Not Yet Ms. Dalloway

Thoughts   Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, Harcourt Inc 1925, 194 pages

*****   WOOLF IN WINTER DISCUSSION JAN 15 at Sarah’s Blog ********

Unfortunately, I am scheduled away for most of Friday and into Saturday so this fun discussion will have to start without me.     AND I still have over 100 pages to read as I type this up and schedule for January 15.

So I’m going to do my own stream of consciousness rambling right here that may not have the eloquence and beauty of Woolf’s amazing prose but will discuss my thoughts of why I am reading this, why I read it originally, why I am RE-reading this, why I love it and perhaps I will even address some of the questions from the Reader’s Guide in the back of the book.   Shall we get started?   I’ll warn you:   this may get very very long.   I’m just going to pour out whatever is in my head and let it be.   Good luck.    I will not in the least be offended if you decide to skip out and buy your own flowers for a party somewhere else.

What flowers would you buy if you were planning a party?   I would buy daisies.   Big bright happy daisies…

Around 2000 or later, after reading Lord of the Rings in time to see the movies, I looked for a similar reading project and discovered everyone talking about Michael Cunningham’s The Hours.   Perfect!    Just what I was looking for.   And so, I decided to read Mrs. Dalloway first.

I remember thinking the pacing was so fast!   I remember thinking I should start again and read it immediately (I didn’t.)   I have always thought I should re-read it and so when The Flashback Challenge was suggested, I put it on the list.    When I discovered other book bloggers were planning on the Woolf in Winter, I knew NOW was the time.

I have a track record of really slacking on my reading in January.     Rather the first two weeks…    But WOW!   to jump into Clarissa’s day and follow not just her thoughts as she leaves the house and loves to walk in London and everyone wonders which member of royalty is in that car that just drove by, but get a glimpse in the heads of poor Lucretia feeling so very alone, protective of her husband, angry at the doctor who pooh-poohs her that there is anything at all the matter and her missing Italy so.    It just reminds me of how swirly in my head my own thoughts get and how much I have to do and how little I get done and does it really matter.    Self recognition – recognizing thoughts and judging if the thought is worthy.    It’s exhausting.

Of course it matters!    That’s what Ms Woolf wants us to recognize.    Each snap of a thought synapse, every memory that pops up, any silly inconsequential event that lies buried in time just may have had a huge difference – or not- in how our lives unfold.

As my husband likes to say, everything we do is like a drop in the water and we can watch or miss the ripples that go out endlessly over the ocean…

I don’t have any understanding or recognition of how startling this was as an experiment in novel form, but I love to be inside people’s heads.   I believe Woolf is masterful in Mrs. Dalloway to bring along the reader and see/feel/experience her fears and doubts and regrets.    Of course, she couldn’t have married Peter!   Oh, what a disaster that would have been.   But.    Oh the passion she missed, yes?

*** I’m still at the point when he barges in to see her while she is mending her dress.

[And, of course, her servants like her.    She has time to mend her own dress; she needn’t take the servants away from party prepping duties to attend to her  ooops!  ripped green dress that she could wear anywhere.       And those pangs of jealousy – not being invited to lunch.   Darn.]

She looked at Peter Walsh;  her look passing through all that time and that emotion, reached him doubtfully; settles on him tearfully;  and rose and fluttered away, as a bird touches a branch and rises and flutters away.

She hasn’t seen him in twenty years but it’s plainly obvious that rarely a day goes by in her perfect little life that she doesn’t somehow think of him.   She wants to talk about the old days and hold on to strange memory of the fun and energy of their youth!  But Peter hates to be reminded of what he had then; and then have to give her up and see her marry that ‘respectable gentleman.’   Oh what they both missed out on…

“Well, and what’s happened to you?”  she said.  So before a battle begins, the horses paw the ground; toss their heads; the light shines on their flanks; their necks curve.  So Peter Walsh and Clarissa, sitting side by side on the blue sofa, challenged each other.

Woolf creates with such IMAGERY!    such sweeping emotion in few words, short sentences and really long sentences full of semi-colons.   You must jump in the river and let it carry you where it will.     Every word feels easy yet deliberate.   Every paragraph is carefully constructed.    It’s only a few thoughts, a few moments in time.

Omigod!   There is SO.  MUCH.  HERE.    I’m 50 pages in and I want to talk about Peter, her daughter, her health issues, and Septimus’ madness.   and SALLY!

My memory is faulty.     I have never been a re-reader of books but maybe I just wasn’t ready – whatever that means.    I can’t say I’ve every really tried to re-read.  (is the dash needed?   re-read or just reread?)      and yet this book has one of the most famous of first lines.    I would only guess how I think I might be able to just recall how the rest of this goes – so I won’t.  ha!     Yet it is familiar.

I’m enjoying the richness of the detail.   The going back and forth of what is happening and the private thoughts of those experiencing what is happening.     Something yet is going to happen!     Something dreadful?     Likely some kind of miscommunication and misunderstanding – dotdotdot.     I only vaguely recall how the Septimus story line crosses with the party and all it’s goings-on.   It was that stupid doctor, right?  casually mentioning what crap he had to deal with (or didn’t really have to deal with) that day.       Makes me mad.

If I were in a writing workshop and it was suggested we take a day in the life  – I could do it.      I would be able to do this stream of consciousness, build the background and wrap it around the drudgery of a few hour’s tasks, cross it with activities at my neighbor’s house* and let the two worlds collide.     But it would be too close.   too raw, I think.

