I want to learn all I can, live as wisely as I can, and savor every moment on the journey.
I just finished Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, and although it took me three separate times of starting it in order to finally keep reading to the end, I’m glad I finished it. It’s a lovely book, filled with beautiful images and reflections on life. It’s also an unusual book, which was the reason for my two false starts before I could finally stick with it; I had to get oriented to its stream-of-consciousness style. But it was worth the initial effort, and about midway through, I realized that the reading had gotten much easier for me.
The book follows the main character, Clarissa Dalloway, during one single day, as she goes about preparing for a party she’s throwing in the evening. Nothing remarkable happens in the way we expect the plot of a novel to unfold, but the portrait of life the book draws is remarkable. We see the world through Clarissa’s and the other character’s eyes, we make comparisons, we feel, we relate to others, we understand poignant truths about life. This book is first and foremost a work of art.
Here are three passages I especially liked, one from the book’s early pages and two from the end.
“In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.”
“Then (she had felt it only this morning) there was the terror; the overwhelming incapacity, one’s parents giving it into one’s hands, this life, to be lived to the end, to be walked with serenely; there was in the depths of her heart an awful fear.”
“For she had come to feel that it was the only thing worth saying—what one felt. Cleverness was silly. One must simply say what one felt.”