Friday, April 25, 2003

I just finished reading Michael Cunningham's The Hours. Relax. I wasn't wasting my day. A third of final exam number five (which I write tomorrow morning at 9) will be on the book.

My goodness. I haven't read such heart-breakingly beautiful, resonant prose since The Bell Jar. In a lot of ways, I feel as if Cunningham wrote this book especially for me. He writes of so many of the little things I feel or observe. In describing Clarissa's awe at the world, he distills my own:

Still, this indiscriminate love feels entirely serious to her, as if everything in the world is part of a vast, inscrutable intention and everything in the world has its own secret name, a name that cannot be conveyed in language but is simply the sight and feel of the thing itself.

It is that which I feel mornings when the sun is shining and the air fresh. When I look out over the balcony to see the budding trees, the tender blades of grass, the world of possibilities. When worries of war, famine, intolerance seem to drop away. It is that which I feel when I realize anew what Clarissa herself concludes:

We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep---it's as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we're very fortunate, by time itself. There's just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.

I can identify with all three of Cunningham's heroines: I identify with them because of their depression; I identify with Virginia and Laura because of their feelings of being suffocated by the ordinary; I identify with Virginia because of her desparation to create something that not only matters, but lives up to personal expectations; I identify with Clarissa because of her optimism which manages to linger despite th regret and self-doubt.

I truly feel as though this book were written if not about me, certainly for me.

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