To write for itself, to do things for the joy of them. What a gift of the gods. (318)
Suddenly everything is ominous, ironic, deadly. If I could not have children—and if I do not ovulate how can I?—how can they make me?—I would be dead. Dead to my women’s body. Intercourse would be dead, a dead end. My pleasure, no pleasure, a mockery. My writing a hollow and failing substitute for real life, real feeling. (312)
At one point, Plath believed she might never have children and her ability to express the anxiety she experienced at this possibility fascinated me.
Now forget salable stories. Write to recreate a mood, an incident. If this is done with color and feeling, it becomes a story. So try recollecting: . . . Not to manipulate the experience but let it unfold and recreate itself with the tenuous peculiar associations the logical mind would short-circuit. (320)
Anne Peregrine was as methodical about committing suicide as she was about cleaning house. (311)
I do not know who Anne Peregrine is. Not even if she is real or a character note Plath made. If this is merely a character note, it is glorious. I mean, really it says it all, doesn’t it? Can you just picture this woman with her household precision and the neatness of how she would kill herself? Of course, it is impossible to read this without thinking of Plath’s own suicide.
When will I break into a new line of poetry? Feel trite. If only I could get one good story. I dream too much, work too little. My drawing is gone to pot, yet I must remember I always do bad drawings at first. (321)
If I could do that, get back the old joy, it would not matter what became of it. The problem is not my success, but my joy. (328)
My absolute lack of judgment when I’ve written something: whether it’s trash or genuine. (332)
Well, there you are. Or maybe I mean: There I am. Do you know how many times I’ve finished writing something and thought, “Okay. Genius or rubbish? How can I tell the difference? ARGH!” At this point, the piece/chapter/novel/poem/essay/whatever goes into a black-hole of draft files rarely to be heard from again. I have yet to learn how to be equanimous with my own writing.
This is, by the way, the last of the quotes from Plath’s journal I recorded in my journal.
Failing to come out—although it may be a necessary choice—may feed back a sense of dishonesty, deceit, and self-doubt that erodes one’s self-esteem and encourages self-hate. Failing to come out affects the very fabric of relationships and the quality of our day-to-day life. Neither intimacy nor self can flourish in an atmosphere of secrecy and silence. (141)
I had a friend who was not out to her parents. “Had” because we lost touch by her choice. For all I know she came out to them at some point. Probably not. It is not an easy thing to do and in some families it’s harder still.
[O]ne might hope that relationship issues would remain in the relationship where they belong rather than being detoured via a third party. . . . (142)
Our position in one triangle may be a transient reaction to stress. In another triangle, our position may be rigid, fixed, and highly resistant to change. Triangles solve a problem by lowering anxiety when it can no longer be contained between two persons. But triangles also create a problem by covering up the real relationship issues between any two of the parties and by operating at someone’s expense. (148-149)
Each person in a triangle is responsible for their own behavior and any one person can change his or her own steps. (151)
I have a manuscript that I hate but that will not leave me alone and the idea of triangulation to diffuse tension is central to the over-all narrative action of the novel. I wish I could sink my teeth into it with the same eagerness as it seems to continue gnawing away at me.
The degree to which we can be clear with our first family about who we are, what we believe, and where we stand on important issues will strongly influence the level of ‘independence’ or emotional maturity that we bring to other relationships. (189)
When women are taught mother is a ‘career’ rather than a relationship, ‘retirement’ becomes an understandable crisis. (191)
The worst time to try to discuss a hot issue in a stuck relationship is when we are feeling angry or tense. (194)
Gathering information about our parents’ lives, whether they are living or dead, is an important part of gaining a clear self, rooted in factual history of our family’s development. (198)
Working toward intimacy is nothing short of a lifelong task. (201)
The women’s movement changed and challenged all our lives because feminists recognized that if we did not clarify our own needs, define the terms of our own lives, and take action on our own behalf, no one else would do it for us. (208)
No lullaby has ever occurred to me capable of singing him to rest. (243)
There were so many poetic quotes in this book and I am absolutely going to reread it. This quote about lullaby and rest is about death and grief and how it is never ending.
Nevertheless, life is pleasant, life is tolerable. Tuesday follows Monday; then comes Wednesday. The mind grows rings, the identity becomes robust; pain is absorbed in growth. (257)
[S]o strange is the contact of one with another. (281)
Something always has to be done next. Tuesday follows Monday; Wednesday, Tuesday. Each spreads the same ripple. The being grows rings, like a tree. Like a tree, leaves fall. (283)
One of the things I loved about this novel was how themes would repeat themselves, the way they do in an opera or beautifully composed movie (or even television show, frankly). But it is not enough to repeat in image and Woolf does it so well, echoing herself but rephrasing things to deepen the meaning.
