Title: Moments of Being
Author: Virginia Woolf
Review Summary: Amazingly well written, but too much work to read it!
Moments of Being is a collection of five autobiographical essays by Virginia Woolf, not intended for publication. Editorial decisions interpreting Woolf’s drafts are clearly marked and it appears that few changes were necessary to make the essays feel finished. The editor’s comments were somewhat dry and literary enough that they required as much effort to read as the essays themselves, but I appreciated knowing the context in which the essays were written. The editor chose to present the essays in chronological order of their contents, not in the order they were written – a decision which made it much easier to understand the essays.
The first essay in particular (first written as well as first by content) felt choppy to me. It was hard to get into and a challenging enough read that I had trouble thinking about reviewing it because it required so much concentration. This unpleasant first experience with Woolf’s writing may have lowered my enjoyment of the entire book, because the rest of the writing was amazing. It felt as though the author herself was more relaxed writing the later essays and it was easier to get into the flow of reading them.
I loved Woolf’s writing style, particularly the way she ignored grammatical conventions in order to convey the way each sentence would be spoken. The exclamation points in the middle of sentences made me happy! so much so I might have to try it myself. Yes, that was fun 🙂 Run on sentences with bits connected only by semicolons were also a common trick which conveyed clearly the cadence of casual conversation.
In terms of the content, Woolf does a great job selecting certain small details of each scene to convey the emotion of the moment to the reader. The one downside is that this style requires a lot of work from the reader, who must pay attention to the mood the author is trying to evoke. Despite my admiration from what is clearly great writing, the weak first essay and the feeling of exerting effort to slog through the rest prevented my from really enjoying this collection.