3 Books Weekly #2 - Virginia Woolf, time, and the Dream
09.00, Friday 11 Mar 2016 Link to this post
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#1. To the Lighthouse (Wordsworth Classics), by Virginia Woolf
I first read this in high school, and found it a thin book dense with correct truths about how people work, how life works, what time really feels like, and many more things I didn’t quite understand but might if I reread it in a few years. Unlike other books that impressed me back then, I still agree with this assessment. One of the things that stuck with me over the years was seeing people as containing pools of water where dark movements in the depths create ripples visible at the surface that let you guess at what’s underneath. Much striving for perfection, achievement, insight, connection. Then, the sweep of the lighthouse light like a great photon-stream hand on the clockface of spacetime, regularly witnessing and wiping it all away.
#2. Here, by Richard McGuire
I once had a long distance relationship at a time when webcams were rare, and I found just one in the city my girlfriend lived in, focused on the corner of a bus depot. I’d check on this regularly. Sometimes she’d come there to wave. Sometimes there’d be kids at four am sitting on the curb, chatting after clubbing and waiting for the earliest morning bus. One of them once dropped a piece of whitish trash there, and for weeks I watched it slowly make its way, randomly kicked and nudged in tiny increments, to somewhere off frame. That framed space itself, traveling through time as much as I was, became a personality I accidentally got to know. Here is the first book I’ve ever seen that does the same thing, but on a much larger scale. It travels only in time, not an inch in space in any direction. And layers vast distances of this time on the same page in a way that only a graphic novel can. Total head rush, like an unexpected drug effect.
#3. Between The World And Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This is all very much tied to a very specific kind of now, but Between the World and Me describes one thing I’ve never seen described as well anywhere else. Coates talks about the Dream, which I can only describe as the unexpressed story of how things are officially supposed to work. It’s the default story unless something about your particular circumstances or experience forces you out of some or all of it. And then he describes what it’s like to be pushed really, really far out of it, so far that you may as well be in another galaxy, so you see the whole thing (as much as you can without actually having experienced this yourself) as the bizarre, anxiously defensive, self-centered monster it is, and the damage it generates by maintaining its borders. It’s a point of view worth having access to.