A Life of One’s Own


It isn’t the writing that makes this book so appealing to me, it’s the message. Now, I’m not an avid Virginia Woolf reader so I assure you that there is no bias. I bought this book blindly. The only thing that I could clearly see was that it was in the sale bin at Borders and marked at only $3.99.

The cover of the book says that it is: “A guide to better living through the work and wisdom of Virginia Woolf.” I completely agree. The ideas of Virginia Woolf mixed with the deep insight of Ilana Simons make the book an exquisite read.

Below I have listed quotes that resonated with me. It’s only a spoiler if you don’t want to know any detail about a book before you read it. Otherwise, let the quotes below act as teasers.

* “Stories always get there meaning by being told” (Simons 17).

I’m going to school to learn how to tell stories. This quote is simple and some may argue, common sense, but I underlined it as soon as I read it. Perhaps it would help if you saw it in its context:

*”The trip was also fun as it happened, but even then, the greatest moments were dotted with anticipation of telling them to someone else. Stories always get their meaning by being told. A hike is just a series of moments until it’s put into a story, and then we can hear what the point is. That’s not just a truth about the “stories” of our vacations or about connections in Virginia’s books, but the basis of literature itself. We give anything meaning by framing it — in a book, a letter, or a narrated slide show — to pass it to another person who’s not exactly like you, but works to imagine your experience” (Simons 17).

* “So in Woolf, being myself means dealing with this feeling of isolation, the nearly divine seclusion with the sounds inside” (Simons 21).

This quote is referring to a section in Mrs. Dalloway, in which different characters are looking at a plane writing letters in the sky. Each person focuses on something different about the image and similarly, predicts a different outcome.

* “We only get pieces of our closest friends. Understanding the distance is fundamental for feeling fine about the gaps” (Simons 27).

Simons explains why we don’t fully know people. She writes: “One reason you don’t fully know people is that they’re always changing. If there is a still center, we’re too various with each other to see it” (Simons 27-28).

* “There’s no such thing as fully decoding another person, and intimacy involves the way two personalities affect each other. What’s more, time plays a role. You only know the sides of your friends that you happened to see. From scattered details, you invented a whole” (Simons 30).

On the same topic of the quotation above, she goes on to talk about how we especially yearn to know our family and describes it as an “ache.” Sometimes this ache may become so strong that it causes tension. Woolf suggests that we create a trusting place with our partners. We must allow our partner to have some secrets.

* “‘The Soul,’ she wrote, is like ‘ those scraps of colour in a funnel [kaleidoscope] that we played with as children.’ It shifts its design depending on whose hands it’s in” (Simons 34-35).

* ” Going slower means admitting difference- which sometimes means allowing other people autonomy in their viewpoints, I don’t fully understand the person I’m negotiating with , and I shouldn’t insist on full accord. Admitting variance between perspectives is central to getting along” (Simons 44).

In short, sometimes it is best to just slow down and shut up.

* “You might hate how overused the word “soulmate” is, but this is the way you make one. A soulmate is the person who’s gotten the chance to see something real about you. you risked; you bared ugliness; you forged a bond. This friendship becomes something more lasting than a superficial thing. Soulmate means a friend who understands something about you and so lives flexibly in this relationship, in which you both risk a little, and insult a little, and dare a little, and stray a little, while something solid connects you at the center ” (Simons 61).

* “The persistence can mean success. The difference between a breakthrough and an uneventful life might just be the difference between a lower and a higher threshold for actual– painful, self-exposing– work” (Simons 88).

* “No matter how much you feel at peace with your work, you won’t be satisfied without also getting some positive feedback. That is, we can happily claim that we do for ourselves alone, but we’d also starve without other people’s input” (Simons 89).

Think about it.

I could go on and on about this book, but I pass the torch to you! Even if you cannot find this book for only $3.99, I suggest you find it and pay $13.00 because it’s worth it. It really is.


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