Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Waves really got me down to a tee

“You have been reading Byron. You have been marking the passages that seem to approve of your own character. I find marks against all those sentences which seem to express a sardonic yet passionate nature; a moth-like impetuosity dashing itself against hard glass. You thought, as you drew your pencil there, "I too throw off my cloak like that. I too snap my fingers in the face of destiny". Yet Byron never made tea as you do, who fill the pot so that when you put the lid on the tea spills over. There is a brown pool on the table - it is running among your books and papers. Now you mop it up, clumsily, with your pocket-handkerchief. You then stuff your handkerchief back into your pocket - that is not Byron; that is you; that is so essentially you that if I think of you in twenty years' time, when we are both famous, gouty and intolerable, it will be by that scene: and if you are dead, I shall weep. Once you were Tolstoy's young man; now you are Byron's young man; perhaps you will be Meredith's young man; then you will visit Paris in the Easter vacation and come back wearing a black tie for some detestable Frenchman whom nobody has ever heard of. Then I shall drop you."
The Waves, Virginia Woolf

I drift in and out of The Waves, reading the odd bit every now and again. But this passage found me when I had just been reading Sylvia Plath's journals and, ironically enough, marking the passages that I felt, as Woolf puts it, 'approve of my own character' (which by the way ended up with a lot of markings - which did worry me ever so slightly, given where those thoughts led her...)

I often wonder whether the traits or feelings in things I read, that I am shocked to find to correspond exactly with my on, are in fact universal human traits. Perhaps it is not so unique, everyone behaves in this way, so my connection is not so shocking. Or perhaps it is in human nature to search for similarities between situations, characters, traits.

I do it a lot. In fact I search for it in books. Similarities in ways of thinking or speaking between myself and authors. Yet it always shocks me when I find one. I just wonder whether it is so rare to find them, and the reason why I do; are they universal traits that everyone relates to, is it because I am out there looking for them, or am I really somehow on the same wavelength as these writers?

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