Monday, June 25, 2007

Who's afraid?

I've been reading Virginia Woolf lately. I have to admit to not having a very good background in Virginia Woolf, and I also feel somewhat strange and guilty about that since I sometimes teach classes in women's lit, and Virginia Woolf seems to often come up in discussions of women's lit (because, well, she wrote A Room of One's Own, didn't she?). I mostly teach American women's lit rather than British, but, still, there's the guilt.

Not only the guilt, but I've always thought I should enjoy Woolf's writing. The problem is that for years I've done most of my fiction reading right before going to bed. Often, I'm sleepy at this time. Often, I need a really clear and overt narrative to hold on to. In my experience, reading Virginia Woolf isn't mostly about getting the plot. (I suppose one might say that about a lot of fiction, huh?) So I would read, and I would get frustrated. Or I would read, and I would have trouble retaining. All very unpleasant.

So when,shortly before boarding the airport shuttle, I happened upon this nice little bookstore in Pittsburgh earlier this month and found a copy of Mrs. Dalloway there, I thought, This is it! This is my chance to really read Virginia Woolf! I have a couple of hours to kill at the airport (little did I know, it would be more than a couple!), and that will give me the perfect chance to really get into the experience of Woolf's writing.

So it worked, and now I want to continue reading more Woolf. I'm finding that as long as I sit upright while reading at night, I can retain and enjoy the experience.

What can I say. I'm a slow learner.

Still and all, I think Virginia Woolf is maybe better at--ahem--"this time of my life." Not that I'm the same age as Clarissa Dalloway or Mrs. Ramsey, but I think maybe I'm picking up the feel of the books better than I did when I first encountered Woolf at 22 or so.

And that--yes, that--is all.


Krista said...

Oh, I've had the Woolf guilt for years and years now. I've read Orlando, To the Light House, and A Room of One's Own, and still don't really like reading her at all. But is one allowed to be a feminist lit/rhet person without liking Woolf? Guess we'll find out!

Anyways, glad it's working for you this time around. Maybe I'll try again in a few years and see if it takes.

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