1: “L. is doing the rhododendrons …”

Lately I am tired of words. I can’t even remember anymore why I loved them so much, why I considered myself such a reader, why I wanted to be a writer. I blame school, of course, because it is the easy and obvious cause — to be so forcefully inundated, so sucked dry of sentences all day every day for the larger proportion of the last six years! — but I am not convinced that this is correct. Maybe my love for them was always too entwined with childish innocence and faith-for-the-sake-of-faith to have survived growing up? Or, at least, to survive growing up in the direction that I have done, in fits and starts of ever-increasing cynicism and doubt.

(To speak of doubt and faith perhaps rings hyperbolic. It is not. Books are, have been, my cathedrals; to disbelieve in their power is to disbelieve in a god.)

Whatever the reason, my relationship with them has grown awkward, stilted, and, worst, bitter, resentful, fraught. I can’t seem to make them work with me in truce, much less manage to master them for my own articulation. I have hardly written a word for myself throughout the past month, nor have I wanted to; I have been reading with the same fuzzy, bored inattention that I watch trash TV with, and for the same reason — as filler, distraction.

I am not yet apathetic enough to be unconcerned and accepting of this disenchantment, not yet willing to let it be and move on in search of something new. I’ve amassed most of the volumes of Virginia Woolf’s diaries over the past few months, almost everything by Annie Dillard, and all but one of Cynthia Ozick’s essay collections. I have a long shelf half full of Faulkner and Nabokov. All old favourites, proven wordsmiths. The task: every day, read a passage randomly chosen from a book of someone who I used to love passionately, disregarding context, excusing myself from the pressure of needing to finish or follow a plot. Read slowly. Think. Wait for emotions to be kindled.

Tonight, The Diaries of Virginia Woolf, V. 2. Excerpted from Thursday, August 18 1921:

“No one in the whole of Sussex is so miserable as I am; or so conscious of an infinite capacity of enjoyment horded in me, could I use it. The sun streams (no: never streams floods rather) down upon all the yellow fields & the long low barns; & what wouldn’t I give to be coming through Firle woods, dusty & hot, with my nose turned home, every muscle tired, & the brain laid up in sweet lavender, so sane & cool, & ripe for the morrows task. How I should notice everything — the phrase for it coming the moment after & fitting like a glove; & then on the dusty road, as I ground my pedals, so my story would begin telling itself; & then the sun would be down, & home, & some bout of poetry after dinner, half read, half lived, as if the flesh were dissolved & through it the flowers burst red & white.

There! I’ve written out half my irritation.”


~ by Not Alice on March 1, 2008.

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