Not reading ‘Mrs. Dalloway’
Oh Virginia Woolf, I want to like you so much! This past week, at the suggestion of a friend in my long-distance book club, I attempted to read Mrs. Dalloway. It was a short-lived, but exhausting, attempt and one which left me quite despondent about my inability to get through, let alone appreciate, a Virginia Woolf book.
I have never been one for stream-of-consciousness anything, so I guess it isn’t surprising that Mrs. Dalloway wasn’t my cup of tea. With its winding sentences and paragraphs that last for pages, Mrs. Dalloway is a book that demands mental sharpness and perhaps a couple cups of coffee to keep up. A leisurely weekend read it is not. I started the book on a rainy, lazy weekend afternoon and was just barely able to keep my head above water. In fact, I was very nearly lulled to sleep by the false security of Woolf’s winding prose.
After nearly napping nose-first into the book’s spine, I shook myself and read a synopsis of the book online to try and focus my mind on the plot at hand. This didn’t help. In fact, it just made me wish anyone else in the Bloomsbury Group (here’s looking at you E.M. Forster) had written the book as I became fascinated by the rich plot and characters allegedly found in that frustratingly dense little tome. Why couldn’t I get into it?
Stubbornly, I went back to the book. I lasted a few more pages, but almost immediately fell back into a dreamy half-consciousness as the rain and the writing worked their magic. I couldn’t hack it. Slightly miserable, but also slightly asleep, I once again shut the book, this time for good.
I really want to like Virginia Woolf. She’s a fascinating and, in many ways, admirable person whose work I want to appreciate. But I’ve tried, by god, and at this point I’m just spent and have to admit she is not for me.
All the same, I still have a book of her essays on London, The London Scene, on my “To Be Read” shelf. But for now I’m going to wait on attempting those until I get the taste of Mrs. Dalloway-flavored failure out of my mouth.