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A haunted house and other short stories by virginia woolf

The light in the heart.

This is the sensation I had while reading—dreaming scenes that seemed perfectly normal at first, but which were beset by a surreality, a super-reality shimmering just beneath the surface, signaling not all is as it seems.

Thus, waking from a midnight dream of horror, one hastily turns on the light and lies quiescent, worshipping the chest of drawers, worshipping solidity, worshipping reality, worshipping the impersonal world which is a proof of some existence other than ours.

Woolf takes the impersonal world like a glass ball in her hands and cracks it open ever so slightly, revealing the chaos within. In Kew Gardens, surely one of the finest in the collection, she juxtaposes the order of natural world with the disorder of human emotion. Woolf shows in the tense and eerie The Mark on the Wall what the most minute shift of the kaleidoscope of our perspective can do to shape our chose reality.

A New Dress is an exercise in acute self-consciousness, a woman realizing, or imagining she knows, how she appears to others. It is a cruel and perceptive knife thrust at classism.

Why yes, the Squire does lash his whip about, causing Miss Rashleigh to fall into the fireplace, toppling the shield of the Rashleighs and a picture of King Edward.

It's a laugh-out-loud moment of horror.

A Haunted House and Other Short Stories

We talk about powerful opening lines in novel and short stories, but this. This may be one of my favorite closing lines, ever: Was there ever love here? But speaking of opening lines, this one, belonging to The Lady in the Looking-Glass: A Reflection is sublime: One that will have you avoiding mirrors. For how can you trust what you see within? Is your reflection reality or a mistaken image of your own creation?

A Haunted House, and other short stories, by Virginia Woolf

The Dalloways, particularly, Clarissa, make frequent appearances in this collection, as if Woolf had crafted small sketches, playing with her characters, trying to sort them out. I've not yet read Mrs. Dalloway, so perhaps the integration of these stories and the novel will become clear to me once I've put them all together.

Of all things, nothing is so strange as human intercourse, she thought, because of its changes, its extraordinary irrationality, her dislike being now nothing short of the most intense and rapturous love, but directly the word love occurred to her, she rejected it, thinking again how obscure the mind was, with its very few words for all these astonishing perceptions, these alternations of pain and pleasure.

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For how did one name this. A beautiful, raw, vulnerable collection of stories, rendered in language both intimate and abstract. I remain in awe of Woolf's ability to transcend the limits of the word and create something divine.