"For some reason, no one likes to be told that they do not read enough poetry."
This remark is from Virginia Woolf's Night and Day, an early novel and one that is not particularly Woolf-like in its language or structure. It's far more similar to a 19th-century work than a 20th-century one: a fat story with carefully observed characters and traditional plot movement. Yet its subject matter is Woolfian: the roles of women, the weight of family and class, the burdens of intellectual history. Reading it makes me want to reread Hermione Lee's biography of VW, which I love and have already read 8 or 10 times. I want to go back and remember why Woolf needed to write a novel in the manner of George Eliot. I want to reconstruct my bond with her.
VW and I have always had a je ne sais quoi relationship, founded on the similarities of our nose, which sounds like a trivial link but really: if one physically resembles a famous writer one admires, how can that relationship feel trivial? Besides, she and I also share a mixed arrogance and anxiety about our lack of scholarly credentials. Whenever I read her essays, I feel she is speaking in the voice I have been searching for within myself. Yet, of course, she is mentally unstable and a snob and a sexual prig and must have a been dreadfully irritating wife. It's not that I want to be her. More, reading about her is like catching a glimpse of my reflection in a mirrored gallery, one crowded with people moving this way and that--turning, speaking, sniffing, raising their eyeglasses, scuttling into corners, burrowing in their pocketbooks.
There I am, I think. And then I am gone.