Yesterday at my tutorial on Virginia Woolf, I stopped and thought how funny it was – (embarrassing, sentimental to note how cyclical) – that a year and a half ago I sat in a bookstore office at 6.30 in the morning with the phone pressed against my ear, listening as some person in an imaginary ivoried city read the first page of Mrs Dalloway to me and asked me to respond. And J was in the room listening to my answer on speakerphone, sitting against the same backdrop of books, the prints of the Brontës, Lawrence. And now I sit opposite him, reading my essay, quoting those same lines back to him.
(copyright Frederic Lefebvre)
It was a day for Woolf: not only did the rain thunder down, vanish, and play havoc with the light (very Between the Acts), but I saw James Wood speak on Woolf and mysticism at St. Anne’s. I’m a long-time Wood fan and found his discussion of To the Lighthouse in the light of Woolf's religious and secular mysticism engaging (if not shattering). I hadn’t thought of the connection to the Psalms, to ‘Dover Beach’, Moby Dick, or Krapp's Last Tape. And very thankful to Wood for quoting Walter Benjamin on attentiveness as the ‘natural prayer of the soul’: an elegant idea, and one that will come in handy in discussing David Foster Wallace’s Pale King.