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To the Lighthouse
by Virginia Woolf

Novel by Virginia Woolf, published in 1927. The work is one of her most successful and accessible experiments in the stream-of-consciousness style. The three sections of the book take place between 1910 and 1920 and revolve around various members of the Ramsay family during visits to their summer residence on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. A central motif of the novel is the conflict between the feminine and masculine principles at work in the universe. With her emotional, poetical frame of mind, Mrs. Ramsay represents the female principle, while Mr. Ramsay, a self-centered philosopher, expresses the male principle in his rational point of view. Both are flawed by their limited perspectives. A painter and friend of the family, Lily Briscoe, is Woolf's vision of the androgynous artist who personifies the ideal blending of male and female qualities. Her successful completion of a painting that she has been working on since the beginning of the novel is symbolic of this unification.

To:                ALL                   Date:    05/13
From:   YHJK89A    CATHERINE HILL        Time:     1:57 AM

Re: TO THE LIGHTHOUSE - Allen, I don't think I'll spoil     
anyone's pleasure if I simply remark that, were they not    
contemporaries, I would suspect Woolf had learned her syntax
from William Faulkner.  The book is capable of holding my   
interest, but I find myself untangling the sentences like   
knitting and growling mentally when I find an independent   
clause without a verb.  The only other problem so far is    
keeping up with whose head she's jumped into this time.     
                              Cathy                         


===============   Reply    1 of Note   35 =================

 
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/13 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 11:51 AM Are you implying that Mr. Faulkner doesn't require sentence-untangling from time to time? Isn't it worth a little extra time and effort to locate verbs and referents in the sprawlingy gorgeous sentences of Faulkner, Woolf, Proust, or K.A. Porter? Apropos of "Lighthouse," one of my cyber-correspondents pointed out a lovely collocation that I'd not noticed: the closeness of the "alphabet" image to one involving piano keys. Mr. Ramsay is portrayed, almost satirically, as imagining his own thought as a logical progression from A to B, from B to C, etc., and he is bitterly disappointed with his inability to reach Z. He can, however, reach Q, which though it's a splendid achievement, isn't far enough for him. I have pointed out before that the next letter would be R - his own last initial. I think this is Woolf's sly way of suggesting that philosophical thought is fine in its own context but it stops just before it gets to self-knowledge. However, the faith in language - letters- is huge, reminiscent of Woolf's own fatih in words as a barrier against chaos. Anyway, it was pointed out to me that, just before this, Lily has a thought about piano keys - which might be an alternative to the alphabet. -P. =============== Reply 2 of Note 35 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/14 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 1:36 PM Cathy: Very true. Woolf, like Faulkner, writes in stream of consciousness style. I'd never read much of her work before and found this book fascinating. I love re-discovering authors I haven't read for a while! Lisa =============== Note 42 =================  
To: ALL Date: 05/14 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 1:30 PM I finished TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, and was wondering when it was going to be discussed (and hoping that I was right that it is the next book on the agenda!). Not to rush anyone because I've been so fascinated with all the minds in here speaking on other subjects (and I could stay fascinated with that for an age), but I was just wondering. Lisa =============== Reply 1 of Note 42 =================  
To: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Date: 05/14 From: ERFN90B ELLEN JOHNSON Time: 1:53 PM Lisa, I'm almost finished with TO THE LIGHTHOUSE. I started it several weeks ago, and like your SHIPPING NEWS, I put it down several times to dive into others. I find the book fascinating but the type that requires my full attention to detail and in the last few weeks I haven't had much of that quality time. I have several passages that I've underlined that are amazing to me and I want to share them. Summer term starts tomorrow and I will have to beg off for at least the beginning of the week but can almost promise that I'll be ready for a good chat by week's end. (I'm teaching early British Lit. this mini-semester and I know I will find Woolf a refuge and much easier to read after refocusing my mind on Beowulf.) Ellen =============== Reply 2 of Note 42 =================  
To: ERFN90B ELLEN JOHNSON Date: 05/14 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 9:35 PM Lisa, Ellen, Cathy, et al: As nominator of Woolf's TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, I'm delighted you've tackled the and look forward to discussing it with you. Unfortunately I'm in work-deadline purgatory for the next several days, so it may be a while before I'm able to put some thoughts in order. Feel free to forge ahead, though, and I'll jump in as soon as I'm able. >>Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 3 of Note 42 =================  
To: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Date: 05/14 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 11:12 PM Cathy, Ellen and Lisa: I'll be posting about TO THE LIGHTHOUSE later this week. I doubt that the book is the kind of thing you can go zipping through even if you're used to this style of writing, which I decidedly am not. You'll recall Dale warning us that it's wise to take the first part "on faith," so that's the attitude I'm assuming. Remember, you can post notes on any book at any time, so if you want to start without me, go ahead. I'll just save your notes to read when I'm done. Be seeing you.... Allen =============== Reply 4 of Note 42 =================  
To: ERFN90B ELLEN JOHNSON Date: 05/17 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 3:42 PM Ellen: Beowulf.... Now that brings back the memories (and not good ones, either!) I'll check in later and see if the LIGHTHOUSE discussion has started. I agree, it is very heavy reading and I can identify with you on finding the time for it. Lisa =============== Note 55 =================  
To: ALL Date: 05/19 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 11:13 PM TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf: Caution: If you haven't read this book yet but intend to, be warned that there will most likely be "plot spoilers" in the notes that follow that will diminish your enjoyment when you do get round to it. Save these notes to read later, and come back and put in your two cents! Well, I took my own advice and after finishing TO THE LIGHTHOUSE went back and read the notes about it that appeared after Dale and Sara first suggested it for the reading list. I'm glad to find out that I wasn't alone in finding it to be very slow reading (it's been occupying my evening for the last few days, hence my recent invisibility in these parts). It was rather an uphill fight most of the way, notably the first section, "The Window." Let concen- tration wander a bit, and you find you've lost yourself in following the intricate trains of thought going on inside the heads of each character. If I'm not mistaken, the entire first section of the novel is told from the internal point of view of one person or another -- like nothing I've ever encountered before. I found it *somewhat* easier going after getting accustomed to the style of narrative, but I think I took two or three times as long to get through this as any other novel of comparable length. The effort of will it took to keep going was pretty considerable until the second section, "Time Passes," where Woolf shows us what she's capable of when she feels like it. The vignettes of the empty, decaying house, inter- spersed with the brief parenthetical remarks on the fates of certain characters (rather a jolt, wasn't it, to learn of Mrs. Ramsay's death that way!) will stay with me, I sus- pect, for a long time. I must say that the novel is so *very* spare, so lacking in plot, dialogue, and all but the lowest-key conflict, at no point did I truly become emotionally involved. I was certainly intellectually stimulated, often being aware that I was experiencing a literary tour de force, but I can't say that I really cared too much what happened to these people. The masterfully imagined inner mental lives por- trayed here are just not enough to get me involved. Perhaps if you liken a more run-of-the-mill novel, the kind where things happen and conversations take place, to a painting, TO THE LIGHTHOUSE might be something akin to a magnifi- cently rendered architectural drawing, or a brilliantly conceived piece of chamber music rather than a symphony. No doubt my reaction is due to my seriously undeveloped literary acumen (my tastes in fiction have always been pretty conventional -- I feel a bit like I've jumped up about nine levels that I'd have been better off taking one at a time), but if you asked me if I enjoyed the book, I'd feel compelled to evade the question and say something like, "Well, it was really quite interesting." Interesting, but for me, not truly involving. I find that when I really get wrapped up in a book, reading compulsively to the end, after finishing I have to take a while to "come down" or "cool off", if you know what I'm trying to get at --a return to the mundane from the other world I've been immersed in. With TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, that didn't occur. I hope that some day my tastes will be refined enough that I can come back to Woolf and see much that I now must be having trouble appreciating, but for the present I think I'll be letting her alone. I imagine one or two of you have something to add here! Allen =============== Reply 1 of Note 55 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 05/20 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 2:33 AM I haven't QUITE finished, but, honestly, I don't think anything we could say here could spoil it for anybody else. I was well aware of Woolf's intent in the first segment and became somewhat more emotionally engaged than Allen was for the simple reason that much of it deals with the female dilemma. I found myself disliking Mrs. Ramsey for her persistent and compelling matchmaking when she herself is not too sure of the delights of marriage. Of course, these are things that need not happen to everyone, she reasons. There was a passage, wasn't there, on creating in the medium of people? That's certainly what she was doing, and people tend to resent it. I could quite identify with Lily Briscoe and was pleased to find she had managed a quite satisfying relationship of her own sort with William Bankes. I was rather bothered by the apparent intensity of all these characters conflicting and mutually contradictory emotions. It doesn't feel right for people to feel so strongly about apparently casual relationships. My overriding feeling during the first segment was a statement Mrs. Otis Skinner made to her famous husband while he was rather ineffectively playing ball with H.G. Wells - Otis, dear love, can't you just DO something? I felt like shaking most of the principals. Of course, I definitely got the picture of people unable to relate to each other and being like ships in the night, passing and unable or unwilling to share. There are many points of SIGNIFICANCE, certainly, like Mrs. Ramsey's inability to tell her husband she loves him, and those red hot pokers in the garden certainly mean something, but I'm not sure exactly what. Cathy =============== Reply 2 of Note 55 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 05/20 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 9:43 AM Bought a copy of TO THE LIGHTHOUSE about a month ago and will be reading it in late June. Feel sort of bad that I can't participate right now because I was very happy to see this book on the list. However, this is my Armageddon time of the year at work...and I'm sure that my brain won't have enough cells left to give Woolf her due. Hope someone will want to discuss it with me later too. Will save your notes and definitely put in my "two cents" at that time, Allen. Barbara =============== Reply 3 of Note 55 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 05/20 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 10:14 AM You people are hardly giving this book a chance! My allies here know that "To the Lighthouse" is very close to my heart, one of three or four books I consider genuine masterpieces. There are incredible things going on that aren't on the plot-dialogue-character level, and to enjoy the novel it helps to be responsive to them. The play with