I have always been intrigued with Virginia Woolf, as much with the dreamy stream of consciousness of her writing as with her life and dramatic death (putting on her overcoat, filling its pockets with stones, so she would be weighted down in the River Ouse – March 28, 1941).
Some thirty years ago I did a series of oil portraits of artists who have intrigued, influenced, impacted me. Of course, Virginia Woolf was one (pictured above 36″ x 36″). When I realized it is her birthday today, January 25 (1882), I pulled The Waves off the bookshelf. Something hard and brown is glued to its back cover. Some remnant of an ancient meal? The pages are yellowed pretty badly, especially at the edges and in the spine. Page 115’s corner is folded over. I must have stopped here once. When I crack the book open, it literally “cracks,” leaving the halves of the spread separated from each other. There are seemingly stray underlinings, that once must have held particular meaning for me.
I remember the structure of this book had once amazed me–nine sections, each introduced with a description of the coast with the sun in a different position in its passage from sunrise to sunset (observed in third person). The position of the sun parallels the aging of the voices in each section. These voices start as very chatty soliloquies, talking aloud but really to themselves, subconscious thoughts and observations, yet in a format of dialogue, which gradually work themselves into a singular long monologue in the last section. Lots of saids. Observant. Poetic. Trippy. Misty. Waves.
Really an extended poem. Woolf herself called it a “playpoem.” The last time I looked at this book, I was half the age I am now.
I will read myself to sleep tonight in the musing of time passing and the reverie of her words:
But when we sit together, close,” said Bernard, “we melt into each other with phrases. We are edged with mist. We make an unsubstantial territory.” (16)