Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mrs. Dalloway

I am reading Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. The book, a paperback edition published decades ago, had been sitting on my nightstand for ages. Isn't "nightstand: a quaint, old-fashioned word, rather Victorian, suggesting reading and domestic habit and a hint of orderly bliss and harmony? Not that I have that gospel to preach this evening. Would that I could. The novel is A Day in the Life (which was termed the #1 song by the Beatles in a special edition of Rolling Stone magazine on newsstands now) of Clarissa Dalloway and her privileged if angst-ridden world and those around her. The words are delicious, the sentences stringy and sinewy, the cadences charming, the characters perplexing and intertwined (none more than Septimus Warren Smith, fresh from the horrors of the War, and his Italian wife Lucrezia). I like this work, today, better than the work of Marcel Proust. And doesn't Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine owe a tip of his cap to this book, since his book explored lushly not a full day but a lunch hour? "It had no plot," you'll hear someone say as a negative comment against a movie or novel or story or you-name-it. That critique typically rankles me, not that I should take it personally. Who the feck cares if it has a plot? We all know Hamlet or Macbeth or Tony soprano will die, but we watch it anyway. Ooops. Trapped myself there. "It" in those cases refers to productions that have a dramatic arc. Fine. I'll grant you that. Maybe the whole "plot" business, or the fixation on it, bothers me because I transfer that to the "God has a plan for me" saying. I get it, but I don't see the Divine Power playing with us like puppets or marionettes. Yet I have experienced "grace" and "providence," so perhaps I am a confused and sloppy thinker or feeler. Where was I? On the street in London, or the park, just after lunch, inside the head of clarissa and her band of drawing-room characters. Carry on.

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