Saying Farewell to Mrs. Dalloway

Before we say goodbye to Mrs. Dalloway, I want to tell you something fun I did: I had a strand in the very front of my hair on both sides colored red a couple of days ago. For Victorine. I don’t want to let her slip away from me as I journey into other worlds. I want to keep her close.

Privileging the inner person, the interior self, Mrs. Dalloway reminds us that what is within is more important and richer than the outer manifestation. What we see is mere set dressing in comparison to our inner life, even from those who, upon first glance, seem the most surface of people. A woman might be mending a dress wishing she could mend a heart.

Thoughts stream into more thoughts. Images bring to mind events from the past, or people long absent.

We see the interconnectedness of everyone, and how our casual observations can be woefully incorrect: a man and woman arguing could be not a harmless disagreement, but a woman trying to pull her husband back from the brink of crippling PTSD.

Those are the overarching themes, swiftly shifting POV’s which lends even more to the sense of one person being all people, all of a piece. And yet also not.

As much as it pains me to say this, I think having read Lighthouse first has forever spoiled me. I enjoyed and greatly admired Mrs. Dalloway, but it’s not Lighthouse. That’s up next. Soon, in the next few days. Read it with me?

In the meantime, here’s a piece I wrote for a creative writing class years ago. It was published by Woolf Zine, which I now believe to be sadly defunct. If you see references to both Mrs. Dalloway and Lighthouse in it, you’re correct, so it ends up being a bit of a bridge between the two novels.

                                                                     “Looking for Virginia”

                “What are you looking for?”

I tip the bookshelf, leaking words onto the puddle of papers, papers, papers that are all that hold me in this house.  Answers, answers he will never understand tinge my tongue.  “Virginia.”

                Now he will dig and delve into the hallowed dalloways of my mind and. He cannot. He crabs my hands with his frigid old man no sympathy hands, hairs on their sides like my stepbrother’s. Stepbrothers. Men with minds to hurt and hands to halt the galloping growth of might haves.

                “Leonard, don’t touch me.” The icicle of me uvulas in the word winds. Doctors voodoo a nothing for me.

They loose the mother inside me, the sanity scrap bag; knitting a shawl of should haves I cover the mirror of beauty which is reality but not truth, opened the door that ate my muse. 

Mrs. Ramsey will not take it — she dies for beauty. Scarcely is she adjusted…Leonard…did I write that?  No? 

                Words, my waifish children, load empty hobo sacks onto heavy burdened backs and don’t wave. I sing them a lullaby of the crawdad, cavefish, cravefish.  Gravefish.

                I wanted something once, didn’t I, Leonard? Leonard?

                I suck the soul from my sister and knit it to my own, but it always goes home, unknotted by her own lazy susan heart that twirls in the direction of the man with the predilection… 

I children my pockets with stones, write my memories goodbye and

Leonard?  Leonard?

No.

                Just swim. Go.

Thanks again for joining me on this journey into Mrs. Dalloway! Happy Reading Lighthouse.

The Evocative Original Mrs. Dalloway Cover Art

Photo via: https://www.modernistarchives.com/work/mrs-dalloway

Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolf’s artist sister, painted many of Woolf’s book covers, including Mrs. Dalloway. The simple but not simplistic cover uses a white background and, of course, only black and yellow otherwise to entice a would-be reader. Works beautifully for me.

The dust jacket reveals a window with, outside it, a balcony. The balcony rail also resembles a crown, hinting to the main character, Clarissa Dalloway’s, privileged life. Curtains frame the window, bringing to mind a theater balcony box.

Flowers and possibly a fan are on the windowsill. (I’m thinking dear sister read the novel first? Good job!) They appear to be tulips — my favorite flower.

From the uneven script to the minimalistic, purposefully imperfect shapes that make up the cover, I find Bell’s artwork charming. It’s a shame any other cover was ever used, since clearly Woolf would have been intimately involved with the creation of this one. What are your thoughts on it?

In other news, I will be doing a reading of Victorine next Friday for ICEA’s (Indiana College English Association) virtual conference. It’s nice to have events begin to be rescheduled at last, even if virtually.