Thus when I come to shape here . . . the story of my life and set it before you a complete thing, I have to recall things gone far, gone deep, sunk into this life or that and become part of it; dreams, too, things surrounding me, and the inmates, those old half-articulated ghosts who keep up their hauntings by day and night; who turn over in their sleep, who utter their confused cries, who put out their phantom fingers and clutch at me as I try to escape—shadows of people one might have been; unborn selves. (289)
One of the books I’ve already tucked in the “Fifteen in 2012” pile has a journaling exercise in which the writer explores the “roads not taken.” We all have those moments of “unborn selves” and I have a feeling that sitting down and thinking about them must surely be enlightening. This quote made me think of that book and felt like an approbation.
It is strange that we who are capable of so much suffering, should inflict so much suffering. (293)
Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of employment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply. . . . (240)
I like to think that my children have this with one another, a sort of easy familiarity that only siblings can have. I don’t know. I am an only child and perhaps I romanticize the reality of sibling rivalry outgrown and overcome. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn I have. I romanticize so many other things.
Nothing is so strange as human intercourse. . . . (47)
The above is a quote from the original version of Mrs Dalloway which was a short story called “Mrs Dalloway’s Party” and what interested me about this quote is what it has in common with the above quote from The Waves. I say this time and again, how delighted I am when I see incidental themes in the quotes that I collect from one week to the next.
From the essay by James Wood “Virginia Woolf’s Forgetful Selves”
Woolf turns female absent-mindedness into the most searching philosophy, of the self, and we suffer with her heroines, who are suspended between forgetfulness and remembrance, between their fulfillment and their irrelevance. (96)
From the essay by Daniel Mendelsohn “Not Afraid of Virginia Woolf”
This which men’s literature dismissed as trivia must be taken up and forged into a new kind of literature that would suggest how great were the hidden worlds and movements in women’s lives; such literature was long overdue. (121)
In Cunningham’s novel, as in Woolf’s, it is the men surrounding the women who keep falling apart. (123)
From the essay by Deborah Eisenberg “On Mrs. Dalloway”
Woolf creates for us a world that consists entirely of relationships—a weave. . . . Just as we are given to see in the book not why something has become but that it has become, we are given to see not how things are related but that they are. (150)
The problem that comes up over and over again is that these people want to be published. They kind of want to write but they really want to be published. (13)
I have had this experience so often in writing groups it’s not funny. It’s also why I remain without writing support in my own life. I seem to attract people who want to learn from me how it is done and, because I am unpublished or because they don’t really want to be writers, I end up once again wandering around wondering if it’s possible that I’m a hack. Of course it’s possible but is it wrong of me to hope it’s not true?
[Y]ou’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. (22)
One of the things I love about Anne Lamott is that you know what she believes and that her faith is less liberal than her politics. And yet, she is not shy of seeing self-righteousness for what it is, especially when it is her own.
Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friends. (32)
We all know we’re going to die; what’s important is the kind of men and women we are in he face of this. (51)
Your reading should confirm what you’ve observed in the world. (64)
[W]hen you strip away the busyness . . . some surprising constructions appear. (84)
[R]emind yourself that perfection is the voice of the oppressor. (93)
I should write this (Perfection is the voice of the oppressor) in calligraphy and decorate a border around the edges and give this to some of the artistic people I know (myself included) who really need to know. But I haven’t been practicing my calligraphy so it’s a nice idea that will likely never see the light of day.
. . . I used to think that paired opposites were a given, that love was the opposite of hate, right the opposite of wrong. But now I think we sometimes buy into these concepts because it is so much easier to embrace absolutes than to suffer reality. I don’t think anything is the opposite of love. Reality is unforgivingly complex. (104)
Another great quote worthy of framing: Reality is unforgivingly complex.
For some of us, good books and beautiful writing are the ultimate solace, even more comforting than exquisite food. (108)
I don’t know about that. No. I guess I do. I can live without exquisite food, could subsist on rice or McDonalds for the rest of my life so long as I had good books to read. But take my books away and feed me only from the best ranked restaurants and I’d be utterly miserable the rest of my life.
Don’t look at your feet to see if you’re doing it right. Just dance. (112)
My deepest belief is that to live as if we’re dying can set us free. (125)
Let the dream die and with it will die the authentic life for which we long. (August 20)
Books are as essential as breathing. (August 21)
See what I mean about the common themes in my quotes. I can be reading the most disparate books and still find something common.
Being a mirror is one of the greatest gifts you can give to the person you love. In being a mirror, we hold up an image so that our beloved can finally, accurately, and wonderfully, capture an image of him or herself. (August 21)