Tuesday 11 June 2024


I read To the lighthouse for epiphanies, up at the pond last week, for recognition and comfort, and then, unwilling to let it go, start reading the book again at night. Around and beneath the epiphanies, Mrs Ramsay wrestles with the question of rich and poor, Lily Briscoe, out in the garden with her easel and her painting—that reddish brown patch is Mrs Ramsay at the window knitting woollen stockings for the lighthouse keeper's boy— wrestles with Mr Ramsay's idea of reality which seems to be summed up by a plain deal table upside down in a tree. Mr Ramsay is a tyrant looking for sympathy. Mrs Ramsay can only rest when her youngest is asleep. Children remember everything, she says. An hour later, still awake, I try to remember the names of the eight Ramsay children, in pairs and singly, Jasper and Rose, Andrew and Prue, James and Cam. This borrowed family gathers other borrowed families as it goes along, other recessive guests, called Lily, William, Augustus, with their half-eaten internal dramas in the manner of Tchekov, Kurt Lippa for example, who grew up in Macau and played ferocious table tennis, loved Schubert and bel canto, an Austrian Jew who— 

Nocturnal reading is a parallel world, parallel and permeable. Reading Virginia Woolf up at the pond in June is not the same as reading her at night, a second time. Last week it was part of a bigger rhythm. The second time, every line is particular, my rest places are different: Mr and Mrs Ramsay, the eight children, the summer house on Skye. How Virginia Woolf refashioned her family into this book, ran with them again. This is what you have to do, what writing is for. 

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