scale and perception as the children are playing on the beach illuminates how we make worlds when we imagine things; the dinner party is the creation of an ordered world within the dining room while disorder, chaos and vagueness swin menacingly outside the windows; and when Mr. Ramsay feigns that his ordered thought reaches Q on the alphabet but never R, Woolf is slyly saying that methodical thought is not necessarily the way to know oneself: Mister "R." cannot reach "R" - self-knowledge - by going from A to B, from B to C, from C to D etcetera. Lily, earlier in that section, likens thought to piano keys in a rising scale. Music, referring only to itself and not needing to satisfy external rubrics like Mr. Ramsay's thought, can acheive a different kind of light, a crystalline vision of That Which Matters. And all that matters for Lily is to remain faithful to the creative act of painting, even if the painting is never looked at again. It is important for her to have done it. Further, consider that Mrs. Ramsay is herself a beacon and a monument in the first part of the book, while in the accelerated, depersonalized second part she dies rather offhandedly in a subordinate clause. It is only at the end that they can reach the actual lighthouse, because the magnetic pull of Mrs. Ramsay kept them near her in the first part. Anyway, all, please give the book a chance however "difficult" it is for you. I assure you it will have been worth it. Let yourself be caressed by its constant wavelike, lighthouse-like rhythms, its carefully repeated imagery, and its sheer beauty. -Patrick =============== Reply 4 of Note 55 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 05/20 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 2:22 PM Allen, I'm only about 75 pages into this, and have a question (I'm again trying this dangerous bit of reading your posts just up to the plot spoiler, which I think is not as big a risk in this non-plot-dominated book!). I don't understand the repetition of the phrases (are they parts of a poem?) "Someone had blundered" and "stormed at with shot and shell." Can someone more in tune with Virginia's thoughts help me out here? I especially liked Lily's struggle with how to decide whether to like someone: "How then did it work out, all this? How did one judge people, think of them? How did one add up this and that and conclude that is was liking one felt, or disliking? And to those words, what meaning attached, after all?" I am struggling through this, and take heart from Allen's note about the first part being the roughest. I'll be back when I have read more. Sarah 5/20/95 11:06AM MT =============== Reply 5 of Note 55 =================  
To: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Date: 05/20 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 2:43 PM The lines are from Tennyson, "The Charge of the Light Brigade." Their purpose here is perhaps to poke fun at the aged, distinguished philosopher occupying his private thoughts not with Plato and Aristotle but with boyish fantasies of battlefield adventure, possibly attractive to one who has spent his life in sedentary and vicarious pursuits. -P. =============== Reply 6 of Note 55 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 05/20 From: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Time: 6:32 PM Allen I liked your chamber music analogy. There are some books I don't like to disect too much, this was one of them.I read the book two months before you put out your list and just finished reading it again. I appreciated Woolf's talent even more after a second reading. To me it was like getting a microscopic view of the lives in a brief moment of time-one day. Then time passes and we see it pass and all the subtle ways it leaves its mark. And then in part 3 after the changes-external changes at least-you see that nothing really changes. We are what we are. Life goes on with or without us. Nature seems to dominate. That was my impression after the second reading. =============== Reply 7 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/21 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 1:16 AM The distinguished philosopher is reciting poetry out loud to himself and is so embarrassed to be caught at it he must go to his wife to be comforted. My first, down to earth thought, was that I wished it had been simply poetry when my ex talked out loud to himself. He also fought the air. Mr. Ramsey was at least still relatively sane, if insecure. He also seems to have had a genuine if not very perceptive interest in his wife and children. I realize that many of there are many images beyond plot, character, and dialogue that SAY THINGS ABOUT THE UNIVERSE. This ploy, like great use of symbolism, has always irritated me extremely. If you're going to tell a story, get on with it; if that's not really what you're about, don't make like you're telling a story. I've never been much interested in abstract philosophies or profound views of the universe. What interests me greatly is what happens to persons A,B, or C when that philosophy or view of the universe is LIVED. Cathy =============== Reply 8 of Note 55 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/21 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 7:21 AM Cathy, We may rightfully take Mrs. Woolf to task for non-storytelling, I suppose. However, I think that you are drawing a distinction which she would call false: that on one hand there are events, and on the other hand there are ideas. For her, the things happening inside your head have just as much right to be called "things" as those outside your head. If you are happier with novels that have swordfights or divorces or heroin addiction, fine, but I think that Mrs. W. was partly responsible for the trend away from novels about people galloping around countrysides, and toward novels about people brooding in armchairs. Whether that's a good trend or not is up for discussion, I suppose, but the only thing a writer should ultimately listen to is her own voice. Woolf wrote what she saw; it would have been dishonest for her to do otherwise. She had most of English literature in her bloodstream night and day; the way she wrote was in response to where she felt fiction was going. Again, it would have been dishonest of her to do otherwise! -Patrick As usual, passionately defending my favorite Dead White Female =============== Reply 9 of Note 55 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 05/21 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 8:31 AM Barbara: Your impressions of TO THE LIGHTHOUSE coincide with mine exactly. In much of her writing, Woolf seems obsessed (as are we all, I guess, especially as we get older) with the passage of time. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE is the most brilliant exploration of the subject I've ever seen in fiction. After Woolf sets the reader down into the almost painfully detailed minutiae of an "ordinary" family's life--their hopes, fears, preoccupations, small crises, etc.--the second section, told from the point of view of the empty house as time passes, hit me like an almost physical blow. What does daily life "amount to," or "mean," in the big picture? Is it possibly to live sanely (which Woolf did not) or even to live at all, with the "big picture" of our own fleeting consequence kept in mind at all times? It's almost as if what society regards as sanity, and all the rituals and tediums of daily existence, are a sort of communal game of "let's pretend" for grownups. On the other hand, maybe what it all "means" is beside the point. There's a word in some language (Japanese, maybe?) that translates literally as "un-ask the question." Woolf seems to be saying that our daily lives are all we have, the most bittersweet of blessings. Should we live them in the "trenches" of domesticity, like the wife? In the rarefied air of thought, like the husband? Or somewhere between? Finding that happy medium, I believe, is a thinking person's greatest struggle. There's a short essay of Woolf's in which she comments on passing time in a beautiful way; I'll try to locate it and post that section here. >>Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 10 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/21 From: XDPW41A B HUDSON Time: 10:01 AM I don't think the business of literature is story telling. I think it's an issue of perspective, perspectives that aren't achievable by any other means-- what gets illuminated in painting isn't what gets illuminated in film isn't what gets illuminated in music isn't what gets illuminated in literature. Books that take us out of the story telling conventions are rsaying, 'listen, you're missing the point; therefore I'm not going to give you all that other stuff ,that story telling stuff, so you won't get wrapped up, won't so intoxicate yourself with it that you miss the "literary things"-- essentially that business of a close reading-- that the work is really about:' hence Faulkner's Sound and Fury, Joyce's Molly monologue with which Ulysses ends. Sometimes I think there's a bias evidenced here against moving into the modern era with literature which means abandoning the very English, somewhat Victorian conventions of an assumed correct form. I think Wolf represents an absolute high point-- along with a good double handful of her peers-- of the most evolved form of literary esthetic we've reached to date (I'm speaking here only in terms of the recent say 200 years, literature that has in a sense a contemporary component which would exclude Dante, Milton the classics and Shakespeare-- maybe that means literature that embraces a world effected by merchant cites and industrialization-- Cathy I know those lines are vague but certainly Dickens and a favorite here, Waugh, are good examples). In fact to me the recent tendency toward politicized, confessional works with which we can "identify and relate" represents a decided reversal in the evolution of literary esthetics. bruce esthetics.eally =============== Reply 11 of Note 55 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 05/21 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 10:42 AM These notes have been irresistable. With the knowledge that I probably won't be able to finish it right now, took some time last night and delved into TO THE LIGHTHOUSE a wee bit. I hadn't read Woolf for about 20 years and wondered if the pull for me would still be as strong. Of course, it is. I assume that I will need to read many of her sentences twice, but that's somehow just part of reading her. She describes interactions, feelings as no one else can. Dale, I love your description of all the rituals and tediums of daily existence as sort of a communal game of "let's pretend" for grownups. That's one of those mental secrets that I confronted when I was younger and it pops up again at intervals, always with the feeling that no one else feels the same...this could get pretty existential, couldn't it? Patrick, your comments help enormously with the reading. If I ever had the time, Woolf is an author that I would like to explore in a literature class, but how disappointing it would be if the class was a bust! Barbara =============== Reply 12 of Note 55 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 05/21 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 12:17 PM Allen: I agree...TO THE LIGHTHOUSE is one of the most difficult books I've ever read (or at least, finished), and took me several times as long as a "regular" novel of the same size. I don't get the feeling this is because Woolf is deliberately trying to be obscure, as some writers seem to, or that she's asking readers to do more than their share of the work. Rather, I think she's attempting to squeeze so many subtle impressions into a small space--somewhat like the "layering" of sound that an audio engineer does, with 32 separate tracks on the same tape--that if our attention wanders for even a second, we're lost. (Your comparison of the book to a detailed architectural drawing is right on the money, I think.) Case in point...one of my favorite times of day is the hour after dinner when I pour a glass of Chardonnay, find a quiet place, and stretch out to read a few chapters of a good book. With TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, though, I found that after just one glass of wine (OK, a tall glass) I lost enough of the edge of my concentration that I couldn't follow Woolf's train of thought at all. Trust me; any book that can come between me and my Chardonnay is a powerful book indeed. You're right, though, about it not being the kind of book a reader can get "lost" in, sheerly on the level of story, so that the author seems almost to disappear. Woolf's amazing, teeming mind is always very much at the forefront, here. I would disagree with Bruce that a pure "story" book is necessarily less literary, but they're certainly different animals. On the other hand, I can think of a few novels--Jill Paton Walsh's KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS, for one--that seem to do both tasks equally