Jenn(ifer)'s Reviews > Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
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's review
Jun 15, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: summer-of-women-2012, read-in-2012, xx
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: the fabulous GR reviewers
Recommended for: anglophiles
Read from June 24 to 30, 2012

3 1/2 stars

I am so glad there isn’t someone writing down every thought that comes to my head Stranger Than Fiction style, otherwise I’d probably come across as emotionally labile as the majority of characters we meet over the course of a day on the streets of London. One moment Clarissa Dalloway seems perfectly content with her life, yet one only needs to turn the page and suddenly darkness comes over her like a wave and emptiness pervades her soul (what? you think I'm being dramatic? read the book).

I must admit, I did not find myself enjoying Woolf’s writing initially. I had to go back and re-read the first 50 pages after I got a handle on her style, and after catching on, the rest of the book was a breeze. However, I’m still not sure how much I really enjoyed the story. I do not care a straw about British society; not a straw! And Mrs. Dalloway’s histrionics got on my nerves. She was portrayed as being very self-conscious, haughty, filled with regret, belittling to herself and those around her. At first I felt a bit sorry for her, but as the novel went on, I realized there was no reason to feel sorry for her; she chose this life for herself and seems perfectly content with it. Quit whining about not being invited to lunch! Quit whining about your daughter’s choice of companions! And by gosh stop living in the past!

The part of the novel I should have related to, the character Septimus, just seemed disjointed to me. I don’t know how else to put it. Here’s this war veteran, clearly suffering from severe PTSD and psychosis, clearly a tragic case, yet I felt nothing for him. I’m going to put the blame on myself for that one. Perhaps it’s my daily exposure to real soldiers dealing with real combat trauma that made me lack empathy for this fictional one. Perhaps it’s that the short length of this novel did not lend itself to developing his character enough for me to feel sympathetic towards him. His character just seemed out of place to me amongst the rest of the British upper class.

I was hoping I would walk away gasping, in love with this book and in love with Virginia Woolf. Sadly, that was not the case. Sorry Virginia. It's not you, it's me.

Reading this book reminded me of a poem by Maggie Estep. Allow me to share it with you. It is titled “Emotional Idiot”:

I'm an emotional idiot
so get away from me.
I mean, come here.
Wait, no,
that's too close,
give me some space
it's a big country,
there's plenty of room,
don't sit so close to me.

Hey, where are you?
I haven't seen you in days.
Whadya, having an affair?
Who is she?
Come on,
aren't I enough for you?
You're so cold.
I never know what you're thinking.
You're not very affectionate.

I mean,
you're clinging to me,
what am I, your f-----g cat?
Don't rub me like that.
Don't you have anything better to do
than sit there fawning over me?

Don't you have any interests?
Fly fishing
There's an archeology expedition leaving tomorrow
why don't you go?
I'll loan you the money,
my money is your money.
My life is your life
my soul is yours
without you I'm nothing.

Move in with me
we'll get a studio apartment together, save on rent,
well, wait, I mean, a one bedroom,
so we don't get in each other's hair or anything
or, well,
maybe a two bedroom
I'll have my own bedroom,
it's nothing personal
I just need to be alone sometimes,
you do understand,
don't you?
Hey, why are you acting distant?

Where you going
Was it something I said?
What did I do?

I'm an emotional idiot
so get away from me.
I mean,
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Reading Progress

06/25/2012 page 50
17.0% "getting better by the page -- oh Mrs. Dalloway, my heart breaks for you -- the most tragic lies are the lies we tell ourselves" 9 comments
05/26/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 81) (81 new)

s.penkevich Ooo nice! I hear this is her respons to Ulysses. Looking forward to your thoughts on it!

message 2: by Jenn(ifer) (last edited Jul 02, 2012 11:59AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jenn(ifer) I read the first 20 pages in my jet lagged state. Not a good idea; Imma have to re-read it. But the cover of my edition sure is purdy, innit?

s.penkevich Yeah I dig that a lot. Who is the publisher? I have a crap one that says 'Inspired The Hours!' on it. Almost as bad as saying 'Oprah made me do it' on the cover (okay thats paraphrasing ha).