No, I couldn’t, wouldn’t do it.

So I’ll just decide to stare up into the sky and see what the plane is trying to write in puffs of smoke…   It is a “T” and then an “O”…  wait for it – yes, it’s a “F” and then another.    TOFFEE.   It’s an advert for toffee candies.

And we miss what we were waiting for anyway.   Staring up into the sky…    “Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans.”

I think I’ll buy myself some daisies.

Prayers for all in need.

Prayers for all in need.

*    Not to change the subject or anything, but I both want to share what weighs heavy on the heart and I don’t – I’m sure you understand.    And the tragedy in Haiti is also heart-heavy.   Isn’t that such a great way to say it?   Great as in big, not as in wonderful.      If you have read Mountains Beyond Mountains, you are familiar with Dr. Farmer and the amazing organization called Partners in Health that addresses health concerns all over the world.   I mention PIH because I believe that they have the resources available and already in place to do much to help the Haitian people and I encourage anyone/everyone to contribute to their work.   Thank you.      Listening to A Wrinkle in Time was good for me – I finished it Thursday.      See?   I have changed the subject some more.

For Reading Challenge(s):     Woolf in Winter, Women Unbound, Flashback, Global:  Europe



Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

24 thoughts on “Not Yet Ms. Dalloway

  1. Your stream-of-consciousness take on Mrs. Dalloway is fun to read. You caught two things that so impressed me, too– the way Woolf gets into people’s minds, and the imagery. It was really so good, the way you would be inside one character’s thoughts or emotions and then– blip! –you’d seamlessly be inside those of another. I’d like to try that writing exercise– streaming the events of one day, or maybe one hour would be enough. All the memories that come back, the weird unexpected feelings. Thanks for writing!

    1. I loved how seamlessly we eased into another character’s mind. It rarely felt jolting, as one might expect. I also picked up on a few times when a paragraph started out positive, then went negative and then back to a more positive frame of reference. Fascinating!

  2. I enjoyed your stream of consciousness thoughts on this book. I like that you said to just “jump in the river and let it carry you” when it came to reading Woolf. I do understand what a departure this novel was from the way they had bee written up until then. But I seem to have missed so much, a second reading is a must for me. Enjoy To the Lighthouse. I look forward to your take on it. I have posted my thoughts on Mrs. Dalloway, though they are not nearly as eloquent as yours.

    1. Thank you for the compliment. I love to write stream of consciousness but always wonder if it’s only for self-amusement.

      I just don’t have enough education in literature. I suppose I would have to read a few books from prior time periods and – oh no! that sounds like study… So when I read that this was an experimental style; I feel like I don’t know what it is being compared to.

  3. OMG… it’s like you peeked into my head. LOL, that’s the way my thought processes go. It’s amazing that I can organize it enough to put it in a blog! Of course, it took several writing courses in high school and college to be able to do that, but still. I’d still have to say I wouldn’t really want to read Woolfe, but at least now it’s not because I was scared away by a movie. Faulkner’s Sound and Fury was my reading experiment in stream of conciousness, which I read in high school. I think, as I’ve gotten older, though, I appreciate organization and order a lot more, so that SoC style annoys me anymore.

    1. I read The Sound and the Fury in HS, too! I don’t remember my thoughts on it other than wondering if a book had to be considered confusing to be praised as awesome. I always suspected that people would say they ‘got it’ only so they wouldn’t look stupid. Like seeing the Emperor’s New Clothes (when he was actually naked)

  4. Excellent post! This thought – “Of course it matters! That’s what Ms Woolf wants us to recognize. Each snap of a thought synapse, every memory that pops up, any silly inconsequential event that lies buried in time just may have had a huge difference – or not- in how our lives unfold.” – is so perfect! I love how Woolf demonstrates that a simple day – a dangerous day to be alive – can in it’s thoughts alone change the path of your life, not to mention who you might encounter and what might happen. Hope you enjoy those daisies!

  5. “You must jump in the river and let it carry you where it will.” is exactly what we must allow to happen when reading this. And in this case, it truly isn’t the destination but the journey.

    Thanks for rereading along with us!

    1. And then I saw Eva’s comment that this might be tasteless. oops! i didn’t even connect the water reference to Woolf’s method of suicide.

  6. I swear I cannot remember if I’ve ever read this. But that doesn’t seem like something I’d forget. Guess I’ll just have to read it–maybe for the second time.

    1. Yes, do read it! I’m always a bit sad when I read a review when someone didn’t enjoy this book – but oh well. Try it and see, I guess.

  7. It’s so nice to see someone get excited by this book. When you hang around undergraduates–who are forced to read in a way that older people are not–you can get discouraged and the declaration “of course it matters!” is such a breath of fresh air!

    When I buy flowers, they’re almost always roses.

  8. I think you got what “Mrs. Woolf wants us to recognize” bang on. Don’t you just love those semi-colons?
    Everything matters…and then to Haiti. I think she would approve.

  9. I flashed back to reading Mountains Beyond Mountains and Paul Farmer when I saw the news of the earthquake. Good for you, mentioning Partners In Health.

    1. I just bought MtsBeyondMts for a friend whose daughter is joining the Peace Corps. Did you hear Meryl Streep mentioned PIH in her acceptance speech!?

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