well. >>Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 13 of Note 55 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 05/21 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 2:41 PM Dale - There's a point in the argument between Vladimir Nabokov and Edmund Wilson where Nabokov says, "Mr. Wilson chastises me for using 'difficult and obscure words.' It does not seem to occur to him that I had something difficult and obscure to say." It is nice of you to acknowledge that Mrs. Woolf is not trying to be obscure, but trying to be accurate, and that the difficulty of reading her corresponds to the difficulty of saying what she has to say. -Patrick =============== Reply 14 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/21 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 11:36 PM I do not insist on simple storytelling. In fact, I've read quite a number of Ruskin's essays which are anything but, but they are easier reading than Woolf. These characters are real enough that I become disgusted with them for continually shillyshallying and analyzing and the like before and about doing ANYTHING. Also, seeing them through all the time-and-space imagery makes them seem rather bloodless, and I am reminded that Woolf, like many of her literary contemporaries was a thin, attenuated woman. As for the dinnerparty, I rather think that's the most uncomfortable festivity I've ever read instead of having to attend. Yes, I noted Patrick's point that the group inside, especially when the candles were lit, was contrasted to the wild chaos outside. What struck me as sad was that these individuals were also islands separated from each other, almost all wanting or needing something they felt unable to ask about or that the others would be unable to give. My reaction was if this is life count me out. I was rather interested in the fact that Woolf actually fleshes out Lily more than most of the Ramsey children, since I understand she is in fact presenting a fictionalized version of her own family. I found myself wondering if she did not write her own character as Lily, with the strong ambivalent tug toward her own mother, not really wanting to acknowledge that she was the child of such a creature. I certainly noted Mrs. Ramsey's compulsive efforts to marry Lily off. These, not the space and time dimensions, are the types of things that interest me about a book. Lily felt so threatened by yet attracted to Mrs. Ramsey that she felt quite smug and happy that Minta and Paul's marriage turned out to be less than a success. There's a lot of ambiguity in Mrs. Ramsey herself that really interests me. She seemed to enjoy being attractive to literary men, having books of poetry she never read dedicated to her (why didn't she read them?), yet she likes Paul because he doesn't have a thesis or endless papers. Several times you get the feeling that she is rather contemptuous of literary exercises and literary men, and the bond with her husband is certainly a strange one. And what is Woolf saying by having Prue and Andrew, two children she had delineated rather fully, die so young and tragically? That's two of the eight dead, yet I see only three coming back to go to the lighthouse with Mr. Ramsey - is there any significance there? Cathy =============== Reply 15 of Note 55 =================  
To: XDPW41A B HUDSON Date: 05/22 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 2:22 AM Bruce - do you really think there has to be such an absolute divide between relevance and aesthetics? Relevance without art may not be worth reading, but a too rarified, yet aesthetically pleasing creation is just as much a waste of time, in my book. When you talk about aesthetic development, are you picturing a progression "towards" some ultimate goal? What? (I'm not trying to be argumentative, I really want to know. . .) I don't think that there needs to be an absolute dichotomy between relevance and aesthetics. I've seen "relevance" used as a whip, by people who haven't bothered to think out what they really mean to say, or who have an axe to grind and choose that weapon (now there's a mixed metaphor), but I've also seen attempts at a broader sense of what is aesthetically worthwhile dismissed out of hand as attempts at relevance - a lot of the time by people who are truly terrified of having their comfortable mind-set shaken up a little. Anyway, I'd be interested to hear what you and others have to say about this. Theresa =============== Reply 16 of Note 55 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/22 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 8:39 AM Another "thin, attenuated," famously oversensitive woman of letters, Emily Dickinson, wrote: The Brain, within its Groove Runs evenly - and true - But let a Splinter swerve - 'Twere easier for You - To put a Current back - When Floods have slit the Hills - And scooped a Turnpike for Themselves - And trodden out the Mills - >> I'm not sure whether Mrs. Woolf would have written better books had she been, say, fat and vigorous. People who don't like the play "Hamlet" often cite their impatience with the excessively deliberating *character* Hamlet, not seeming to accept the notion that inability to act is a real human problem, which real humans have, and so it's as fit a subject for a fiction as any other real human problem. Cathy, what sort of action or conflict did you want "Lighthouse" to have? Fistfights? But seriously, I was intrigued by the character interactions you discussed, and the autobiographical implications thereof. I'll give it thought... -P. =============== Reply 17 of Note 55 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 05/22 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 8:51 AM Virginia Woolf's essay, "Evening Over Sussex: Reflections in a Motor-car" *** Evening is kind to Sussex, for Sussex is no longer young. She is grateful for the veil of evening as an elderly woman is glad when a shade is drawn over a lamp, and only the outline of her face remains. The outline of Sussex is still very fine. The cliffs stand out to sea, one behind another. All Eastbourne, all Bexhill, all St. Leonards, their parades and their lodging houses, their bead shops and their sweet shops and their placards and their invalids and char-a-bancs, are all obliterated. What remains is what there was when William came over from France ten centuries ago: a line of cliffs running out to sea. Also the fields are redeemed. The freckle of red villas on the coast is washed over by a thin lucid lake of brown air, in which they and their redness are drowned. It was still too early for lamps; and too early for stars. But, I thought, there is always some sediment of irritation when the moment is as beautiful as it is now. The psychologists must explain; one looks up, one is overcome by beauty extravagantly greater than one could expect--there are now pink clouds over Battle; the fields are mottled, marbled--one's perceptions blow out rapidly like air balls expanded by some rush of air, and then, when all seems blown to its fullest and tautest, with beauty and beauty and beauty, a pin pricks; it collapses. But what is the pin? So far as I could tell, the pin had something to do with one's own impotency. I cannot hold this--I cannot express this--I am overcome by it--I am mastered. Somewhere in that region one's discontent lay; and it was allied with the idea that one's nature demands mastery over all that it receives; and mastery here meant the power to convey what one saw now over Sussex so that another person could share it. And further, there was another prick of the pin: one was wasting one's chance; for beauty spread at one's right hand, at one's left; at one's back too; it was escaping all the time; one could only offer a thimble to a torrent that could fill baths, lakes. But relinquish, I said (it is well known how in circumstances like these the self splits up and one self is eager and dissatisfied and the other stern and philosophical), relinquish these impossible aspirations; be content with the view in front of us, and believe me when I tell you that it is best to sit and soak; to be passive; to accept; and do not bother because nature has given you six little pocket knives with which to cut up the body of a whale. (Continued in next reply) =============== Reply 18 of Note 55 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 05/22 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 8:53 AM Virginia Woolf essay, Part II: (Continued from previous reply) *** While these two selves then held a colloquy about the wise course to adopt in the presence of beauty, I (a third party now declared itself) said to myself, how happy they were to enjoy so simple an occupation. There they sat as the car sped along, noticing everything: a haystack; a rust red roof; a pond; an old man coming home with his sack on his back; there they sat, matching every colour in the sky and earth from their colour box, rigging up little models of Sussex barns and farmhouses in the red light that would serve in the January gloom. But I, being somewhat different, sat aloof and melancholy. While they are thus busied, I said to myself: Gone, gone; over, over; past and done with, past and done with. I feel life left behind even as the road is left behind. We have been over that stretch, and are already forgotten. There, windows were lit by our lamps for a second; the light is out now. Others come behind us. Then suddenly a fourth self (a self which lies in ambush, apparently dormant, and jumps upon one unawares. Its remarks are often entirely disconnected with what has been happening, but must be attended to because of their very abruptness) said: 'Look at that.' It was a light; brilliant, freakish; inexplicable. For a second I was unable to name it. 'A star'; and for that second it held its odd flicker of unexpectedness and danced and beamed. 'I take your meaning,' I said. 'You, erratic and impulsive self that you are, feel that the light over the downs there emerging, dangles from the future. Let us try to understand this. Let us reason it out. I feel suddenly attached not to the past but to the future. I think of Sussex in five hundred years to come. I think much grossness will have evaporated. Things will have been scorched up, eliminated. There will be magic gates. Draughts fan-blown by electric power will cleanse houses. Lights intense and firmly directed will go over the earth, doing the work. Look at the moving light on that hill; it is the headlight of a car. By day and by night Sussex in five centuries will be full of charming thoughts, quick, effective beams.' The sun was now low beneath the horizon. Darkness spread rapidly. None of my selves could see anything beyond the tapering light of our headlamps on the hedge. I summoned them together. 'Now,' I said, 'comes the season of making up our accounts. Now we have got to collect ourselves; we have got to be one self. Nothing is to be seen any more, except one wedge of road and bank which our lights repeat incessantly. We are perfectly provided for. We are warmly wrapped in a rug; we are protected from wind and rain. We are alone. Now is the time of reckoning. Now I, who preside over the company, am going to arrange in order the trophies which we have all brought in. Let me see; there was a great deal of beauty brought in today: farmhouses; cliffs standing out to sea; marbled fields; mottled fields; red feathered skies; all that. Also there was disappearance and the death of the individual. The vanishing road and the window lit for a second and then dark. And then there was the sudden dancing light, that was hung in the future. 'What we have made then today,' I said, 'is this: that beauty; death, of the individual; and the future. Look, I will make a little figure for your satisfaction; here he comes. Does this little figure advancing through beauty, through death, to the economical, powerful, and efficient future when houses will be cleansed by a puff of hot wind satisfy you? Look at him; there on my knee.' (Concluded in next reply...) =============== Reply 19 of Note 55 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 05/22 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 8:58 AM Virginia Woolf essay, Part III: (Continued from previous reply) *** We sat and looked at the figure we had made that day. Great sheer slabs of rock, tree tufted, surrounded him. He was for a second very, very solemn. Indeed, it seemed as if the reality of things were displayed there on the rug. A violent thrill ran through us; as if a charge of electricity had entered into us. We cried out together: 'Yes, yes,' as if affirming something, in a moment of recognition. And then the body who had been silent up to now began its song, almost at first as low as the rush of the wheels: 'Eggs and bacon; toast and tea; fire and a bath; fire and a bath; jugged hare,' it went on, 'and red-currant jelly; a glass of wine; with coffee to follow, with coffee to follow--and then to bed; and then to bed.' 'Off with you,' I said to my assembled selves. 