My most valuable course at Northwestern, in fall quarter junior year, was about the novels of Virginia Woolf. In addition to offering an immersion into the mind of one of the greatest ever writers, this course honed my writing skills. The challenge of drafting brief papers to describe momentous themes sharpened my ability to hone in on the essence of the matter.
To the Lighthouse was a particular challenge to understand. I was too young to understand this modernist work that was (virtually) no plot and all perception. Family ties are frayed, love endures through struggle, eventually there is a successful voyage to the aforementioned lighthouse. C'est la vie, I 'spose, but who cares?
I do now, after re-reading the novel 18 years later. These days a novel that is composed of interior dialogues and shifting perspectives is full of drama. Legitimate drama too -- not the flash of an everyday page turner. Here's an original work, constructing incisive work.
To wit: "Where to begin?--that was the question at what point to make the first mark? One line placed on the canvas committed her [Lily Briscoe] to innumerable risks, to frequent and irrevocable decisions. All that in idea seemed simple became in practice immediately complex." It has ever been so, but usually such insights do not arrive in a blinding flash of brilliance.