Oh, and for your Summer of Women, check out some Alice Munro short stories. Shes damn good.

Jenn(ifer) Alice Munro, check!

It's the 1964 Harcourt Brace Jovanovich edition. I love getting my mitts on these vintage paperbacks!

message 5: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark The restart appears to have rejuvenated the reading experience!

Jenn(ifer) She's a highly stylized writer, and it was difficult to get a feel for her style at first. Once I caught on, I had to start over because I missed whatever the heck happened in the first 50 pages!

message 7: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Have you tried any of her short work? It's been several years now, but I remember the titles The Mark on the Wall and Kew Gardens. Mark on the Wall was interesting from a stylistic perspective, but the story itself was like, Really, that's all??

Jenn(ifer) Nope, this is the first (and might be the last) Woolf for me (unless I decide to finally read To The Lighthouse, which I've owned a copy of for at least 15 years & still haven't gotten past page 5 without zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz falling asleep).

message 9: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark She's one of those you feel you need to have read at least one by, but not one you relish the read? (Love how the bulk of the sentence was contained between ()!) Remind me not to bother with Lighthouse, eek!


message 11: by Nick (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nick I enjoy reading your reviews so I would vote for to.

message 12: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Don't over-think, just write down whatcha thought!

s.penkevich re-view re-view re-view!!!!
Why you no review Jay Rubin!?

Jenn(ifer) why you no write my review Jay Rubin?

Jason Oh if there's a story here I'd love to hear it.

Jenn(ifer) just some silliness that started at about message 11 on this thread:

Jason ahhh... is he a bad translator? I've never read murakami.

<hides behind chair>

Jenn(ifer) Why you no make him read books Jay Rubin?

Jason hahaha

s.penkevich Jay Rubin is the cause of world hunger

s.penkevich I hope he one day sees these posts and thinks, what have I ever done to these people but translate books they love and would never have read otherwise!?

Why you no give me all week off work Jay Rubin?!

Jason OH! There's suddenly a review here. Was anyone aware of that?

Jason Why you no tell us new review Jay Rubin?

Jason (Jenn)ifer wrote: "His character just seemed out of place to me amongst the rest of the British upper class."

I think that is how he is sort of a foil of Clarissa; they are very similar in that way, other than the fact that they chose different future paths.

Jenn(ifer) Jason wrote: "Why you no tell us new review Jay Rubin?"

You're a quick learner Jason-san

Jason The mark of a good teacher, Sensei.


message 27: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Why you make me drive to Jackson early and sit in the parking lot for twenty minutes Jay Rueben? Why you no let me go to the used bookstore instead Jay Rueben?

Jenn(ifer) why you make Mark spell your name wrong Jay Rubin? why you no make him "like" this review Jay Rubin?

Jenn(ifer) Jason wrote: "OH! There's suddenly a review here. Was anyone aware of that?"

I feel bad whenever I don't "love" a book that is on my friend's "favorite" shelf. I feel like I've failed you Jason!!!!!!!!!

Jason no no no no no, dear...'ve only failed yourself.

Jason Ha! I'm just kidding. No but seriously, I think this book is tough. I'm not sure how I felt about it when I first finished it. But then as I started to reflect on it (as Clarissa reflects on her own life??? hm????), I think I started to appreciate it more and more. I think she (Woolf) says a lot about post-WW1 England and you touched on a few of those things. But I came to really appreciate, besides the sense of style with which the story is told (sorta stream of consciousness, but not really), I also kind of think it was pretty profound the way she really picked apart certain things, like the Clarissa reconciling her life choices and Septimus making the decision to (view spoiler).

Jason Even if you didn't love it, though, right off the bat, I bet you will come to be glad for having read it. I dunno, it does something to you, the more you think about it...