'Your work is done. I dismiss you. Good-night.' And the rest of the journey was performed in the delicious society of my own body. ### =============== Reply 20 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/22 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 1:24 PM Patrick: I love the Nabokov quote. Speaking of obscurity, can you tell me if this quote attributed to James Joyce is real or apocryphal: He supposedly said, of FINNEGAN'S WAKE, "It took me 17 years to write it, and I'll be da*ned if it takes anybody less than that to read it." >>Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 21 of Note 55 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 05/22 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 4:34 PM Dale, though I don't know about the quote you mention (it does sound apocryphal), I've always been fond of Nora Joyce having reportedly said to James: "Why don't you just write sensible books that people can read?" -Patrick =============== Reply 22 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/22 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 7:54 PM Patrick: There are some who would say Ms. Joyce had a point. Then, there's the (definitely non-apocryphal) advice Flannery O'Connor once received from her aunt... "Now that your work is achieving a measure of popular success, don't you think it's time you started writing about a better class of people?" >>Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 23 of Note 55 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 05/22 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 8:28 PM And Kafka's employer suggested that he take up a more "athletic" hobby than writing. One of T.S. Eliot's superiors at Lloyds bank, on finding out that Eliot was a poet, said, "Well, if it helps in his work I think we should encourage it." -Patrick =============== Reply 24 of Note 55 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/22 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 8:58 PM Cathy, I was struck by your putting into words something I've been feeling while reading TTL--the distancing among themselves that seems to characterize the people in the book. They seem to just miss connections, unable or unwilling to truly 'communicate' (isn't it horrible when popular culture makes a very sensible word so ridiculous through overusage?). This makes me frustrated, and I don't believe it is indicative of 'real' life, if that is what VW is trying to say. Sarah 5/22/95 12:34PM MT =============== Reply 25 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/22 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 8:58 PM Patrick, While relegating the past notes from March and April to disk, I noticed a prior note from you regarding VW and Lodge's comments on her readability--"unbearably precious" inner dialogue. You retorted that had VW wanted to be clear and realistic, she would have been, and the fact that she wasn't says something. Now that I'm further into 'The Lighthouse' and have somewhat of the same reaction as Lodge about her characters' thoughts and interactions, could you elucidate? What is she saying with these thoughts that I really don't see as common in people? Sarah 5/22/95 5:25PM MT =============== Reply 26 of Note 55 =================  
To: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Date: 05/22 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 9:27 PM Princess H: I agree that the verb "communicate" has been horribly corrupted in this day and age. But I would maintain that the failure of the characters in TTL to do so is not only representative of the 1990s, but is downright prophetic. (See at least 1,000 popular songs of our current age, ranging from Pink Floyd to Springsteen's "57 Channels and Nothing On.") This, coming from someone (myself) who tries heartily to ignore same. Not to mention fiction writers Don DeLillo, Russell Banks, ad infinitum. >>Dale, CDA (Certified Devil's Advocate) in Ala. =============== Reply 27 of Note 55 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 05/22 From: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Time: 10:27 PM Dale thanks for sharing VW's essay. It was beautifully expressed. Couldn't help noticing that what she was saying about the different takes on the scene she was seeing are like the CRs different takes on To The Lighthouse. And all the impressions put together enriches our experience. Allen I am leaving for the east coast-Long Island- Wed. Will be gone two weeks-if you have an idea yet what #3 book will be, please post. Otherwise I have Tim Obriens and Thom Jones short stories to read between excursions on the Great South Bay. B Hill =============== Reply 28 of Note 55 =================  
To: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Date: 05/23 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 0:25 AM Sarah, I'm glad somebody else saw it. Patrick, what I would really have liked to see happen reflects, alas, my own background, but is probably valid anyway. It occurred to me that it was sad there was no facilitator (a nice psychological term; ask some of our professionals here) at the dinner table to help the characters connect with each other and feel more comfortable with themselves. As for example, Lily, I think I really hear you saying you'd like to share this new experience of Paul's - or You really feel the need to get these people conversing together, don't you, Mrs. Ramsey? Such "facilitation" can be almost as uncomfortable as the missed connections, but not quite, and after a few experiences people can actually begin to relate a little better by themselves without prodding. The character interelationship does quite interest me. James and Cam appear to have quite normal needs and expectations of their parents, if expressed in a rather unusual and heightened fashion. The fact that James hates the father he sees as very like himself rings psychologically true. Cam's feeling comfortable with the old men in the library also rings true. There are a whole lot of emotional loose ends left hanging around, which I suppose is like life. What was it between the poet Carmichael and the dead Andrew, and is it important that the most apparently successful man of the lot is the man disliked by Mrs. Ramsey, who considered him a drug addict? (To my modern mind, it's remarkable that if he was an addict he lived to be old and continue to write stuff that could be published.) What about Charles Tansley? I shared the general dislike of him, but again it seemed that people might have communicated with him better. Many of Lily's reflections and observations in the last section range emotionally true with me. One thing bugged me, though - James's memory of somebody running over somebody else's foot and his inability to place that memory. Unless he had some thoroughgoing trauma and had blocked the thing from his memory in self defense, I can't see anybody forgetting the exact circumstances of something like that, especially if they observed it so closely, almost surgically. Somehow I can't imagine any of these characters having a thoroughgoing trauma or mental block or even a catatonic seizure, though some seem to be almost catatonic at times. There's a wispy, vapory feel about them - though I found Lily's memories of Mr. Ramsey's tantrums most intolerable. That's the sort of thing that makes me glad I'm divorced. Cathy =============== Reply 29 of Note 55 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/23 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 12:52 PM Cathy, I must confess I have now, after 100 pages, found a character that I can like. Yes, Patrick, I can hear you now: Why is it necessary to like a character when you can bathe in the author's words and enjoy the metaphors? Whether it shows me as a lesser reader or not, I cannot wholly enjoy a book unless I can understand/like/admire/be interested in at least one of the people. Lily is that person here; she seems to me the most real, the most insightful, and the most understandable. I like her thoughts at the dinner table..."Why does she pity him? For that was the impression she gave, when she told him that his letters were in the hall. Poor William Bankes, she seemed to be saying, as if her own weariness had been partly pitying people, and the life in her, her resolve to live again, had been stirred by pity. And it was not true, Lily thought; it was one of those misjudgments of hers that seemed to be instinctive and to arise from some need of her own rather than of other people's. He is not in the least pitiable. He has his work, Lily said to herself...He was really, Lily Briscoe thought, in spite of his eyes, but then look at his nose, look at his hands, the most uncharming human being she had ever met. Then why did she mind what he said? Women can't write, women can't paint--what did that matter coming from him, since clearly it was not true to him but for some reason helpful to him, and that was why he said it? Why did her whole being bow, like corn under a wind, and erect itself again from theis abasement only with a great and rather painful effort? She must make it once more." These sound (to me) much more like what normal human beings are thinking than that disjointed and disruptive stuff coming from the Ramsays. There, Patrick, I know I've pricked at least you... Sarah 5/23/95 9:53AM MT =============== Reply 30 of Note 55 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/23 From: NPVX84A MARIA BUSTILLOS Time: 8:47 PM Dear Encyclopedia Hill and Mr. Wilcox, what an excellent and pleasantly testy dialogue. Enjoyed it hugely and appreciated also the many referees incl. Shaman Short. It seems to me that this VW was a woman who felt things too deeply herself. She had a really thin skin. I imagine though that most people at times experience the curious intensity in unspoken things that she describes; sudden connections, longing made fiercer with repression, strange compulsions in the life of the mind. I really love this stuff, but love a good fistfight too; in a novel of course. I wouldn't make much of a pugilist. =============== Reply 31 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/23 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 10:32 PM Patrick, I admit that Woolf may be playing in a register pitched too high for me to hear. To continue this meta- phorical vein, I guess that to me TO THE LIGHTHOUSE is the literary equivalent of twelve-tone music: I imagine that with enough effort I might be able understand what's going on, but there's nothing in either one that evokes enough interest for me to make that effort. To my way of thinking, when there are a thousand paths open to you, there's little point in expending energy in trying to batter your way through the occasional brick wall that you find in your way. Some day my aesthetic sensibilities may evolve to the point where I can appreciate Woolf's work, but at present it simply leaves me cold, and I'll be turning my attention in other directions. Allen =============== Reply 32 of Note 55 =================  
To: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Date: 05/24 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 4:19 PM Dear, dear Sarah, I think a hint of an answer to your question (what's the point of a novel if it doesn't strive to resemble life) can be found in a book like "The Waves" or "Tristram Shandy" or, perhaps, "The English Patient." The=============== No unpopular one, I know, but it is not incoherent: the author strives to set up in the novel not a simulacrum of this planet but an alternative to it, even an antidote to it. In this view, before the first word of every novel is the implicit question, "What if this were the case:..." Somewhere in "Waves" is a dinner party (!) in which a flower at the center of the table is transformed by the many perspectives of the guests into a seven-sided flower, crystalline and sparkling with all the aspirations, loves and fears of the people sitting there. The effect is of a sudden, ephemeral order, opposing for a moment the usual disorder of things. All through "The Waves," characters are saying that if the world formed by their conversation - the novel - were to falter or get interrupted, then they would cease to exist (which is true). These characters fear interruption, disorder, and discontinuity because they are involved in a novel: a creative act which counters and limits chaos; which strives to create a new world rather than mimic this one. -P. =============== Reply 33 of Note 55 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 05/24 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 4:22 PM Allen: Plot isn't the point of TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, actually. Woolf is getting into the heads of her characters and spilling out to us what truly motivates them. Her character studies are fascinating, particularly (to me), the relationships between Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay and Mr. Ramsay and James. As to the relationship between the Ramsays, Woolf does an excellent job of exploring the vast world of non-verbal communication that goes on between a husband and wife, particularly when they have been married for a