Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf!
Once again I am dipping my toe in Virginia Woolf's The Waves, as I am preparing to teach a summer seminar on Woolf. My dear and most intelligent friend, Kimberly Campanello, and I just had a conversation, full of Woolf-love and giddiness, mutually admiring the harrowing and beautiful genius of her sentences. I really can't think of a better writer, even though I know her faults, especially the too narrow world view (though I would argue the opposite).
So last night, I run across this sentence, from the last section of The Waves, a filtering and absorption of Bernard's perspective, his own private gathering, after a long and exquisite cataloguing of everything:
Our friends, how seldom visted, how little known--it is true; and yet when I meet an unknown person, and try to break off, here at this table, what I call 'my life,' it is not one life that I look back upon; I am not one person; I am many people; I do not altogether know who I am--Jinny, Susan, Neville, Rhoda, or Louis; or how to distinguish my life from theirs.
And yes, that is how I feel, and the cross-cutting of this sentence alone amplifies my simultaneous sense of connection and separation, which I think is why I write poetry after all, a cast with and against dissolution.
All of this makes me weepy, mournful and happy, a radiant melancholy as when I listen to Maria Callas singing "Mon Couer s'Ouvre a ta Voix," from Saint-Saen's Samson et Dalila, or when I regard Marc Chagall's Red Lovers--oh, I see the French connections here, too, especially knowing that Woolf's maternal lineage goes to France, as well.
Of course, there will be an occasion during this class where I let it go unhinged, likely saying something about Woolf saving our lives with her sentences, so that one of my very best students will come to me, confiding to me that most of the students "really don't get Dr. Brock," a little too worried about me and how I am doing, when in fact I haven't been happier, to have been apprehended for a moment, and then let go.