On to my second (proper--canonical) classic of the year and as with Jane Austen's Persuasion, another reread. I swear my next classic is going to be something entirely new to me. But I am excited about my next selection, reread or not, as I have decided to make a mini project out of it. And as the classic in question is a novel by Virginia Woolf, a reread is a very good thing indeed. I don't think I have read anything by Virginia Woolf for a very long time, more than five years now, so it is time for a nice little challenge.
I have chosen to read Woolf's 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway. And while I have read Mrs. Dalloway before, I suspect this time around it is going to feel like a first try anyway. I really want to read it carefully and closely and get something more out of it than a vague impression of a story. Virginia Woolf is one of those authors who tends to intimidate me a little bit. But my book pairing is going to be fun, so I shall take it all in stride, and I think we are going to get on well together.
Over the holidays I went to this tiny independent bookstore in a passageway of stores that is situated between two buildings. It is a cool place to shop since it is enclosed in glass and makes for an unusual place to spend an hour or two. The little bookstore has lots of wonderful books that are right up my alley, but maybe it is for the best that I don't often get to go there. Their hours are fairly limited and are mostly at times when I am at work. It was a treat to get there when they were open and I was at leisure to browse, and I came across a copy of Mrs. Dalloway's Party. The edition I found is a UK edition under the Vintage Classics imprint, though it can also easily be had here in the US in an edition published by Harcourt Books. This little find is the inspiration for my selection-why just read the little book of stories when I can read the novel as well and maybe even some other book or two of peripheral (or more direct) interest.
So, first up will be the book of stories. At least I will read the first couple and decide whether to read the whole set of seven short stories before moving on to the novel or interspersing them as I go and just jumping right into the book. The book of stories is quite slim with just over 50 pages. The stories included, in case you are curious are: Mrs. Dalloway and Bond Street, The Man Who Loved His Kind, The Introduction, Ancestors, Together and Apart, the New Dress and A Summing Up. I think in the case of Virginia Woolf I won't worry about potential spoilers and read the introduction first. I think it will be better to put it all into context. But a little teaser first from the first of the stories in the collection. "Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street" begins
"Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the gloves herself. Big Ben was striking as she stepped out into the street. It was eleven o'clock and the unused hour was fresh as if issued to children on a beach. But there was something solemn in the deliberate swing of the repeated strokes; something stirring in the murmur of wheels and the shuffle of footsteps."
The stories look quite manageable--maybe ten pages each or even shorter. Taking a peek at the start of the novel itself . . . It starts
"Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself."
"For Lucy had her work cut out for her. The doors would be taken off their hinges; Rumpelmayer's men were coming. And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning--fresh as if issued to children on a beach."
What fun--I think I am going to enjoy this little project very much. And to take it all a little further, I came across a book called The Mrs. Dalloway Reader, which I have just ordered and will watch for very eagerly. I have only taken a look at the table of contents in the online preview, but it is edited by Francine Prose and appears to include a number of essays along with the text of Mrs. Dalloway. It's the essays I want and I think they will help shed light on the story. I know there is a recent fictionalized novel about Virginia and her sister, which I have somewhere and have heard is very good--in case I want to take the project a step further. We'll see. First the stories. If anyone would like to join me and chat along the way, please feel free. Or if you have other reading suggestions--other texts that would complement the novel, I am happy to add to my reading pile. June is a ways off still, but considering how pokey I can be with reading sometimes, maybe I will have to celebrate with some sort of personal Mrs. Dalloway party festivity!