3: childhood books

In an attempt to offset the crushing depression that is Theodor Adorno, I’ve been sprinkling my days with stolen hours spent reading children’s books, all of the ones that I remember liking enormously when I was young. Saturday was The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, yesterday was A High Wind in Jamaica (which I read as a young teenager and not a child, but did not remember and it was the only thing I had on my shelf that looked quick), today, Harriet the Spy. It is at once satisfying and enormously strange to revisit the very first books that ever made an impression on you. The things one forgets, the things one remembers! All these years I thought Wolves took place solely in secret passages and trains, when actually those are only a chapter each.

I long to find this series that I remember only very vaguely from before I learned to read myself, several books by the same author that my mother read to me when I was really little, before even, I think, we did Anne of Green Gables. I remember them being very victorian-esque, set in a large mansion by a river that had ghosts. Or … something. Children interacting with ghosts that might not actually be ghosts at all in a house on a river…? Hardly enough to go on, and my mother doesn’t remember them either, but I would love to find and reread them. Besides picture books and fairy tales, they are probably the very first books I remember.

Today’s Virginia — Wednesday the 28th of November, 1928, from V. 4 — is very lengthy and very incredible and I long to type it all. It has reflections on her relationship with her father, discussion of how awful and awkward and yet strangely pleasing it is when a dear friend writes a bad book, meditation on life, and a long glorious rhapsody on her relationship with her own writing — in short, everything one could ask of Virginia from a diary entry.

“So the days pass, & I ask myself sometimes whether one is not hypnotised, as a child by a silver globe, by life; & whether this is living. Its very quick, bright, exciting. But superficial perhaps. I should like to take the globe in my hands & feel it quietly, round, smooth, heavy. & so hold it, day after day. I will read Proust I think. I will go backwards & forwards.”

“As for my next book, I am going to hold myself from writing till I have it impending in me: grown heavy in my mind like a ripe pear; pendant, gravid, asking to be cut or it will fall. … The idea has come to me that what I want now to do is to saturate every atom. I mean to eliminate all waste, deadness, superfluity: to give the moment whole; whatever it includes. Say that the moment is a combination of thought; sensation; the voice of the sea. Waste, deadness, come from the inclusion of things that don’t belong to the moment; this appalling narrative business of the realist: getting on from lunch to dinner: it is false, unreal, merely conventional. Why admit any thing to literature that is not poetry — by which I mean saturated? Is that not my grudge against novel[ist]s — that they select nothing? The poets succeeding by simplifying: practically everything is left out. I want to put practically everything in; yet to saturate. That is what I want to do in The Moths. It must include nonsense, fact, sordidity: but made transparent. I think I must read Ibsen & Shakespeare & Racine.”

The Moths must be a working title, perhaps for The Waves? I don’t know; the internet is failing me. I have The Waves, have been saving it for a really bad day. I should try to find out if this is the book she is talking about here, because I am so curious whether she managed to “saturate” while still making it “transparent.”


~ by Not Alice on March 3, 2008.

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