Books by Women which Shaped Me into the Man I Am, Pt. 1

mrs dallowayIt might be possible, Septimus thought, looking at England from the train window, as they left Newhaven; it might be possible that the world itself is without meaning.

Firstly I have to say that I’ve never liked comparing Mrs Dalloway to Ulysses. Usually this results in calling Woolf’s novel something like a “feminist” version of Joyce. This is unfair as Joyce’s relation with women’s issues and feminism is rather complicated, whereas Woolf’s work may be seen as less diverse and not so “overwhelming” in some kind of a structuralist sense as Joyce; which is also not the case.

Mrs Dalloway was one of the first books which put my attention to beauty in writing. When I started to write prose, it was a total nightmare for me as I was not able to produce at least one more elaborate description of anything. And then I read a passage like this:

She took a seat on top. The impetuous creature – a pirate – started forward, sprang away; she had to hold the rail to steady herself, for a pirate it was, reckless, unscrupulous, bearing down ruthlessly, circumventing dangerously, boldly snatching a passenger, or ignoring a passenger, squeezing eel-like and arrogant in between, and then rushing insolently all sails spread up Whitehall. And did Elizabeth give one thought to poor Miss Kilman who loved her without jealousy, to whom she had been a fawn in the open, a moon in a glade? She was delighted to be free. The fresh air was so delicious. It had been so stuffy in the Army and Navy Stores. And now it was like riding, to be rushing up Whitehall; and to each movement of the omnibus the beautiful body in the fawn-coloured coat responded freely like a rider, like the figure-head of a ship, for the breeze slightly disarrayed her (…)

It’s like poetry. The whole novel is refreshing, vivid and sad in some kind of a purgatory way. Unlike Ulysses, which is a bit more abstract and otherworldly, Mrs Dalloway makes a clear point about deeper reflections on life hidden in simple, daily activities. It certainly taught me that everything matters: time, sounds, flowers, gloves, memories, associations, death and so on. Later on I’ve read books which extended my interest in such theme, like White Noise, but that particular novel was a kind of a starting point for me. And though I’m still struggling with writing in a more descriptive manner, I believe that authors like Woolf are a great source of inspiration for that.


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