She had a perpetual sense... of being out, out, far out to sea and alone
July 19, 2020 11:33 AM   Subscribe

Jennifer Spitzer (LA Review of Books, 7/19/2020), "Me and Mrs Dalloway: On Losing My Mother to COVID-19": "This passage, which shows Clarissa observing the omnibuses at Piccadilly, seemed to me a classic moment of modernist alienation. I read this passage differently now. Clarissa has been transformed not only by war but by her own illness and proximity to death. War and pandemic have altered her perception, have identified the dangers in everyday living." See also Virginia Woolf (The New Criterion, 1926), "On Being Ill" [PDF], and her situational appreciation for "the worst" in literature during sub-optimal times, e.g. Augustus Hare's The Story of Two Noble Lives (vol. 2; vol. 3). Mrs. Dalloway previously.
posted by Wobbuffet (5 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you for this. I reread Mrs. Dalloway a couple of months ago -- around the time that I very nearly lost my mother and spent a whole day thinking that I probably had. So this is going to be for me, only I have to sit down quietly with it first.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:24 PM on July 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

Yes, Clarissa has hyper-awareness after war and illness, and recognizes that her response differs from those around her (Clarissa is not, for example, "Lady Bexborough who opened a bazaar, they said, with the telegram in her hand, John, her favourite, killed."). Despite her grief, she reaches for ritual--her party--for connection--her Peter--for meaning in the beautiful and danger-filled world around her. And in the end, she is present, containing all of this, still standing.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:22 PM on July 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

So strange. My partner, living far away and struggling with depression and isolation, just started reading a copy of Mrs Dalloway that she found in her house. Her housemates left it behind when they took off just back in March. Mercifully neither of us has yet had a family member diagnosed, but the coincidence still feels uncanny.

Anyways, thanks for sharing this lovely piece of writing. Her account of "brutally" oversharing with her neighbor and the lady she met in the street felt very true to how I've sometimes struggled with how and what to share in times of grief or trauma. Except now the source of trauma and grief is shared globally in a way that it hasn't been since 1918.

Guess I should finally read some Woolf. But maybe I'll need to keep a cheerful chaser novel handy!
posted by col_pogo at 3:03 PM on July 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

This was wonderful. I especially enjoyed “On Being Ill.” Thanks for the post.
posted by eirias at 4:58 AM on July 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

"In both encounters I am shocked by my candor...I can’t tell if I’m trying to forge fragile connections or eviscerate the thin film of insulation that keeps them from accepting their own vulnerability." Or perhaps Spitzer is insisting that her grief be seen, really seen, connected with, for just a moment. It's a verbal slap, this aggressive candor ("I disclose everything in one concentrated blow"): Are you in this terrible club too? Do you know these feelings? Because if not, then by God I will throw them down in front of you so you'll understand and feel shame for shouting at me in your proximity-blind carelessness. Which strikes me as akin to Peter Walsh shocking Clarissa with his blunt admission of being in love with Daisy: he administers a short, sharp truth in the face of her perfect hostessness, as she sits with needle in hand. It also makes me think about what a MeFite said here recently about seeking out those who understand the grief...especially when surrounded by those in denial.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:40 PM on July 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

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