May 30, 2004

Stealing from Virginia
Stylistic thoughts on reading Mrs. Dalloway

Virginia Woolf's style - I struggle to describe it - is a stream of consciousness that is meandering and mellow. It's warm afternoon in the park laziness.

It's delightful, though not something I could imitate, I think.

I've been squinting at her punctuation though, parentheses and semicolons like dandelions, trying to catch them and steal them (a catching chickens at night affair). Her parentheses have confirmed what I was thinking and I'm installing them in my writing. Her semicolons are still inscrutable. They're there and doing stuff, I just don't know what and what they're doing that I'm not used to seeing done with periods and commas. So I'll be toruring semicolons until they give me their secret.

What strikes me with absolute jealousy though, are Woolf's simple sentences. She has these lines, simple sweet simple lines. I can't breathe when I read them and I hate her for writing them first:

Roses, she thought sardonically.
I detest the smugness of the whole affair, he thought.
Richard said one must take risks.
He could never help reading about cricket.
For in those days she was completely reckless; did the most idiotic things out of bravado; bicycled round the parapet on the terrace; smoked cigars. Absurd, she was - very absurd. But the charm was overpowering.