Monday, August 07, 2006

Montaigne and Woolf

Mick Sussman, Books Producer, The New York Times on the Web
An early paragraph is an example of the stream-of-consciousness style that Woolf helped formalize in this book, and it also suggests a world view that seems to flow from the method:
"She would not say of any one in the world now that they were this or were that. She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day. Not that she thought herself clever, or much out of the ordinary. How she had got through life on the few twigs of knowledge Fräulein Daniels gave them she could not think. She knew nothing; no language, no history; she scarcely read a book now, except memoirs in bed; and yet to her it was absolutely absorbing; all this; the cabs passing; and she would not say of Peter, she would not say of herself, I am this, I am that."
Not this, not that: instead, a moment-by-moment existence, whatever is occupying the mind of the beholder at any given moment, a constant flow. Does this work as a philosophy, and as a narrative method?
msussman #1 10:36 AM ET 8/1/2006 Now that you've asked, it reminds me of Montaigne. He says something like this more than once in his essays. He makes a virtue of being in a constant state of discovery, both about himself and the world at large. Perhaps Woolf was a fan.

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