very long time. We might think of their marriage as being a little on the dysfunctional side, because of the many times that they hurt each other and seemingly snub each other, but I think that it's really more realistic than dysfunctional. I find it refreshing to see a marriage discussed on this level rather than on the hearts and flowers, less than realistic level. The Ramsays clearly love each other dearly, as we find out from their thoughts, but that love is mixed up with other, conflicting emotions of the sort that we are likely to find in real life. The relationship between Mr. Ramsay and James is what I find to be a classic struggle between father and son for the mother/wife's attention. Mr. Ramsay knows that his wife dotes on James, so he takes great pleasure in taking away his son's joy whenever he gets the chance. Actually, Mr. Ramsay seems to realize that all of his children come first in his wife's heart, and that is why, I believe, he is such a tyrant with them. However, since James is the apparent favorite in his wife's heart, he is merciless in his treatment of him. This only scratches the surface of Woolf's masterful characterization, but it's what came to mind off the top of my head. I'll be interested to see what everyone else thought, and maybe I'll have more to contribute later. Lisa =============== Reply 34 of Note 55 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/24 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 4:27 PM Cathy: But don't we all feel conflicting and contradictory emotions from time to time? I know that I certainly do. Most of life isn't so black and white that we don't ride the middle gray line, dipping onto each side occasionally as the mood hits us. From personal experience I could name many times in which I have completely contradicted myself over and over again within the same relationship. I find Woolf's commentary on the things that really motivate us to be highly accurate. It might not be so pretty in the light of day, but it is realistic. Lisa =============== Reply 35 of Note 55 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/24 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 4:29 PM Ah, Cathy, Yes, I see now much more of what you meant - please forgive that I get defensive where Mrs. Woolf is concerned: anyone who's ever been obsessed by an author may empathize. Your keen explorations of these people vis-a-vis one another are on quite another plane from my talk of metaphoric wefts and networks of imagery - a plane which is much more relevant to life on the planet. But, as should be clear by now, I go to literature and to the planet for different reasons. Respectfully, Patrick =============== Reply 36 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/24 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 4:32 PM Patrick: I didn't find the book especially difficult, and I'm not saying that so everyone will think me an intellectual! It's more because I've become used to the stream-of-consciousness style through reading and adoring Faulkner. I can recognize so much of my own disorganized congnitive function in this style of writing that I tend to sail right on through it. I LOVED this book, and I'm not afraid to say it! I found it fascinating, and I am most interested to hear what everyone thinks about the significance of the Lighthouse. I haven't had time to think that through yet, and I was planning to cheat by seeing what everyone else said first. Lisa =============== Reply 37 of Note 55 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 05/24 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 4:37 PM I hadn't thought much about it before, but you made a very relevant point about the second part of LIGHTHOUSE. It is very much a flow of life statement, and I think the decay of the house fits in very well on the heels of Mrs. Ramsay's death. Mrs. Ramsay was, in a very real way, the glue that held all of the other characters together, and her passing made it very difficult for them to come together again. Even once they did return to their house in the Hebrides they seemed a little awkward without Mrs. Ramsay there to smooth things out. I could reach a little here and compare the renovating of the house to the resurrection of Mrs. Ramsay's spirit, but I hesitate to do that. =============== Reply 38 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/24 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 4:43 PM I think you can view Woolf on a couple of different levels, but if you're looking for a plot to sink your teeth into you are definitely in the wrong place! You can see her as a psychologist/psychiatrist who is poring over the things that make her characters tick, and you can see her as an abstract philosopher. Either way, I think she's a genius. Question, though, you called her "Mrs." Woolf, but I had always thought she was a lesbian who never married. Am I wrong? I thought there was some rumor about her having a lifelong affair with another famous woman (the name escapes me), but I could be confused! =============== Reply 39 of Note 55 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 05/24 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 4:49 PM Dale: I agree. There are simply more ways than one in which to get a point across. You can do it by telling a story with a firm plot, and you can do it by throwing the plot aside and writing a character study. Books that tell a story can contain incredible character studies, also, so these categories are not mutually exclusive. Choosing to write from one angle or another does not make an author any more or less competent; it's just a matter of preference. Lisa =============== Reply 40 of Note 55 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/24 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 4:56 PM I think Mrs. Ramsay didn't read all of those books of poetry because she was a typical "beauty without brains." So, actually, all of her attention to matchmaking and dinner parties seems most appropriate to her character. Just about everyone in the book was attracted to her, and perhaps it was just as much for her apparent superficiality as for anything else. After all, everyone else in the book was such a deep thinker that she probably provided them with a needed relief from themselves. But her dinner parties seemed to be anything but festive, I'll agree to that! =============== Reply 41 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/24 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 9:48 PM Okay, Patrick, I can grant you that "alternative" view of a fiction piece; it strikes a chord in me and opens up a whole new set of possibilities in writing novels. Now that you've so eloquently used "The Waves" as an example of the form, can you help me through "To the Lighthouse" in the same way? As Allen so aptly put it, I am afraid I am not possessed of the mindset that would allow me to independently uncover the "what if" message in TTL. Sarah 5/24/95 6:39PM MT =============== Reply 42 of Note 55 =================  
To: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Date: 05/24 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 9:48 PM Lisa, Virginia married Leonard Woolf and they started Hogarth Press together in 1917. I can't say whether or not she was a lesbian, but she wasn't an unmarried one. Sarah 5/24/95 6:44PM MT =============== Reply 43 of Note 55 =================  
To: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Date: 05/24 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 9:48 PM Woolf was married to a cat named Leonard who had to, I understand, bring her back from a couple of undesirable situations. You're probably thinking of Radcliffe Hall (THE WELL OF LONLINESS) and Una Trowbridge, one-time wife of the Admiral of that name and translator of the DON CAMILLO series. Hall was roughly contemporary with Woolf, I believe. Patrick, you have hit on the most unreadable book I've ever come across - Tristram Shandy. I gave up on it when I was trying to get through a period novel for a college course - this you can't do in ten weeks, especially when you find you can't stand more than ten pages a day. I did, however, first hear of the remarkable LILIBULERO on Stern's pages (he even gives the music in a rather antique form). In many ways, it is a terribly irritating book. For instance, about page 90 one Obediah is dispatched to bring Dr. Slopp, the man-midwife, to deliver the hero. Unfortunately, he rides him down in a mudpuddle, necessitating a complete change of clothes for the doctor. While the fellow is drying him out, the narrator's father entertains him by arguing that all swearing (except "royal" curses like God's Fish) comes from the Catholic excommunication document, which is thereupon reproduced in Latin and English. Then, about page 145, the doctor goes up to deliver the baby and breaks his nose with the forceps. Thereupon he goes down into the kitchen to build a bridge for the baby's nose, which pursuit is mistaken by Uncle Toby for the building of a bridge for his toy fortifications - it might be interesting if you have enough time for it, but my chief feeling was that Mrs. Shandy should have taken a battle axe to the lot of them. (I feel the same way about Wagner's real life response to the birth of his son Siegfred by having a chamber group play his specially written SIEGFRED IDYLL in the birthing chamber. Men are so D****D insensitive and impractical!!!) About Mrs. Ramsey's poetry reading, the last scene in which we see her she actually does read poetry - she wants something, though it's not at all clear that she figures out what it is. I was both impressed and puzzled by her reaction to reading - obviously she was enjoying herself and not willing to be interrupted by her husband, but all this bit about climbing through flowers - well, if that's the way she responded she must have had a devil of a time reading poetry or anything else. What's all this symbolism here? Cathy =============== Reply 44 of Note 55 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/25 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 7:58 AM Lisa, Cathy, and Sarah: Many, many neat comments all round. First, Lisa, Virginia Stephen married Leonard Woolf in 1912, because she liked him, because marriage was somewhat expected of one, and because she couldn't think of any reason why she should not marry. On their honeymoon, though, they found that Virginia was sexually frigid, though she did have a few mostly un-physical affairs with women. Most notable is the writer and socialite Vita Sackville-West, for whom she wrote "Orlando." Since my focus is stylistic - I like to think about what a writer's technique "means," - all these delicate interpersonal analyses are somewhat befuddling for me. I think I'll have to get out a copy of TTL and refresh my memory as to who is who etc., and get back to you splendid people on what's going on betwixt and between Paul, Minta, Charles, Lily, William, et al. As for Mrs. Ramsay and the flowers, there is a passage somewhere in which she's giving herself a moment in her very other-directed life. She says that her wish is to become a dark wedge-shape and to float disembodied. I think her difficulty with poetry may be because she lives beauty, is suffused with it, and works it into everything. When she's alone it seems she just wants peace and quiet. I don't think it's fair to say, Lisa, that she's brainless - it's just that she concentrates her energies toward service to other people, and the "work" of reading poetry (like the "work" of reading Woolf) is not what she would choose to fill her spare time with. I've always found it interesting that part one covers less than a day and is (in the HBJ edition) 124 pages long. part three covers less than a day and is 74 pages long. Part two is 18 pages long - and covers more than ten years. Thoughts? -Patrick =============== Reply 45 of Note 55 =================  
