RandomAnthony's Reviews > To the Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
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Apr 05, 10

Read from March 28 to April 05, 2010

He read, she thought, as if he were guiding something, or wheedling a large flock of sheep, or pushing his way up and up a single narrow path; and sometimes he went fast and straight, and broke his way through a bramble, and sometimes it seemed a branch struck at him, a bramble blinded him, but he was not going to let himself be beaten by that; on he went, tossing over page after page.

(p. 193)

Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse is an amazing book, evidence of raw talent, the type that causes one to wonder why you would ever bother trying your hand at fiction because only a few writers over the course of a century could touch this quality. The novel’s stream of consciousness style is nothing short of amazing. Even when the stream of consciousness addresses place instead of people Woolf’s genius is apparent; the “Time Passes” section alone is awe-inspiring in its compacting of nuanced, telling details over the years of an empty summer house. Her characterizations, second by second, mirror thought in startling ways. I could feel myself falling in the same patterns as the characters. Woolf’s descriptions of how one could detest and admire someone within the length of a dinner party are astounding.

This novel challenges the reader. I swear, I felt like I should stretch, maybe do a couple jumping jacks, and put on a headband before I started. Reading To The Lighthouse is work, make no mistake, but rewarding work. I read ten, twenty pages at a time before putting down the text and walking around the block before I could concentrate enough to dive in again. I found myself reading the expansive passages over and over half to bathe in the language and half to make sure I understood what in goddamn hell was happening. I was, I think, about 80% successful.

Woolf’s shooting at the literary and psychological stars are not completely successful; I don't mean to say she's perfect. Some generalizations early in the novel concerning the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey were simplistic, I thought, and the novel’s last twenty pages lost me. I didn’t expect to understand everything.

Sidebar: My wife’s family has a summer home and I’ve had experiences that while not entirely similar to the Ramseys’ were close enough to lead me to consider my summers in a new light. There is a paradoxically frenzied desire for calm and the oppressive expectation to perceive the summer home opportunity as perfection. Framing this summer, after reading Woolf, will be interesting.

I highly recommend To The Lighthouse. I’ve never read anything like it, and I can’t help but wonder why Woolf isn’t more popular. She was a flat-out fucking genius, a first ballot hall of famer, if you will, the type of writer who exhausts the reader and leaves him/her feeling better for time spent with her work. How can you put a price on that, you know? To The Lighthouse is a classic, and when you’re ready, give her a shot. Prevail, like Mr. Ramsey in the passage above, up the “single narrow path”; Woolf’s work is worth it.
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben : )


RandomAnthony Thanks for the recommendation, Ben! I owe you!


message 3: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Made my morning, amigo!


message 4: by RandomAnthony (last edited Apr 05, 2010 06:04AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

RandomAnthony Thanks, Elizabeth! Why would anyone think Woolf was anti-semitic? Elitist...I guess I could slightly get that, but I don't think, based on this novel, it's a fair characterization at all.


Selena To the Lighthouse is hands down my favourite Woolf novel. i'm glad you read it and enjoyed it. it's hard to talk people into touching her works with a ten foot pole.


message 6: by Gary (new) - added it

Gary Well, here I am even more motivated to finally read this book! Thanks boys!!


RandomAnthony Thanks, people...I don't know much about Woolf...I appreciate the information/perspective.

I owe Ben for pointing me toward this book. Ben hugged Caris in another thread, but has not offered to hug me, and I feel neglected.


RandomAnthony Thanks, Elizabeth!

shakes fist at Ben while hugging Elizabeth


Hundeschlitten I was assigned To the Lighthouse as an undergrad, and I remember really liking it. I'd thought about re-reading it on my own, as an adult, in a more relaxed way, but I've always balked at revisiting what amounts to old homework. But you've swayed me, Tony. I'm putting this one on my list.


message 10: by JSou (new) - rated it 5 stars

JSou I dog-eared and marked that same quote!


RandomAnthony Virginia Woolf nerd high-five!


Dolors I completely agree!!!
Woolf's prose is dense, difficult and sometimes even nonsensical, but simply wonderful.
She masters the way you enter her characters' consciousness, and her words manage to resonate deep, poetic and fill your mind with their symbolism.
Shall we go to the lighthouse? Maybe we should just content ourselves to go to the beach to watch the waves. The waves break. The light falls...


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