Sunday, January 13, 2008
Books - Book Review - A Life of One's Own - Ilana Simons
My first book review of 2008! I have been reading books but have not not writing about them. My bad.
In October 2007, I received an email from Ilana Simons, asking me to review her book, A Life of One's Own - A Guide to Better Living Through the Work
and Wisdom of Virginia Woolf.
When I received it, I put down my other books and read it in one sitting. I picked it up again a few weeks later to receive more insights.
Ilana Simons gives a unique perspective on Virginia Woolf's life and writings. As both a literature professor and an clinical psychology student, she presents both as aspects in this book.
Not only did I learn more of Woolf's writing and her inspiration, this book also serves as a guide to living a thoughtful life by using Woolf's words as "advice."
A good example of both viewpoints is seen in Chapter 3 - Shut Down. In the US, multitasking is seen as a good thing. Woolf doesn't believe so. In A Room of Her Own, she writes, "It is in our idleness," she goes on "in our dreams, that the submerged truth comes to the top." Simons explains this quotation in Victorian ethics background of Woolf, "It's your right - even often charismatic - to hold a private world of your own. On the other, she was a Modernist, and wanted to set the stage for open, spontaneous talk. She valued both her parents' silence and a bolder exposure."
Chapter 13 (Read and Be More) really spoke to me. Since I have been 8 years old, people have always asked me "Why do read so much?" Ilana Simons writes, "It's a comfort and an accessible escape. Reading does seem to have shifted outside the center of today's public culture, where movies and the Internet dominate the landscape. But books have so far been able to survive the cultural shift because they do offer a game that's specific to what they are. In Woolf's opinion, novels made unique requirements of the mind, challenging us to find empathy with the author, patience with grasping tone and plot, creativity in supplying images to words, and dexterity in following the author's rather than your own, assumptions."
While trying to research a book on a study of English during the nightly bombings of London in WWII, she writes to Ethel. asking her to send her a lighthouse, i.e., encouragement to continue reading and writing. "Her reference to the 'lighthouse beam' shows how she tries to step out of her books to actual friendship in the world. She is using on of her literary metaphors (one of her main works is To The Lighthouse), for common talk.... She contrasts the anxiety of real friendship with the safety of books. The image of the lighthouse beam is her symbol for how fractured contact is..."
Ilana Simon's books has encourage me to read other works by Woolf. I have read only two of her works and felt intimidated. I know understand her background and literary views more and will try again.
I also plan to recommend this work for my local book club. It will increase everyone's understanding of Woolf. I also enjoyed reading the advice of living from her viewpoint.