To: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Date: 05/25 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 9:59 AM Lisa: To me, the lighthouse in Woolf's novel represents the idea of the future as an idealized abstraction, some vague time when we'll be happier than we are now. Sure, our life today might be muddled and a mess, but we're pressing forward toward some glorious day in the future when we'll be wealthy, or loved, or thin; free of temptations and compulsions and addictions and private nightmares--"satisfied" in some undefinable way we couldn't fully specify, even if we were allowed to design it ourselves, from scratch. But whenever one of these partial goals is nominally reached, it never quite equals its abstraction (as in the song, "Is That All There Is?") and so our human nature fixes on another "lighthouse." Not long off, we hope. John Lennon said it best: "Life is what happens while you're making other plans." Again, I think (as with the question of whether we should live as Mrs. Ramsay did, for people, or Mr. Ramsay's life of the mind) Woolf is asking where the "happy medium" is. It might be a waste to live in the future, but it's also a waste (and foolish) to live so totally in the present that we give up any power to shape the trends of our own lives. Some wise person once said, "The unexamined life may not be worth living, but the OVER-examined life is incapable of BEING lived." Where do you draw the line? The lighthouse remains so exotic and mysterious throughout the book because it's unattainable for one reason or another. Once they see it up close, it's "just" a lighthouse. Sad, but ever true. As for Woolf's sexuality...before I ever read her work, I had a bad habit of confusing her in my mind with her almost-exact contemporary Gertrude Stein (whose female companion was Alice B. Toklas), another female heavyweight (figuratively, of course ) in the writing arena. >>Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 46 of Note 55 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 05/25 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 6:56 PM Dale, Sarah et al., I've argued elsewhere that in the first section Mrs. Ramsay herself is the lighthouse: a monumental beacon to which everyone looks for guidance and reassurance. They do not realize this, and so James keeps pining for the "actual" distant austere hoary lighthouse, not realizing that it is in front of him all the time. This, Mr. Short, fits in well with your reading of the lighthouse - "Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans." (I liked your interpretation immeasurably, by the whale.) Anyway Mrs. Ramsay compares herself to the lighthouse, as a stroking beam, and other characters are definitely using her as a reference point: Lily's painting is finished only when Mrs. Ramsay's shape has been added. They can visit the lighthouse only when Mrs. Ramsay is dead, and even then the dominant feeling is that of her absence. Consider this: Mrs. Ramsay is tall, and our first glimpse of her (in the first sentences of the book) is in front of a window. A lighthouse is a tall thing with a window in it. Is that too tendentious and cute a connection? Ah, well... Woolfishly, Patrick =============== Reply 47 of Note 55 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 05/25 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 8:32 PM Hi Dale. I read To the Lighthouse awhile back, and my memory is a bit muddled (it usually is anyway...) But I had a different take on the lighthouse - lighthouse's are for guidance, to avoid foundering, they are not usually a destination. I'm terrible at symbolism, but it seems to me they are making a mistake to have a goal of reaching what is only there to guide them to what "should" be their real destination, whatever that may be. And the disconnectedness (I know that's not a word), the fact that most people in the house miss or misread each other's signals - they aren't paying attention to whatever guidance is provided for them in any aspect of their lives. Especially the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay. It made me shudder - I can't imagine why anyone would want to have to live with someone they understood so little. Theresa =============== Reply 48 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/25 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 8:34 PM Wow Patrick. I hadn't thought of that. I think you are right. Thanks for the illumination, so to speak. Theresa =============== Reply 49 of Note 55 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 05/25 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 9:03 PM Theresa (though where are you, Dale?): Actually, I think your reading yields some neat connections. The way you describe the characters is quite accurate: they are usually disconnected from one another, they are usually trying to get to the thing that's there to guide them: they have no destination, so they mistake the beacon for the destination. They should be seeking themselves (remember Mr. Ramsay not reaching R?), but are afraid to do so in the face of the storm and so they look to Mrs. Ramsay instead. Add to this the fact that lighthouses are usually on islands, and these people are unconnected islands. -P. =============== Reply 50 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/25 From: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Time: 9:33 PM Patrick and Theresa, I like both of your comments, and they shed some light on my reading. I will finish this weekend (just finished the first part) and perhaps will feel differently after that. Sarah =============== Reply 51 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/25 From: XDPW41A B HUDSON Time: 10:27 PM Patrick, I have a problem with your notion of "an alternative" to it, but I've now read you're post long enough to feel confident you really didn't mean it the way I'm taking it. If we can dip back into Stevens for a moment, The Man with the Blue Guitar, I think we have one of the most succinct statements of a philosophy of art, literature in particular, I know of in a limited number of words. Not an alternative world, the essence of the world from the perspective of the particular take of the particular piece of literature in question. bruce =============== Reply 52 of Note 55 =================  
To: XDPW41A B HUDSON Date: 05/26 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 0:12 AM About that blasted lighthouse - I've been thinking about it all day and come up with some interesting notions. Mr. Ramsey took particular pleasure in denying his son the chance to visit it while small; later, he seemed to feel the compulsion to take him and Cam - perhaps some small spark of guilt, some acknowledgement of his wife's silent disapproval of his treatment of their child. Reading in between the lines, you realize Mr. Ramsey must have been h**l on wheels to live with. Is loving his children a chore he leaves to his wife? He wants Andrew to get a scholarship, but he also wants Mrs. Ramsey to be proud of him whether he does or not. The only mode he seems to have with his children, aside from his teasing of James and occasional, much appreciated kindness to Cam, is COMMAND. They hate going to the lighthouse just because they are compelled to. Lily made an accurate perception of Nancy regarding this final trip - she realized her petulant question What do you take to a light house didn't require or even want an actual, practical answer. Nancy was merely expressing her irritation at being roped in, compelled, by her father to gather supplies for his expedition. She apparently took care to wrap the parcels badly, and I'm not quite sure how she got out of going herself. - Does Woolf treat people in this oblique, disconnected fashion because she is not willing to think about the remembered conflicts behind their behavior or put it down in writing? Thinking back on the whole, I wonder if she was avoiding a core of pain within herself. Cathy =============== Reply 53 of Note 55 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 05/26 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 2:31 PM Theresa: Intriguing idea, re: the irony that in TO THE LIGHTHOUSE the beacon was the thing sought, rather than something to seek by. You're onto something big there, I think. As for the parallel discussion here on how great a debt (if any) fiction owes to literal reality, I ran across a quote in an old issue of NYTBR that seems pertinent...Brian Moore, in an article about Robert Louis Stevenson, says: *** ...Stevenson was, perhaps, too unsure of his talents. Over the years he failed to resist the fumbling, arrogant editorial advice of Fanny Osbourne, his American wife. But at the same time he was an author with a clear and intelligent view of the novels he wished to write. In a famous exchange with Henry James, he decided that the novel "is not a transcript of life, to be judged by its exactitude; but a simplification of some side or point of life, to stand or fall by its significant simplicity." It is this "significant simplicity" that has caught and held generations of readers in his adventure novels, KIDNAPPED and TREASURE ISLAND, and that made him tell the story of THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, his most unlikely and original work, through the voices of prosaic narrators in an effort to conceal its utter improbability. As a result, it lingers in our minds when greater novels are forgotten. For, true to his intention, his characters are not transcripts of life in its exactitude but literary vampires who spring to life on the page each time the book is opened. *** Comments? (Patrick, to me this seems to jibe greatly with what you're saying on the subject. Agree?) >>Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 54 of Note 55 =================  
To: CUFZ01B SARAH HART Date: 05/26 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 3:17 PM Sarah: Thanks for the info! I must have been thinking of another author, then. Lisa =============== Reply 55 of Note 55 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/26 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 3:20 PM Cathy: I got the impression that Mrs. Ramsay was just going through the motions of reading the poetry when she was sitting with her husband. She seemed to just enjoy sharing the quiet with her spouse, and trying to participate in an activity that he loved. She read for such a short period of time, so I guess that's what gave me that impression. Lisa =============== Reply 56 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/26 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 3:23 PM Patrick: That's it! It was ORLANDO that I was thinking of. I knew that novel was considered to be partly autobiographical, and that it made reference to homosexuality. I skimmed back through LIGHTHOUSE yesterday, after posting the notes that I wrote, and I agree that I was a little hard on Mrs. Ramsay's intellect. I gathered the same impression that you mentioned, that she lived her life in service of others. Lisa =============== Reply 57 of Note 55 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 05/26 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 3:29 PM Dale: Excellent ideas on the meaning of the lighthouse. Could there be some meaning behind the fact that Mr. Ramsay seemed so against the possibility of going there in the beginning, and that James was so set on going? It's kind of ironic that in the end it 's the father dragging the children there rather than the other way around. I was partly confusing Woolf with Stein and Toklas, now that you mention it. Lisa =============== Reply 58 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/26 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 3:31 PM Patrick: Your connection between Mrs. Ramsay and the lighthouse sounds pretty plausible to me. Considering that she is the major force keeping the other characters together, that isn't a bad analogy. Lisa =============== Reply 59 of Note 55 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 05/26 From: SACQ68B LISA GUIDARINI Time: 3:34 PM Theresa: I actually got the impression that the Ramsays understood each other all too well. They had so much non-verbal communication going on all the time, after all. And your theory about the lighthouse gives a different twist to the story. It is true that a lighthouse isn't usually a destination; I didn't even think about that before. Lisa =============== Reply 60 of Note 55 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 05/26 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 5:28 PM Mr. Short (and Mr. Hudson?): Joyce Carol Oates writes that "the prose piece...is not a mere concatenation of events, as in a news account or an anecdote, but an intensification of meaning by way of events....it represents a concentration of imagination, and not an expansion." Elsewhere, she says that a story is "a dramatic episode which reveals, in a flash of insight, the mystery of character." This seems very much in line with what you gentlemen are saying. Exactly what is the problem with literature as an alternative or antidote to the world, Bruce? I'm not saying there is no problem, but I'm curious as to what you think the problem is. -P. =============== Reply 61 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/27 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 11:19 PM Patrick, the "alternative" you mentioned - that of a story about people conceiving of themselves as facets of or in light of an artificial flower on the table and fearing if their conversation is interrupted they will no longer exist - maybe it's terribly lowbrow of me, but I couldn't help thinking from that and some of your other posts on this topic HOW VERY LIKE ALL THIS SYMBOLIC STUFF IS TO SCIENCE FICTION. There was a whole episode of TWILIGHT ZONE based on the idea that everybody, including series host Rod Sterling, had been written by one man and that if he burned his tapes they no longer existed. It seems to me we have one of those strange human circles here. Highest flown literary symbolism shades into sci-fi, and ordinary people based fiction sits somewhere in between. Cathy =============== Reply 62 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/28 