THE WAVES

There is the man, far away, on the beach. He is always there. He is at that distance, in some place, whenever you look. Whenever you go, the dark coat, the dog leash, on the empty sand—near the waves.

“Woolf’s characters, however, are near sublime. The honesty is astounding. The casual profundity amazes.” With The Waves, Woolf has the right idea. Her book is near abstract. And so far, more so than Ulysses, or at least more successfully. The nature interludes, alone, or set apart a different way, would work. As they are, too crisp and easily felt. A true abstract book is one not easily absorbed or understood, on first cold reading, but feels right, and that the reader wants to read. It’s not clear, but it plants thought-emotion-seed which grows when the reader leaves.

“It all comes down to whether or not I want you in my boat [when the plane crashes, and we scramble out and sail away]. I would want you for two reasons: one, a source of food—you think I’m kidding, I’m not—two, as someone who can help me out, do work.” He pats me on the shoulder, identifying me, and leaves. “Sorry for interrupting your day.” It’s okay, I say, and we laugh as we walk away.

A good place to see the circle of fog. From far distances you can see the creeping edge. The rocks, the near-waves in sharp relief, like buildings would be on the street. From away you see the thick soup that you miss. From away you realise that Toronto is a city, built on a lake.

“I buried my brother in 1945. Starvation. We ate Mrs. Ferris’ cat. My neighbour gave us a Coleman stove and three months of fuel, for cooking dinner. In the end we used two bricks that we kept warm in the car.”

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