Virginia Woolf’s exemplary sentences

Yesterday I got tired of driving around to PBS, SIrius/XM, KCSM, and got several books on CD from the library. (I miss Henderson!) I started with The Voyage Out. I probably read this decades ago, but have no memory of it. That’s the good thing about memory loss, Larry might say, you can hide your own Easter eggs.

But in this case, the pleasure of rediscovery includes reacquaintance with Ms. Woolf’s sly, economical wit. Here are just a few of her gems:

“..she slipped into a fine analysis of him which is best represented by one word, “sentimental,” by which she meant that he was never simple and honest about his feelings.”

What a perfect definition of what’s wrong with sentimentality! Or this, about a man who spent his life contemplating a book he never wrote:

“There never will be a book…That’s what comes of putting things off, and collecting
fossils, and sticking Norman arches on one’s pigsties.”

That’s what gets in my way, dreaming of Norman arches for the chicken coop. Or about her children’s religious education.

“So far, owing to great care on my part, they think of God as a kind of walrus…”

And finally the first one that caught my attention and made me pull over and get out my notebook (the only problem with listening while you drive is it slows your progress):

“She looked forward to seeing them as civilised people generally look forward to the first sight of civilised people, as though they were of the nature of an approaching physical discomfort–a tight shoe or a draughty window. She was already unnaturally braced to receive them.”

That’s exactly how I approach reading a poem by a poet I’ve never heard of, braced for discomfort. How wonderful when I’m pleasantly surprised!

The version I’m listening to is a Blackstone Audio edition read by the wonderful Nadia May. But as the copyright is expired, you can read it online. Hard to believe this was written almost 100 years ago!

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