I’ve abandoned my journey To the Lighthouse again, and at this point, I’m just not sure I’ll ever make it there. It’s just that, every time I try to read Virginia Woolf’s canonical work, I get this feeling like I’m barely clinging to life and, well, despite lock-down creating the illusion of a timeless existence, I know that life is too short to waste on reading books that make me want to die, regardless of how academically important they may be.
I thought I could manipulate myself into reading To the Lighthouse once and for all by putting it on my winter reading list and then publicizing said list in my column in The Spec, but all I really succeeded in was delaying my enjoyment of other books by forcing myself to suffer through Woolf first.
From my column, “I’m sharing my cold-weather reading list”:
“One of the most important things to do, as a writer, is to read work that challenges me, not just in content but in style. Woolf’s 1927 novel ‘To the Lighthouse’ employs the literary technique of stream of consciousness, meaning that most of the narrative is conveyed through the flowing thoughts and observations of the characters.
‘To the Lighthouse’ was on one of my reading lists in university, but it fell prey to my strategy of reading about half of the books for each of my classes. I wasn’t partial to stream of consciousness and, as a result, it was an easy cut to make. However, about 15 years later, I think it’s time to plunge into the stream and see where it takes me.”
(Note: I’m not sure why my column was edited to indicate book titles in quotation marks instead of italics.)
Anyway, now I’m all wet and shivering and bewildered, and I haven’t even made it to the titular lighthouse to which the family is supposedly going.
To conduct a major palate cleanse, I started reading Bret Easton Ellis’s Glamorama, which wasn’t on my winter list but has swiftly replaced that dying-of-thirst sensation with an exhilarating mental intoxication.
Nobody knows what miracles the future may bestow upon us, but I’m starting to think I’m not meant to go to the lighthouse with Mrs. Ramsay and the other characters whose names I’ve forgotten, and I’ve accepted that.