Reading: plans for. She assigns herself almost no current books. When she does, they’re mostly for reviews or the hot new topic of conversation. But when she lays out reading for herself, it’s mostly classics and poetry. Poetry includes Shakespeare, two acts an evening. Her train of thought turns to aging: taste in books and –her tastes have changed from prose to poetry.
And here I am reading her. After five years working for a book recommendation site, it’s refreshing and encouraging to be reminded that the constant hype machine of publishing, the pretty covers and author interviews, are the floodwater rapids of literature, with whatever depths there may be concealed beneath the froth. And that there are still deep clear all-season pools full of fish to explore…to overextend that metaphor.
More plans and schedules for reading and writing. A whole year laid out to finish Mrs. Dalloway, put her aside for three months, finish a book of essays, revise the novel, and have them come out one after another the next spring.
A move to Monk’s House, Rodmell gives her writer’s block. “A change of house makes me oscillate for days.”
She makes herself feel better about her unsteady mental states by ascribing them to her superior sensitivities, denigrating the lower classes again, the reverend’s wife, etc. People like that “never quiver.” As if she could know.
I suspect she would snub me to death if we could meet. Much as I love her writing, and envy many things about her abilities and circumstances, I’m content to have all this time and space between us. But that’s true of so many artists and writers whose work I adore. The connection is at least half my imagination.
“But it’s a question of work” she says. 250 words a day of fiction, then The Common Reader, then her planned reading. All interrupted by the death of Conrad, Joseph, and a wire from the Times Literary Supplement asking her to write him up, which she does.
On a walk one day, she has a standoff with some cows. “I waved my stick and stood at bay; and thought of Homer as they came flourishing and trampling towards me” Should I index the cows? They stuck in my brain overnight. I’ll stick them in under the Greek literature they made her think of, and deal with them later.
Her writing plans are thrown off by visitors, effectively invited by one of her servants, Hope, Lottie who thought she’d like to see her niece, Stephen, Ann. Virginia is thwarted, frustrated by the interruption, but also finds Ann “wonderful and charming.” Which is children for you. When they leave, she finishes Mrs. Dalloway and reflects on the style, structure, revision process. What will the reviews be like? They’ll call it disjointed, and “I suppose there is some superficial glittery writing.” But it doesn’t matter, she’s happy, “it seems to leave me plunged in the richest strata of my mind.”