I am presently reading three things, all on the Kindle– which, by the way, has been a godsend during these past two months of preparing to move, moving, and unpacking. Everything I needed in one handy device.
So here’s what I’m reading: (1) a manuscript I’ve been asked to blurb; (2) a Michael Connolly Harry Bosch mystery (this crime-procedural-mystery series recommended to me by another writer as decently written and dependable; and (3) To the Lighthouse. I am under the impression that I read To the Lighthouse shortly after we moved into the house on Prospect Street–at least, that’s my little memory-narrative. I believe I remember reading it sitting back near the big plate glass windows before someone pointed out to me that the best way to deal with a big room is to group furniture together. Duh. Anyhow, I associate To the Lighthouse with new places, beloved places, and perhaps with a return from crisis to serious literature. Anyhow, it seemed right for the first real reading in my new house.
The house in that book is central, and in some ways the novel is about the house when it is filled with Mrs. Ramsay’s incredible life force and what it’s like when it’s empty of her. One of the great wonders of the book is the shock of what it means when someone who embodies life the way she does dies. I remember long ago when I first read the book (before the new house reading), that I skimmed it and panicked because I thought I didn’t understand it. I was probably just trying to read too fast. My brain was much sharper then, but now it’s a leisurely, comfortable read, only mildly challenging.
Or maybe it is a book for grown-ups not youth?
Technically, Woolf does the omniscient viewpoint possibly better than anyone in modern times. She wasn’t that far, of course, from the magisterial Victorians, and also her own ego was clinically fragile. She skims from consciousness to consciousness with brilliant ease. Many things hold it together– Mrs. Ramsay herself, of course, often the object of others’ attention when she herself is not the consciousness. The characters all share a frame of reference, cultural norms, and even speech patterns. Is that what omniscience in novels needs to succeed?
Anyhow, it’s sad and sweet and brilliant and captures the whispering passage of time like nothing else.