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Shelves: obras-maestras , poetry , ocean-of-noise , everything-everything-everything Ive never dwelt over a set of bound pages with as much joy and relish as I have with To the Lighthouse.
I can say without reservation, that this is some of the most incredible writing Ive ever come across and Im absolutely baffled as to how Woolf pulled it off.
So much of the prose was redolent of an abstract surrealist film, such were the clarity and preciseness of its images. I left several exclamation points and expressions of pure joy among the marginalia of my copy.
I have never experienced such a strange brew of images and ideas that whirl around mere words of a novel, all of which has incited such excitement in me, as if some beautiful and aching aspect of human experience has been solidified on paper that will never be as perfect as it is here.
This book bounces back and forth between philosophy, psychology and fictionalized story telling in such an interweaving of narrative and personal reflection that it may be difficult to discern who is thinking what and which thoughts are the result of whom. The is intentional however, because the book is preoccupied with consciousness at its most mercurial.
If at any time, the prose is lucid and clear, it is sure to take a turn for the chaotic within a few pages. The sights are bright and irritating; the sounds are cacophonous; and the emotional cues between each character, the ones that are often subtle and implicit in everyday interaction, are rendered as if each character holds equal parts pure malice and enthralling love that threatens to burst open at any second.
I thought about highly sensitive people; I thought of those with autism that experience overwhelming intensity from their sensual perception. I thought of all of those that are under bombardment from the outer world, tingling in its euphoric highs and devastating lows. For some, it may seem as though Woolf overly dramatizes experience, but what she really does is puts her character through life at its most intense and acute.
The lives of the characters are so rich in emotion that dipping into their world, for mere pages at a time, is like taking a giant bump of the pure stuff, getting tweaked on all the unbelievable wonder that is conscious experience. I was fortunate enough to have already read The Waves—a book quite similar in its themes and images—in a classroom setting with a brilliant professor. It allowed me a way into Lighthouse that I might not have had otherwise. So, I will say that my previous experience with Woolf helped tremendously.
I have no doubt that anyone who would pick up this book would be blown away by it, but without certain perquisites, it could be a book to throw across the room out of bewilderment. It can be tough. It can be verbose. During her time as a writer, Woolf was quite invested in the scientific theories of her day. There are, apparently, a lot of her own personal writing that spoke highly of her research into the area and all of the scientific advances being made at the turn of the century, a time heralded by the legendary Charles Darwin.
It is continually recycled and that all of our world is a constant fluctuation of heat and matter, moving in and out of different systems—including that oh so special system called human beings. Woolf seemed particularly haunted by the idea that what seemed to be a solidified conscious experience was actually a continual fluctuation of matter, on a physical level, and the consequential thoughts, worries and sensual bombardment, on the experiential level. These new ideas destabilized previous notions about our awareness of the world as the absolute avenue to truth and the reality of this world.
Thus, it is in this tension that the characters of To the Lighthouse find themselves in. They are obsessed with creating still images out of the cacophony of a thermodynamic universe, trying to cling to old notions of a person still being that solidified center of the world.
A character will revel in the beauty and wonderment of a single moment, only to have it slip away from them and be washed away in the tumultuous seas of conscious experience. Never for a moment does the specifics of the scientific theory engulf the work. Instead it remains above the surface, leaving its impact upon you emotionally. The book is wrought with beautiful feeling and what could possibly make this better than the work of Joyce, for example is that it never leaves one with a cold intellectual shoulder or the folded-arm distance of an extravagant feat of technical writing skill.
Woolf goes for the gut.
Spre Far – Virginia Woolf
Spre far – Virginia Woolf
Spre far - Virginia Woolf