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 10:10 AM Am reading TO THE LIGHTHOUSE very slowly because this is a tough time at work for me, but continue to be drawn to it. Checked the Prodigy encyclopedia to see what they said about Woolf this A.M. and there is a decent little article. Remembered some of your comments much earlier, Patrick, regarding the similarities of the Ramseys to Woolf's parents. *P says that Woolf was the daughter of wealthy scholar-editor Sir Leslie Stephen and that "their London home was frequented by such leading late-Victorian writers as Thomas Hardy, R.L. Stevenson, John Ruskin and George Meredith" which does sound a bit like the home portrayed in TTL. However, it also says that "her father's death in 1904 caused the first of several nervous breakdowns". I'm only on about page 85 in TTL, but I don't perceive her portrayal of Mr. Ramsey as being loving at all, though not as totally critical as some here have thought. The *P article doesn't say anything about the death of Woolf's mother and I remember you saying something about that earlier, Patrick, and how much it affected her. It was much earlier than the father's, wasn't it? I also had forgotten that Woolf committed suicide. Again from *P, "...Virginia continually fought nervous exhaustion and abnormal sensitivity; only Leonard's (Woolf) selfless attention prevented her psychological collapse. When England declared war against Germany, even the Woolfs' retreat in Sussex was touched by anxiety. On March 28, 1941, sensing the beginning of another nervous breakdown and fearing the incursion of madness, Virginia Woolf drowned herself." Should probably just concern myself with the work at hand, but can't help getting very interested in the author him/herself, particularly someone who has been has influenced literature as much as Woolf. Barbara =============== Reply 63 of Note 55 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/28 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 10:26 AM Cathy, Yes, science fiction tends to depend upon a speculative framework very much like the one I suggested earlier: in front of all fictions is an implied "what if it were the case that...." Symbolism, however, is not just a fancy frill thrown on top of a story to make it seem "highbrow." For many writers and critics and theorists, symbols are THERE - and a writer sensitive to that fact is just being an "antenna" for them, calling attention to a network of connections, associations and resemblances which secretly underlies the perceptual landscape! The "literary establishment" may be as guilty of shamming and flimflammery as people say it is, but symbolism when perceptively and genuinely explored is not a mere gimmick. To set it apart from fiction for ordinary people is to put walls up where none need be. I have not usually liked science fiction becuase its speculations frequently have the air of a gimmick - that the work is supposed to ride on the novelty or cleverness of its setting or plot, and that it can therefore "get away with" being poorly written. Dozens of sci-fi fans have bombarded me with attempts to change my mind ("Oh, if only you read such-and-such or thus-and-so...") but the sense I have is a generalization, not a rule (note the hedge words "usually" and "frequently") and I definitely agree that there are exceptions. Many postmodernists have tried to bristle at the "walls of genre" and write science fiction works that are "really" about the speculative act of writing a fiction. There are also "serious" detective novels that are supposed to "really" be about epistemological and ontological questions: the sleuth is exploring the nature of knowledge and perception when he's on the trail of a whodunit. Such tricks tend to bore and infuriate me. -Patrick =============== Reply 64 of Note 55 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/28 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 1:29 PM Cathy: I say anybody who automatically dismisses SF as "lowbrow" is showing their ignorance up front. Throughout its history, writers of SF and fantasy have consistently been among the most visionary and important that a society--especially a totalitarian one--has. As Patrick rightly points out, there's a great deal of poorly-written dreck out there. I have no doubt it far outweighs the "good" stuff in quantity, and that, sadly, most readers don't seem to see the difference. But to hold this fact against the genre would be like saying of 20th Century fiction, "Sure, you've got Woolf and Faulkner, but how about Danielle Steel and Robert James Waller?" Speaking of visionary, are you acquainted with a Czech SF writer named Stanislaw Lem? His collection of computer fables THE CYBERIAD, written long before the first Apple escaped from Steve Jobs' garage, is a masterpiece. (For new CRs here who may not be aware of it, Ms. Hill is not only a seasoned reader of SF, but a practitioner as well. Her gentle satires on the genre's conventions--I'm talking about the literary, not the auditorium, kind--make for wonderful reading.) >>Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 65 of Note 55 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 05/28 From: ETJY35A A KENDRICK Time: 2:10 PM Hi Barbara, It seems to me that Quentin Bell wrote a biography about Va. Woolf in which he shined a bright light on Woolf's childhood sexual abuse by a brother. Her relationship with Leonard was oppressive, as was Woolf's with her father. No wonder Woolf was so obsessed with the subjugation of women! While I am no romanticizer (a word?) of suicide, I believe that suicide can be a consciously self-liberatating act. It's interesting that the men in Woolf's life can be seen as the weary and overburdened caretakers of an hysterical woman. Very Freudian. BTW, James Hillman's Suicide and the Soul presents some off-the-beaten-path views of suicide. I know that many book groups do not allow biographical discussion about the author, choosing to focus instead on the book, the thing itself. If we are going to look at an artist's work, however, isn't the direction the arrow takes (Edmund Wilson, The Wound and the Bow) a central element? If so, mustn't one take into consideration the possible reasons for that direction? If this is sounding a bit argumentative, I confess, it is. I'm having an argument with myself here. I detest the view that lumps people into victims and victimizers, us and them, etc. On the other hand, life experiences do help to form the human beings we become -- part of the reason rather than the excuse. I once was acquainted with someone who referred to Van Gogh as someone who couldn't get "with the program." Any comments? That *P encyclopedia article, by the way, sounded very patronizingly biased. Ann >>>>>>> Does Mrs. Ramsay represent Woolf's mother? =============== Reply 66 of Note 55 =================  
To: ETJY35A A KENDRICK Date: 05/28 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 4:24 PM Ann: Amen, to your contention that we do truth a great disservice when we lump people into victims and victimizers. I think the same occurs when we reduce to black-and-white such gray issues in relationships as power, abuse, and equality. Real life is far more complex than that. For instance, I'm gratified that the Simpson matter has at least brought the subject of spousal abuse into the spotlight--but I'm very saddened that abuse has become a code word for a male hitting a female. May I say, and underscore, that I believe there can be NO legitimate reason for physical violence in a relationship. That said, over the years I've known countless men (and have been one of them) who bear the scars of emotional "beatings" and manipulations in relationships, which they would gladly have traded for a black eye. >>Dale in Ala. (PS: Thank goodness for the people such as van Gogh who "can't get with the program" and as a result create timeless art, at great emotional cost, for those who couldn't otherwise see beyond their own "programming. End of soapbox.) =============== Reply 67 of Note 55 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 05/28 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 11:36 PM Dale, thank you for those kind words! Virginia, I, too, feel that suicide can be a freeing action under some circumstances. When someone has borne as much emotional pain and abuse as Woolf, it would be cruel to ask them to hang around any longer. There are also cases like the tormented genius Robert Schumann, who walked into the Rhine apparently to get away from the voices in his head. The phenomenon of hearing voices is a part of the schizophrenic phenomenon, and at that time there was no medication to ease it. I suppose my aversion to heavily symbolic works, Patrick, comes from my early psychological training - a symbol can serve very often as a defense, a cover, or an excuse for facing up to a problem and trying to deal with it. Woolf may well have been doing this kind of groping in TO THE LIGHTHOUSE. It makes provocative literature, but one could wish for a happier result for the poor lady. Sci-fi is far too often over gimmicked; if the gimmick is amusing or literate enough, I've been willing to go on and suspend my disbelief just for the romp. Thus I rather enjoyed Heinlein's LORD OF LIGHT simply because it's based on Hindu mythology. Cathy =============== Reply 68 of Note 55 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/29 From: ACCR69A JOSEPH BARREIRO Time: 3:51 PM Dear Catherine, I hope I'm not stepping on your toes here, but I couldn't help but interject my comments on a subject that is close to my heart. I just wanted to point out that LORD OF LIGHT was written by Roger Zelazney, not Robert Heinlein. Frankly, I can't picture the archetypically curmudgeonish Heinlein even imagining a book like LORD OF LIGHT, which I also enjoyed for much the same reason you did. I think both authors are fair representatives of the expansive science fiction genre, and there are dozens of others whose works are, in the words of John Cleese et al, something completely different. As has been pointed out, there are tons of dreck available on bookshelves everywhere; one should not use that to excuse a blanket disparagement of a genre that within the past thirty years has exponentially expanded and transcended the bounds set for it by early twentieth century magazine editors. Writers like Ursula K LeGuin, Arthur C Clarke, James Tiptree, Jr.,Philip K Dick,Harlan Ellison, Gene Wolfe, John Varley, J G Ballard, Theodore Sturgeon, Brian Aldiss, Bruce Sterling, Lewis Shriner and Orson Scott Card I would name among those whose work is published as science fiction as some I would recommend to serious novices. They encompass in their diverse works not only such classical "literary" themes as alienation and relationships, but include conjecture concerning the possibilities inherent in the human condition and humanity's rapid ascent into the technological world, extrapolating from the wellspring of history and literature to examine ideas that are worthy of scrutiny and consideration. Joe B =============== Reply 69 of Note 55 =================  
To: ETJY35A A KENDRICK Date: 05/29 From: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Time: 3:58 PM Read most of the dinner party scene in Lighthouse this morning and it's been bouncing around in my head all day (while I try to get tedious things done for work). I don't think I've ever heard the different perspectives, ongoing thoughts, insecurities, contrasts of a group of people described so well. I have a number of places bracketed in light pencil (don't want to write in books, but can't resist sometimes), but the shortest one I can pick as an example of what I'm saying is..."All of them bending themselves to listen thought, 'Pray heaven that the inside of my mind may not be exposed' for each thought, 'The others are feeling this. They are outraged and indignant with the government about the fishermen. Whereas, I feel nothing at all.' ". And then, the spot, in which Mrs. Ramsey becomes entranced with the centerpiece seeing wonderfully poetic images and Augustus "feasted his eyes on the same plate of fruit, plunged in, broke off a bloom there, a tassel here and returned, after feasting to his hive. That was his way of looking, different from hers." These are inadequate quotes, so I should stop, but Woolf does such a perfect job of it. Though the *P article does seem a bit patronizing, the reference to her struggles with her extreme sensitivity hit home. How could you go through life being as aware as Woolf obviously was of every nuance, every motivation, every little repressed thought? It's sometimes painful to read and must have been even more painful to live. Again, I'm only on pg. 109 of my edition, but the Ramseys marriage does not seem so unusual to me (I can hear some of you thinking "horrors!"). I certainly hope that mine is better, but this experience of two people living together while they actually remain in two different little bubbles, with their main topic of conversation being their children and the other folks moving about them looks like a lot of marriages I've been around. By the way, my edition of TTL is put out by Compact Books and is a wonderful little affordable hardback at 4.99. They publish a number of other classics that I'm going to look into. Barbara =============== Reply 70 of Note 55 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 05/29 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 5:00 PM Dear Barbara, A French critic, Sainte-Beuve, says that the author IS the work ("Tel homme, tel oeuvre."), and that to find one is to find the other. It's nice to hear of your interest in VW. For you info, her mother died in 1895, when she was 13; Leslie hung around until 1904. Virginia's first breakdown, as you rightly say, was the summer of her mother's death. I was amused to hear that Leonard's attentions were "selfless," because some have suspected that it was anything but and that he enjoyed the martyr status of being married to a famously high-strung manic-depressive lesbian. -Patrick =============== Reply 71 of Note 55 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 05/29 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 5:18 PM Barbara, You do Virginia great kindness to link her madness to the extraordinary sensitivity she shows in the novels...I have sometimes believed that anxiety and pain are necessary side effects of awareness. I'm not sure that VW thought so, but she wrote in her diary about her intense fear of "the danger of seeing to the bottom of the bowl." Elsewhere there are mentions of how frightening and exhausting it can be to see things clearly - how much nicer it is to be behind a veil of assumptions. She always alternated a "visionary" book with a "fun" one, to rest her mind after the labor. TTL was followed by the "holiday book" Orlando, then after writing "The Waves" she wrote "Flush," a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's dog. -Patrick =============== Reply 72 of Note 55 =================  