Jenn(ifer) She's a wonderful writer, no doubt about it. I just like my novels a bit grittier I suppose. And with more humor.

s.penkevich Ah, I quite enjoy the poem ha. And the review. It's not you, or Mrs. Woolf, it's Jay F*cking Rubin's fault. Perhaps this will rest on my to-read longer, whining in novels grates on me.

Jenn(ifer) why you no write Mrs. Dalloway Jay Rubin?

s.penkevich Yeah Jay Rubin, what is your deal!?

s.penkevich Mark wrote: "Why you make me drive to Jackson early and sit in the parking lot for twenty minutes Jay Rueben? Why you no let me go to the used bookstore instead Jay Rueben?"

Why you not let Mark buy new books Jay Rubin?! Why you no buy us all books Jay Rubin?!

Jenn(ifer) why you make me read this book Jay Rubin? that's 5 days I will never get back Jay Rubin!

s.penkevich He must repay you in Murakami translations.

message 40: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Why you autocorrect me Jay Rubin? Why you make me type that and this on a phone Jay Rubin?

message 41: by s.penkevich (last edited Jul 02, 2012 12:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

'I just shat in your cornflakes'
-Jay Rubin

Jenn(ifer) Ha! That not how I pictured you Jay Rubin? Why you look like that guy Jay Rubin?

message 43: by Stephen M (last edited Jul 02, 2012 01:23PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Stephen M Funny enough, Haruki Murkami translated Mrs. Dalloway into Japanese which Jay Rubin then translated it back into english. Well, something got lost in all the language shifts:

Clarissa went to the door. She put her hand on the knob. She turned it. The sun was bright when she had put her hand on the knob and turned it open, and now she stood at the frame of the door. Oh no she thought. She put both hands up to her head and rubbed her temples. Cicadas buzzed somewhere in the bush beside her. I forgot she continued to think as now her hands moved back to her sides, where she pressed them firmly to her sides and noticed a slight rustle in her breasts. They were small but firm and no man had ever made a complaint about them to her. She often liked to play with them in front of the mirror in the nude, while her cat Mr. Okeda would nuzzle his head around her bare legs. But now as she stood in the frame of the door that she had just opened, with the sun still shinning in her face, she forgot about her sensual desires and her love for gazing at her perfect naked form. For then she knew she had to plan something wonderful for the day. Which reminded her of what she had been thinking before, Oh no, I said that I would buy the flowers and that Eiji-san could not. Her tabby cat jumped down from the ledge and purred softly. She could make out the words, for she often spoke to her cats though she was not sure if they were really speaking back to her. Listen said the tabby Mr. Sprinkles, today is very important. A lot will happen today and strange things will happen to you today and you will notice when these strange things happen and speak aloud exactly what is going on whenever they do happen. The cat started licking himself. Then Clarissa noticed that even though it was day, there were three moons in the sky, that along with the sun formed the shape of a penis. She touched herself.

Somehow the retranslation came out to be 1100 pages too! So crazy how different the mere translations between languages can be!

Stephen M I just checked and that was Japanese for "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself".

Jenn(ifer) Hahaha !!! That's awesome!

Jason omg, stephen, you are hilarious!

Stephen M Thanks guys that was fun. We should start a whole "translated by Jay Rubin" version of books. And Jason if you've read any Murakami (I've read waaaaay toooooo much) there's a lot of inside jokes in this one.

Jenn(ifer) Stephen M wrote: "Thanks guys that was fun. We should start a whole "translated by Jay Rubin" version of books. And Jason if you've read any Murakami (I've read waaaaay toooooo much) there's a lot of inside jokes in..."

Why you no think of that Jay Rubin?

message 49: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Why you wanna keep me in Jackson so long when I was read this review and all the comments underneath Jay Rubin?

Steve Though I'm not completely well-informed in all aspects of this assessment, I believe it's fair to conclude that the following rank orderings apply:

Quality of Jenn's review > Jay Rubin's translations

Clarissa's emotional lability > Jay Rubin's command of English

Stephen's retranslation > Jay Rubin's love from you lot

Great review. Great comments.

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