I have always avoided Virginia Woolf. I thought she was depressing and complicating and bizarre (not that she isn’t, but I thought all the worst of her for it, why was I such a reading-prude?? Beats me.). This avoidance was most likely because I tried reading “To the Lighthouse” by myself and didn’t get all those undertones and symbolic nuances she put in there. To me it was a weird story. I saw the movie, “The Hours” starring Nicole Kidman, and I didn’t really get it either, and I vaguely remember thinking it was depressing. Well anyway, through my uni years, I’ve somehow managed to avoid having to read any V. Woolf, too (you know, those old professors get carried away on lengthy tangents and some works end up having to be cut out of the syllabus and it always happens to be a Woolf work). This year, it was almost cut out again, but, at the last minute, it was reinserted and Graeme Greene’s “The Destructors” was taken out instead (which I’m totally okay with since I did an in-depth analysis of it in high school – I vaguely remember thinking that the kids’ idea of creation was destruction or something like that – plus, I was getting increasingly curious about Mrs. Woolf).
People in my class didn’t really enjoy “The Death of the Moth”. They were all, like, “this is boring”, “she comes to such a depressing conclusion”, “she wrote this before she committed suicide by putting rocks into her pockets and walking into the river”. I thought it was a beautifully written essay, where the life of a moth becomes the muse for which the writer can project her thoughts and observances about human life. I thought she was just being practical, of course the moth’s gotta die. Everything living dies. But the difference is that Woolf emphasizes the nature of life with the presence of death. Death focuses how we value our life. See? Virginia Woolf won me over with this essay. I’ve gone from studiously avoiding her to obsessively looking for more insight about her (did you know there is only one recording of her voice?). And now, I’m defending her.
“The Death of the Moth” started me off hunting for more Woolf-y things. I read her essay on “How should one read a book?” and other works. I’ve come to really enjoy her stuff now. She’s not judmental, she’s observant, she’s slightly removed, yet I feel connected to her writing, I feel like she’s subtly guiding my thoughts in one direction and prompting me into self-reflection, too. I also feel some sort of sincerity in her writing, as if she really seeks to put her true thoughts into paper, no matter if they end up contradicting each other a little. Maybe it’s her use of stream of consciousness that’s seducing me.