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Study Window

I'm ashamed to say that I haven't read this, although I've just checked and 'The Common Reader 2' is sitting on my shelves. I shall take it out with me today (going to Stratford to see the RSC's new production of 'Antony and Cleopatra') and read it over lunch. What has always stayed with me about Woolf's reading habits is a comment she makes in her journals after she has stopped reviewing about how strange it feels to be reading without paper and pencil to hand to make notes. After literally decades of reading to prepare lectures, I know just what she means.


Guess what I will be reading this weekend? I really like the quotes you chose and the ideas you shared.


I haven't read this, but you make it sound really interesting. Thank you for the link, I'll be sure to read it soon.


These are all good reminders, though it makes one wonder about the paradox of taking her advice "not to take advice."

I'm not sure I agree with the underlying claim that the readings and ideas of other readers should be banished, since I do find my own reading enhanced in conversation, reflection, and secondary reading. Perhaps she is simply reminding us not to surrender ourselves to other readers. A kind of Emersonian "self-reliance" for reading, this is.


Wow. I just started reading The Waves by Virginia Woolf the other day, which I've tried and failed to do before, after finally deciding to read it in my own way, to immerse myself in its flow and not let myself get so tangled in the idea that it's great literature and I've got to take it deadly seriously and be critical and understand everything at once. I also decided to read it with more imagination, allowing my memories to mix with the words. And it was one of the best reading experiences I've ever had! This is amazing to find that I was following Woolf's advice without even knowing it.


I love that last quote, especially the part about sympathy and severity. I think there are so many bloggers who do works hard to cast off all preconceptions as far as possible (hard right?) and start sympathetically inclined to a book, but they're also fearless about saing what they didn't care for and believing that their reaction is valid. Bravo for brave readers.

Dorothy W.

Wonderful essay! I should read more Woolf essays at some point here. She's truly an amazing essayist, I think. Her advice here is great, especially about trusting your own instincts and about trying to get into the mindset of the author and understanding what he or she was up to before judging. It's not easy to do, but worth the effort.


Study Window--It's an excellent essay, as I am sure they are all good by her. She gives you lots to think about. It would be very strange to just read a book without paper and pen after spending so much time reading to review books--it's almost an entirely new mindset.
Catharina--I didn't plan on sharing so many quotes, but everything she wrote made so much sense I couldn't help myself. I hope you enjoyed reading it.
Iris--I hope you enjoy it when you get to it--it's nice that so many of her essays are online.
Skip--I know what you mean. She says don't take advice yet she goes one to put forward a "few ideas and suggestions"! What I took from the essay is that she urges readers to approach a book with an open mind and try to listen to the author and what he is trying to accomplish. Maybe it's more the first impression should be formed on your own ideas, but after the fact I'm also all for discussion--particularly with more difficult books--everyone comes away from a book with such different perspectives it can be really interesting to hear them.
Carloyn--That sounds exactly like what she was getting at. How cool that you happened to be reading one of her more difficult (at least it seems to me) books. I really need to pick up more of her fiction now.
Jodie--Yes, there are some amazing bloggers out there doing just this. It seems like it would be a hard balance to strike--something to keep striving for!
Dorothy--I'd like to read more of her work in general, but it's nice that quite a few of her essays are online. I like the suggestions she gives as well--I'm not sure how successful I am at it, but it's good to keep what she says in mind.


I haven't read this essay by Woolf but what a good one it is! Woolf is so rarely thought of as a good literary critic, but in fact she was an excellent one. I wholly agree with her advice here! (which will not surprise you).


Litlove--I am curious now to read more of her criticism--I also like her approach. I've always thought of her as such a formidable person, but somehow this makes me feel as though maybe she is more approachable than I thought.

Mel u

Thanks directly to your post I read this wonderful essay on line-I liked it so much I made a quote for it the motto of my blog-thanks again


Mel u--Glad you enjoyed it. It's nice that is was online and without a bunch of tacky ads to distract. There's lots that's quotable in her essay!!

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