Saturday, July 3, 2010

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

I spent this entire year excitedly planning for the ultimate summer venture: I would finally read all of the books I have ever wanted to read, because there would be no required reading for college, no summer assignments to keep me so occupied that no more than a few self-picked novels would pass through my hands. I would curl up in a chair with a new book every few days, and by the end of August would be, in a sense, "caught up" with my own personal required reading list.

This list includes, but is not limited to: classics, including Gone With the Wind, The Origin of Species, On the Road, Slaughterhouse-Five, Of Mice and Men, Jane Eyre, 1984, As I Lay Dying, Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, Of Human Bondage, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Fountainhead, The Scarlet Letter, The Bell Jar, The Invisible Man, Lolita (because I loved Nabokov's The Defense), The Time Machine, Watership Down (which I bought when I was 8 following my aunt's suggestion: little did I realize at the time that Richard Adams did not write about bunnies the way I imagined in my head), anything by Toni Morrison that I'd be able to get my hands on, and Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" and To the Lighthouse; more contemporary novels, like Blankets by Craig Thompson, The Last Summer of You and Me by Ann Brashares, and I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak; and a handful of plays and volumes of poetry, including All My Sons by Arthur Miller, The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare, many of Kamila Shamsie's novels (she is a South Asian poet and novelist), Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, and the full extent of my Rod McKuen collection (for some reason, he's out of print and not even the full CW-MARS library network has any of his work).

I knew going into this summer that the task would not be an easy one. I am not a quick reader. I'm not bad at reading, not at all, but because of my ADHD, I tend to read slower than most other voracious readers (such as my sister Emily) so that I can completely absorb the material. No matter, I thought. I have an entire summer in front of me.

Today is July 3rd and as of now, my proud list of books that I have successfully read so far includes: 45 pages of Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own."

I'm embarrassed. This isn't like me, especially not when I have an actual written list to follow step by step until I've completed it. I started reading "Room" about three weeks ago, and I've only managed to cover forty-five pages? Perhaps I should have chosen a slightly-less verbose author as a starting-off point, but Mr. Tarmey gave me "Room" and To the Lighthouse as a gift, and so I felt, above and beyond all else, obliged to start with these two classics.

Now I feel only obligated. I cannot deny that Woolf is brilliant, because I have enjoyed part of what I've read so far, and even the parts I cannot fully comprehend still amaze me due to her grasp on the English language and her use of the sub-conscious as a form of expression. But I can't seem to get myself to finish the essay. I'm trying not to place the blame on my ADHD, but maybe that really is part of the problem.

More likely, any medical inhibitors are nothing more than wishful thinking. Part of me is afraid to admit that I'm not smart enough to appreciate Virginia Woolf. I don't think it's true, but what other explanation can there be? So then I tell myself that I'm just not old enough to understand her writing. This is much more probable.

But is it something to be ashamed of? I want to be an English major and yet my goal of reading so many fantastic novels has stemmed because I cannot finish a classic British essay. I cannot complete a task that any aspiring poet or novelist should easily be able to tackle.

So I have reached the point where instead of trying to force myself through the remaining fifty pages, I'm placing the Woolf compilation back onto my bookshelf until later. Maybe months later, maybe (admittedly) years later. But I will read both before I die. Mr. Tarmey wrote me a long note inside the front cover: how could I not?

For now, however, I am content to move on to another book on my list: Gone With the Wind. I'm leaving for a week's vacation on the Cape soon. What a better way to undertake one of the largest (and, in parts, or so I've been told by Emily, one of the most vapid) books in American literature than on vacation, with no library resource nearby?

We'll see how I do. I have my fingers crossed I'll make it past page forty-five.
I think I will.

1 comment:

  1. It's not in the least bit vapid! My problem with the book lies mainly with Scarlett.