Thursday, April 5, 2012

To the Lighthouse

Title: To the Lighthouse
Author: Virginia Woolf
List: #15 on Modern Library Board’s Top 100 20th Century Novels, #34 on Radcliffe’s Top 100 20th Century Novels , #48 on Modern Library Readers’ Top 100 20th Century Novels.
Worth reading? Not really.

Apparently I am missing something. Not only did the Modern Library Board and the Radcliffe Publishing Course place this novel in the top 50, but Modern Library Readers did as well. And here I sit, having just finished the book, thinking about how reading To the Lighthouse was a complete waste of time. I just do not see what the point of the whole thing was. And if it had been any longer, and I did not have this crazy goal of reading all the books on the lists, I would not have finished it

Maybe the novel is supposed to be good because of the way the narrator intimately focuses on various characters, revealing their thoughts in a very “stream of consciousness” way. The stream of consciousness is so pronounced that a character’s thoughts slip brokenly from the present to the past and back to the present creating a story within a story that is extremely hard for a reader to follow, at least in the format in which I read the book. And maybe some people like a book written almost entirely in thoughts and observations with hardly any dialogue. And maybe it does not bother other people that half the book seems to take place in the thoughts of one character in one day while, after a brief odd interlude that is supposed to indicate a lapse of time, the rest of the novel is split between the thoughts of a few more characters on another day. And maybe to those people it is fine that nothing actually happens in the book. And maybe those people focus on and admire the language rather than thinking, like me, that the author seemed so wrapped up in the language that she forgot to write the story.

But clearly, this was not the book for me. And I am very glad it is finished.

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