Friday, August 19, 2011

The Waves

now finished: The Waves by Virginia Woolf
(this post backdated to the date I finished the book)

When we traveled to Japan for a nine-day vacation in August, I was in the middle of reading a thick, heavy James Buchanan biography hardcover, which I left at home in Andong, instead bringing two paperbacks that I thought would be thematically as well as weightedly appropriate for the trip, The Waves  and The Tale of Genji. 

I started reading The Waves by my girl Virginia Woolf on the ferry from Pusan to Fukuoka. How appropriate, thought I, to begin reading The Waves while actually hydrofoiling on waves. Even better, Brian next to me was reading The Beach. I love me some Virginia Woolf and have been working my way through her oeuvre ever since I started Virginia-ing around 1995. I actually don't devour her books too quickly because I don't want to be done. I am sad when I think about the day I run out of VW to-reads. I've read about ten so far. Anyway, The Waves, in case you haven't heard, is mind blowing.

People like to describe it as "experimental."  Doesn't that just scare readers off? Don't some of you immediately mentally check out when you read that word?  (As opposed to the smaller, much smaller, group who immediately became intrigued and pull up Amazon in another window.) It's not experimental like House of Leaves, though, or even like DFW/endnotes. It narrates and tells a story of interacting characters, but what you read is their streams of consciousness, alternating. It is totally genius and it totally works.

It's awesome.

I like recommending Virginia Woolf novels, not that many people ever take me up on the suggestions, which is a shame because I do think about which book I am recommending (they are so different from one another). But The Waves could definitely be recommend to multiple people and I daresay anyone who appreciates a well-crafted novel.  Also, it packs a total "What's-it-all-about?" punch and will make you think about life, your life, your friends' lives, meaning, relationships, and so forth. You read these lives, from youth through old age, and you realize that your life is that, too. (A little bit like Kazuo Ishiguro, perhaps.)

If you're like me, you will fold down many pages because there are passages and quotes that are so strikingly beautiful. Or maybe you're the grab-a-pen-and-jot-it-down type. Or the just-sit-back-and-ponder-that-for-a-second type. Whatever works.

Well done, Virginia Woolf.  I so wish there was an afterlife where I could imagine you and David Foster Wallace talking these things over.

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