Last night, Julianne and me had dinner at a brand new, the first and maybe the only mexican food diner in town. She teaches English at a private university, and we had casual conversations about silly things, student loans in the US, food, tv series, and of course, books. Under dim light, girly song playlists and outdoorsy ambience, we both confessed that Virginia Woolf was quite a difficult read.
I’ve tried to read Mrs. Dalloway, but fell asleep instead. I’ve re-read her slimmest book, “A Room of One’s Own” twice, and still didn’t get it, until I read it from the last page backward. This way, I can read one paragraph at a time as a separate entity, without being chained by a supposedly forward-flowing “plot”. I put it inside my drawer, eager to share what I’ve got after finally rereading (for the fourth or fifth time) my favorite parts, for example the London part and the part when she got legacy from her aunt that made her free from “doing work that one did not wish to do”.
Initially, she wrote this book as a speech about women and literature. But she kept on writing and it turned out to be too long. Perhaps the way this book had been written wouldn’t appeal to readers with preference for conventional “plot”. Still, some parts are inspiring to me, as a woman and human being who have been silent for too long and self-sabotaging my voice.
Personally, I think that the importance of her work (“A Room of One’s Own”), is to remind me not to sabotage my self.
Here are some passages that I would like to share. Enjoy!
Refering to woman in fiction and in reality:
“Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read, could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband.”
“At any rate, where books are concerned, it is notoriously difficult to fix labels of merit in such a way that they do not come off. Are not reviews of current literature a perpetual illustration of the difficulty of judgement? ‘This great book’, ‘this worthless book’, the same book is called by both names. Praise and blame alike mean nothing. No, delightful as the pastime of measuring may be, it is the most futile of all occupations, and to submit to the decrees of the measurers the most servile of attitudes. So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a fair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison.”
And, emphasizing financial independence:
“I need not, I am afraid, describe in any detail the hardness of the work, for you know perhaps women who have done it; nor the difficulty of living on the money when it was earned, for you may have tried. But what still remains with me as a worse infliction than either was the poison of fear and bitterness which those days bred in me. To begin with, always to be doing work that one did not wish to do, and to do it like a slave, flattering and fawning, not always necessary perhaps, but it seemed necessary and the stakes were too great to run risks; and then the thought of that one gift which it was death to hide – a small one but dear to the possessor – perishing and with it my self, my soul – all this became like rust eating away the bloom of spring, destroying the tree at its heart. However, as I say, my aunt died; and whenever I change a ten-shilling note a little of that rust and corrosion is rubbed off; fear and bitterness go. Indeed, I thought, slipping the silver into my purse, it is remarkable, remembering the bitterness of those days, what a change of temper a fixed income will bring about. No force in the world can take from me my five hundred pounds. Food, house, and clothing are mine for ever. Therefore not merely do effort and labour cease, but also hatred and bitterness. I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me. So imperceptibly I found myself adopting a new attitude towards the other half of the human race.
Finally, this post is a self-reminder to assert the spirit of an independent woman, who are genuinely happy with her life choices, who are living her always risky life with hard-earned courage, who are embracing her life experience as a source of lesson and treasure them as a stream of wisdom, who are trying her best to constantly develop herself and being ready for future accomplishments, instead of being stuck in an uninspiring situation where she is doing what she does not want to do, who are having relationships with the world and still staying true to herself.
Nobody said that being independent would be easy. But not being one is a lot more difficult.
Trust me, I’ve tried. 🙂
This post is a contribution to the Book Review Day.