from Gerald, the shame of looking into the mirror, her lack of emotion at her mother’s death. She still sees her childhood as golden even though Gerald attacked her innocence. It is the imagery that grasps me in this portion of her memoir.

     In comparing it to what I read of Hermione Lee’s biography of Virginia Woolf, a lot is left out in her memoir. Whereas Lee’s biography is organized in a topics mode, Woolf writes her memoir in a chronological order, but it is not in the this-happened-to-me-and-then-that-other-thing-happened-to-me mode. She relates feelings, sights, sounds, and impressions. She gives us color and emotions. Comparatively, I found Hermione Lee’s biography less compelling. One thinks she had a command from Joe Friday of long-ago “Dragnet” fame: “Just the facts, ma’am.” And she was a monster for detail. In Woolf’s memoir, you were encompassed in her beautiful imagery, so I tend more towards the feeling that it had more of a poetic quality.

     Off the top of my head, I see two themes that recur throughout her stories, garden/flowers and death. I read somewhere (I’ve read so much already that I’m forgetting what came from where) that the grave/death theme permeates Jacob’s Room, and from what I’ve read so far, I can see it. Reading “A Sketch of the Past” has enticed me to be on the lookout for these themes in her other writings.

     Just as I finished this, it hit me that the title leads one to think of her memoir as a piece of art that she is drawing for us to see not just read.

Monday, August 23, 2010

August 23, 2010

As I began reading through the list of presentations for the 2010 Conference on Virginia Woolf, I was bumfuzzled by one of the first topics, “Virginia Woolf and the Politics of Grass.”  In the atmosphere of our current political and social situation, I wondered if it was not something to do with the legalization of cannabis because I cannot see the grass growing in my yard having any political leanings what so ever.  Go figure that one out.

Referencing nature, as was the main theme for this conference, most of us know already that flowers are a big theme in Woolf’s novels.  I like the idea of the flower permeating her stories, but again it is man controlling not only nature but also beauty.  The flowers are nature and beauty cut and put in vases.  Beauty tamed and contained to be held captive till it dies.   

It appears that many of the articles are searching for a natural order in nature, but do we not think of nature as being somewhat chaotic?  A tornado bursts into a town killing trailer parks and uprooting trees. It sounds chaotic, but it is man who takes the order out of nature by trying to contain it.  And it is Virginia Woolf who takes the chaos out of stream of consciousness.  Our thoughts are much like a child with ADD.  “I wonder what I should do this evening?  I need to do this and that and, oh, look at the sky, isn’t it pretty, I remember that day when….”  Virginia Woolf puts order into these thoughts, but her readers must detect the thread that connects the chaos and creates order.

The article that caught my eye and then tumbled around in my cerebrum was “Walking over the bridge in a willow pattern plate”: Virginia Woolf and the Exotic Landscapes” by
Xiaoqin Cao from North University of China because this topic brought forth a specific image in my brain, and I became curious as to how the writer references this to Virginia Woolf’s novels.  Anywho, these are the thoughts that I have as I begin this class.