I just started reading The Hours by Michael Cunningham.
So, anyway, I started reading The Hourswith zero knowledge of the plot or movie…all I know of it is that it relates to Mrs. Dalloway, which I just read. When I started reading the part about Clarissa Dalloway, I found that she is not only from a different period than the original book (she’s a modern-day character), but she is also gay. And her husband is gay and dying of aids. Needless to say, I had difficulty switching my mind from the Clarissa of Dalloway to the Clarissa of The Hours.
Why did Cunningham choose to make such a dramatic leap in her character? Hopefully it will become clearer as I read on.
Click below for more insights regarding what I’ve read:
I do, however find that some parts so far are quite endearing and thoughtful.
“These days, Clarissa believes, you measure people first by their kindness and their capacity for devotion. You get tired, sometimes, of wit and intellect; everybody’s little display of genius” (p. 18).
I’ve found that the “these days” preceding the sentence is interesting. Perhaps Cunningham is thinking of Clarissa as the all time symbol of the typical woman. Or of some kind of woman anyway. This is echoed on p. 19: “…Clarissa’s decision to live with Sally represents, if not some workaday manifestation of deep corruption, as least a weakness on her part that indicts …women in general, since he seems to have decided early on that Clarissa stands not only for herself but for the gifts and frailties of the entire sex.” Apparently he is (and he decided it early on in the book) considering her to be a symbol of women…women embittered by society and turned gay? Not sure yet….
I do however find the previous quote insightful in that people, these days, consider kindness & devotion often more strongly than wit and intellect. I mean, seriously, watch a Disney movie.
I also enjoyed this part: “There is no comfort, it seems, in the world of objects, and Clarissa fears that art, even the greatest of it (even Richard’s three volumes of poetry and his single, unreadable novel), belong stubbornly to the world of objects” (p. 22).
Later she recognizes the beauty of a tree branch tapping a window while music is playing and “The branch and the music matter more to her than do all the books in the store window. She wants for Evan and she wants for herself a book that can carry what that singular memory carries” (p. 23).
And thus…Virginia Woolf writes Mrs. Dalloway, a book that spends time describing the beauty and comfort in the day to day tasks that often seem menial.
Nicely said, Mr. Cunningham.