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Pickle Me This

July 31, 2007

The Key

Now rereading To The Lighthouse which is more marvelous than it has ever been, but what kind of idiot had this book before me? What sort of moron drew a moustache and eyeglasses on the woman on the cover, and wrote stupid notes in the margins, and an exam schedule on the endpapers? Oh, of course– the idiot who was me, and she clearly hasn’t always revered the bookish object just as much as she does now. Though I suppose my reverence for this particular volume was undermined by my perpetual study of it in undergrad– I read it in Twentieth Century Lit, Major British Writers, and a Modern Novels course. Though my appreciation did increase with every learning (really– I always read Woolf better with guidance), the book itself became less a novel than a device, to be pried open and emptied of symbolism which then got turned into essays. “Waves” get underlined, and every reference to houses. Mrs. Ramsay likes doors closed and windows opened, which puzzled me at the time(s)– what does that mean? I get it now, but I’ve also been exposed to a whole world of Woolf’s fiction, nonfiction and other writing since the last time I read this. This, which was the first of Woolf I ever encountered. How strange then, like rediscovering a cryptic code once you’ve finally found its key, and you find out it was music all along. I’m not far in yet, but when I read of Lily Briscoe and the space between what she saw and what she could paint, and that struggle, and I see all that is wrapped up in that scene now, and what it must have meant to its writer.

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