Monday, July 30, 2007


I have been struggling with something lately: Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf. I feel ashamed to admit this (not that it's stopping me...), but I don't often read "classic" literature. I stick with more contemporary fiction, or theory, or those kind of almost "pop" science or theory books, or whatever. So when I go back and try to read something that doesn't fall into those categories, sometimes it's really difficult for me to make and maintain the connection that turns reading into that almost symbiotic experience where the book is pulling me in and not letting go. This book in particular, with it's amazing sentence construction and detail, is just defeating me. I start reading (and granted, I'm usually at work, which means it's 90 degrees inside and I'm already tired and stressed out or bored), and ten minutes later I find that I'm not making any sense of what I'm reading anymore. Whole paragraphs are flying by without a hint of recognition from my brain. It's frustrating, because for those ten minutes I'm really enjoying myself. The main thing I'd heard from people before was that the book was boring, and certainly plot is not the main driving force of the story. But frankly, I prefer it that way, with a bare minimum of plot. (I almost always prefer the first half of a book, the part before things get all complicated, to the second half. Even in fiction, I'm not fond of change, I guess.) Anyway, I like the book; I just don't have the stamina to get through much of it at a time.
My only other big occurrence of note his week was that I watched the movie Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, based on a 1985 book by Patrick Suskind. The basic plot is that this boy who has an extraordinarily keen sense of smell climbs from the gutter to learn the art of preserving scent and making perfume, becomes obsessed with the scent of certain women (always redheads, for whatever reason), and eventually kills a bunch of girls and mixes their scents into his magnum opus. Up 'til that point, it's just a good creepy atmospheric movie, but the story suddenly diverges in the last twenty minutes or so into completely unexpected territory. I won't say too much, but it's definitely worth seeing, if only for that last little bit.


Raquel Laneri said...

Ooh! I love Mrs. Dalloway, but I must say reading Virginia Woolf in 90 degree heat is no fun. I LOVED Mrs. Dalloway and Orlando and then tried to read To the Lighthouse at the beach a few years ago and couldn't do it; I need something more action-driven or episodic in the heat. (I read To the Lighthouse later and loved it, which confirms my theory. This year I brought a detective novel and Harry Potter to the beach.)

If you want something contemporary to sort of ease you into Woolf, maybe you should try reading The Hours first and then reading Mrs. Dalloway.

ammie said...

Yeah, the problem is that I already read The Hours... I've decided work is not the best place for that particular book, and if I have to read it ten pages at a time I will. Any book suggestions, by the way? I'm low on ideas right now.

Raquel Laneri said...

Hmm... for some reason, the first book I thought of was Middlesex (though I feel like you've prob read it before) which is really great and is more narrative-driven, making it a breeze to read, despite its long length.

I also highly recommend ZZ Packer's Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, which is a collection of short stories. I am dying for her to write more, because I can't get enough of her writing!!!

I've been reading a lot of nonfiction lately too, most notably "The Dead Beat" about obituary writing (which is really very enertaining) and "Positively 4th Street" about the folk music scene in the 60s (written by one of my profs).

Zadie Smith is always fun to read...

As is Mary Gaitskill (I like her short stories).