Third time is not the charm…


Sigh, I am calling it. My first book to defeat me in my 2011 reading challenge. I guess me and Virginia Woolf are just not meant to be.

I first tried to read To The Lighthouse back in high school one summer and was so confused about three pages in, I decided I have plenty of time to return to it. I tried it again one summer during college and made it a little further before deciding maybe I needed to know a little more before I could appreciate what Woolf was trying to do. Sadly, my third time over this past week has not gone any better. I gave it 50 pages, my self-imposed cut-off for books that just aren’t taking, and I still couldn’t tell you what is happening or what the characters are actually talking about. The English major in me is not taking the defeat well.

However, one thing I learned on my last reading challenge was there are too many books, too little time and I won’t like all of them…and that is OK. I am sad about Woolf though. I loved A Room of One’s Own. I first read that book the summer after I graduated from college and was upset I’d made it through my Women’s Studies minor without any of my professors making me read that essay. It was brilliant and simple; the idea of a woman’s independence and ability to make it in the world on her own. To a girl who was looking towards graduate school and really being on her own for the first time, the essay was an inspiration. But it was also an analytical voice, logical and comforting, that spoke throughout the essay. To The Lighthouse was a different creature entirely.

I realize, and can even appreciate, the technical aspects of the novel. The stream of consciousness narrative is unique and intriguing. However, not exactly approachable or even likable. I would lose the train of thought easily and often was confused over what character I was currently hearing from. They are unlikable, at least the first fifty pages, and unapproachable. With Gatsby and crew, you loathe them but you get them. You understand, no matter how the vague the story, the purpose of the story. Woolf gives you no such hint or clue as to where her story is leading, or if it is even leading anywhere.

This is one novel I missed having a class to structure my reading for it. Perhaps with a teacher’s guidance and helpful interpretation, I might have made it through. But,  as it is, I must accept that Woolf and I were just not meant to be and I am OK with that, I think. I can’t love every book that comes across my list after all. I am not sure what is next for this challenge. I am treating myself to Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol next since that has also been on my list forever and if nothing else, Brown knows how to entertain. I believe I also am giving Georgette Heyer a second chance here soon. She left me underwhelmed on my first meeting with her so I am trying her most famous novel next to see if that goes any better.

From Cinematic Intelligence Agency

Also, I watched the movie Driving Lessons this evening. I recommend it if you are looking for a quirky British comedy/drama. Rupert Grint is delightful as the shy son of an overbearing mother (Laura Linney) and summer assistant to an eccentric retired actress (Julie Waters). It was just what I needed to make me feel cheerful again after the horrible news of today. The tragedy in Arizona sadly reminded me that I live in a country where things like that can still happen. I like to pretend we’ve evolved beyond using tactics like that to get our point across. Then something like this happens and I am forced to remember we’re not quite as enlightened as I like to imagine.  Perhaps it is a reality check we all sadly need from time to time. Here is hoping for a brighter tomorrow.


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