Some books, movies, and people cross our paths at the wrong time and we make certain assumptions about them and let them drift away. The challenge with all of them is that we too often interpret and not experience them. A person we take to be rude because she walks past us without saying hello may just be pre-occupied by some worry or trauma that is in no way a reaction to us. A movie that seems disjointed and unengaging May just be a tale we are not quite prepared to experience.
The greater body of work of Virginia Woolf and particularly Mrs. Dalloway have darted in and out of my life for the better part of 45 to 47 years, beginning when I was eight and wondered who the woman referenced in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was. The fact that she is referenced only once in the whole play but merits being the only person named in the title is a fitting tribute to this pioneer stream of consciousness, the literary documentation of the place where we spend the better part if not the entirety of our lives — in our thoughts.
Something compelled me to watch The Hours on Netflix this week which led me to the this interview with its author Michael Cunningham at a Brussels library. (Embedding not allowed, but the link should work.) It’s an interesting interview in and of itself, but there is a lot going on beyond the surface. It begins when Cunningham reaches reaches for the bottle of red wine (screw top!) pours a glass for him and the rather culturally tone deaf interviewer and qualifies that he doesn’t know how coherent he will be by the end of the interview. While the interviewer has barely sip or two, Cunningham has at least three glasses through the course of the discussion. Then there is all that is going on outside on the street of central Brussels — trams passing, people window shopping, bicycles, umbrellas springing up as the rain intensifies. I love his description of Brussels as being a very bourgeois city, sort of apologizing for it, and then explaining why that is just what he needs at the moment.
The point that keeps coming up that working with passion to create the perfect cake is as noble an act as writing a ground breaking novel. I have come to embrace that sort of thought with the passing years, seeing the elegance and poetry in the smallest act. The attention to folding a napkin or slicing an apple with intention and mindfulness can be just as important.
So it felt appropriate to be drawn to the video below about Charleston, the house central to the Bloomsbury group where the smallest detail of the house was approached with the same level of intention as the rhythm and intent of the perfect line of prose.