To: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Date: 05/29 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 5:46 PM Just finished TO THE LIGHTHOUSE the other night while on a trip. Was unable to read all your fine ongoing comments so I saved them all and read them in one lump. I agree with all that this book takes an enormous amount of concentration to remain engaged. Some books can be read on automatic pilot--not this one. I found myself reading it "out loud" in my head--as if I could hear every word and pause. This technique helped enormously although it made the going pretty slow. Her way of interjecting thoughts within thoughts seems to me a very realistic (however intense) way of writing. I identify with her. Sometimes my thoughts bombard me and if I were to do a running dialog of my inner thoughts, there would be as many parenthetical phrases as in her writing. Is this a female thing? or just a personality thing? One of the themes that struck a chord with me was the idea of perspective. I don't remember the particulars or even if I have the character right, but someone (Lily?) was looking at the ground, watching the ants. She was playing god and moving some dirt, making the ants go around. That patch was the whole of the ants' life and this big human was just idly changing it. Then the idea of time in perspective. One whole day dissected in terms of thoughts and relationships, and then ten years goes by quickly as if we're watching fast-action photography. Then the last bit where another day is dissected in thoughts and deeds and the perspective is constantly shifting from the boat to the island. The boat getting smaller and smaller from the vantage point of the house (and Lily sitting there thinking) and the perspective of the people in the boat looking back at the island getting smaller and smaller and the lighthouse getting larger. Haven't you ever been up in an airplane and had those exact same thoughts as you were landing? What I'm not very clear on is what the changing perspectives might mean. One idea I have is this: One can have the most insightful and minute thoughts about the most deeply hidden seed of a concept and if one pulls away--if witnessed from a different perspective--those ideas vanish, are meaningless, are insignificant or are they just hard to keep hold of (could this be Mr. Ramsay's perpetual quest for Z?) Maybe Woolf's personal problem was she COULD see from A to Z and trying to keep both ends of the alphabet in focus was what made her have her "nervous breakdowns." Sherry =============== Reply 73 of Note 55 =================  
To: ACCR69A JOSEPH BARREIRO Date: 05/30 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 0:10 AM Thanks for the correction. I read the book years ago and haven't been able to persuade my son it's worthwhile; he gave away his copy. I just stuck on Heinlein's name because I've heard of him as being a higher grade sci-fi writer. Cathy =============== Reply 74 of Note 55 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 05/30 From: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Time: 9:43 AM Dale: The Woolf essay is wonderful. Thanks for posting it. She seems to have caught the essential problem of trying to understand something beautiful. We either do injustice to the subject or we end up sounding like a pompous idiot. (Occasionally, I manage to do both simultaneously.) Where that leaves us I am not sure. Perhaps headed off to bed. --Jim in Oregon =============== Reply 75 of Note 55 =================  
To: ACCR69A JOSEPH BARREIRO Date: 05/30 From: ZMSB02A VIRGINIA PARKER Time: 2:11 PM Hey Joe, I cut my pre-adolescent reader teeth on Sci Fi. Born in 1950, I read Heinlein's work pretty much as it was published (blissfully unaware that I would have been among the first he would have stuffed out an airlock, due to genetic imperfections and liberal political bent). I swallowed without chewing Bishop and Clarke, Dick and Ellison. I remember being particularly impressed (and disturbed) by Theodore Sturgeon. MaCaffrey, I think, wrote something called -The Ship Who Sang-, and Gaskel and LeGuin both absorbed me. Looking back, the fact they invented women protagonists who boldly went, so to speak, where no women had gone before, may have offset some of the expectations of innate passivity and dependence promulgated by 1950s southern culture. Heck, even Heinlein's -Podkayne of Mars- was a pretty active participant. Virginia, former girl sci-fi reader 5/30/95 2:02PM ET =============== Reply 76 of Note 55 =================  
To: YHJK89idea is an unpopular one, I kno From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 6:35 PM Dear Cathy, It's intriguing to read that you are a practicioner as well as an aficionado of SF. Though this might be hard for you to believe, despite my infamous prejudices I am quite fond of a number of -ahem- fictions with a futuristic and/or speculative framework. I would be interested to hear what conventions you gently satirize, and how. By the whale, I think it funny that a discussion of science fiction should surface under a note beginning, "TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf." That humming sound in distant Sussex may be VW spinning in her grave. -Patrick =============== Reply 77 of Note 55 =================  
To: ETJY35A A KENDRICK Date: 05/30 From: VRCH78A ALLEN CROCKER Time: 11:03 PM Ann, how good of you to grace us with your presence again! For those CRs who don't recognize her name, I should note that Ann is a stray lamb only recently returned to the fold. She was a regular poster in the sub- ject's earliest days, but disappeared some time late in 1993 and has only surfaced a couple of times since. For this time around, however, she's promised to be as Faithful a Correspondent as she can manage, so I have generously granted her Conductor's Absolution and let the past be spoken of no more. Ann is also another of our curiously large CR contingent from the Birmingham, Alabama, the others being Dale, Rachel Stein and Jim Cook. Why, given that we have but one CR in New York and one from all of New England, there should be this unmatched concentration of correspondents in this single small Southern city is a thing that has always escaped my understanding. You'll no doubt be interested to know that Ann has told me that she'll be going to the get- together that Dale is soon going to be holding to celebrate the publication of his novel, so we should soon be getting her report of her impressions of Shaman Short -- and, I trust, vice-versa! Please pardon the intrusion; you can now return to the serious stuff.... Allen =============== Reply 78 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 05/31 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 0:03 AM Actually, Woolf might have thought to put sci-fi to serious use. One of the earliest practitioners was Rudyard Kipling, an older contemporary, and of course there was H.G. Wells. My own idea of sci-fi carried to the highest literary power is Lawrence Durrell's two volume series TUNC and NUMQUAM. What I've been doing with some gusto got started because of my sci-fi son who grew up on Star Trek. When he joined the local club, he remembered how I had taken him to writing class when he was small and proposed to gather Trek writers. There aren't many locally, but I was surprised to learn that, since the coming of computers, there are a number of fans who have taken the bit into their own teeth and written stories about their favorite serieses. I was intrigued - Can I do this? How much of my universe can I stuff into Gene Roddenberry's universe without anybody protesting? As I thought more, I realized this presented an educational and sharing opportunity. Believe it or not, I actually took teacher training, though it should be obvious from my posts here I'd never make a teacher. But I found that if you coat a thing in Trek a group who doesn't read much of anything else will follow you anywhere. I'm trying to entice tv age folks to dip into the mysteries of history, literature, and music and maybe to understand a little about personality conflicts, etc. I've just been rereading the story I sent to Dale to check for the gentle satire; I'm sure you're surprised I can do gentle anything. Yes, in that one I was having a good bit of fun weaving in some of the stuff developed in the various tv incarnations with some of my own fancies. - As an example of how the educational part works, our club has often handed out surveys asking which incarnation of the show each person enjoys. You wouldn't believe how many people ask what an incarnation is. The whole project is partly a fun thing between me and my son (technical advice) and partly a desire to communicate. Cathy =============== Reply 79 of Note 55 =================  
To: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Date: 05/31 From: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Time: 7:09 PM Gentle Cathy, Thanks for the reply; your trekking sounds like quite a splendid endeavor all round. As for proto-SF'ers, Kipling and Wells are good to mention. I'd not known Mr. Durrell did anything of the sort. I liked about a third of C.S. Lewis's "Perelandra" trilogy, and as a child I consumed Jules Verne books at a sitting. All of those are relative oldsters, but I've also come across the fairly interesting and recent "O-Zone," by Paul Theroux, who wouldn't at first seem like SF. -Patrick =============== Reply 80 of Note 55 =================  
To: SFKX01A PATRICK WILCOX Date: 06/01 From: YHJK89A CATHERINE HILL Time: 0:15 AM Actually, I don't know if Durrell himself thought of it that way, but a major element in those two books is what can only be called the high-tech rape of a woman's soul. At the behest of an evilly twisted CEO (though he doesn't call him that), a brillant scientist creates a robotic equivalent of a Greek woman who had been, among other things, his mistress. Knowing her so well, he manages to recreate her psyche. Then after some months she gets away from her closely guarded environment and realizes the truth - that's not the whole plot, by any means, but it is compellingly and chillingly told. And his chilling "The Firm" seems all too relevant sometimes. Cathy =============== Reply 81 of Note 55 =================  
To: NCSH82B BARBARA MOORS Date: 06/01 From: FBED59A EDWARD HOUGHTON Time: 4:48 AM Barbara Moors I'm overstepping my bounds I know, but: In any "Symbolism 1A" class, lighthouses are phallic symbols. Also if you have the twist of mind that sees erotica where it may or may not exist, then your quote has very different imagery. I repeat it below: ...Mrs. Ramsey becomes entranced with the centerpiece seeingwonderfully poetic images and Augustus "feasted his eyes onthe same plate of fruit, plunged in, broke off a bloomthere, a tassel here and returned, after feasting to hishive. That was his way of looking, different from hers." The thought came to me as I was dusting off my old copy of Cabell's "Jurgen". If nothing else, it shows that there's more than one way to look at the same words. Edd Houghton Lake Forest, CA

 

 

Virginia Woolf

 
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