Friday, April 29, 2011

Reading Virginia Woolf's A Writer's Diary

I feel I am bursting with words right now. They are everywhere; I can sense them flooding the landscape; they are monsters, little devils all seeking to come out of the system the same time. The deluge is the result of reading Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary. This morning I started reading this extraordinary  assortment of entries from Virginia Woolf’s journals collected and published by her husband, Leonard Woolf, after her death. The preface itself is wonderful. I found Leonard Woolf’s professional, forcefully editorial tone slightly bedewed with stray drops of love that occasionally stains the white page of his mind. I feel the formality is somewhat lovingly broken when he talks about the patterned Italian paper covered copies his wife used as her journals and other details about her writing life.

I have never considered myself a Woolfian by any means; I have often found her work rather un-entertaining, albeit beautifully written. Her stream-of-consciousness method, her experimentations with style and technique have undoubtedly amazed me, but I have never been a moth attracted to her “luminous halo”. She has always struck me as an extraordinary writer, but not a lovable creature. I never adored her, until now.

Entranced, I read page after page of her daily thoughts — mundane details, her dread of criticism; her occasional hatred for the works of certain writers, notably one story of Katherine Mansfield, which she thought was a poor effort totally undeserved of praise or the patience of a reader; her comparing her success to that of other authors; her belaboring on the literary triumph issue; her vacillations; her depressive ramblings — and I feel that this Virginia Woolf is more human than the person next door. She is flesh and blood, warm and human.

I must say this book is gradually eating away the effects of the books that I finished reading in the recent past; my careful thoughts preserved after reading these quondam tomes have all but gone. I am like a bowl of water bubbling with love for this somewhat obsessive compulsive, lovely-profiled lady. I wish I could time travel and meet this woman for tea sometime and watch her moves, notice her noticing objects, sounds, motions.

I wish I could read the whole book today; it is nearly four hundred pages and I am dwelling on the seventy-fifth—having taken more time than needed for lunch and other daily chores. Anyway, the book is working as an anodyne, my otherwise wavering mind is calm and interested. I haven’t stirred much since five in the evening and hope to finish at least a hundred pages today.