Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Remembering The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

Sometime my first half of high school, I bought Mrs. Dalloway for two dollars at Borders on the clearance rack. (Even though I work at Barnes & Noble there are really some times that I genuinely miss Borders). I bought it because I recognized the name from some book. And the title of the book has escaped me until very recently: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things. I was never a big fan of young adult fiction. My sister gobbled those books up and I sometimes waded through her remnants, trying to find something somewhat appealing between the disgusting amount of Gossip Girls sequels. And with a title like that, especially to a middle schooler I mean come on "butt" is in the title, there was really no chance I would pass it up. I may have read it twice. Doesn't matter. 

The main character's name is Virginia Shreves. I remember she complains about her name, saying that her parents took it from some crazy depressed writer who put stones in her pockets and drowned herself. The connection between Virginia Shreves and Virginia Woolf is there I guess; it's nothing that really resonates profoundly for me. Virginia Shreves is overweight and unable to overcome that obstacle. She is given this quote

I thought at last it was time to roll up the crumpled skin of the day, with its arguments and its impressions and its anger and its laughter, and cast it into the hedge.

from Woolf's Room of One's Own by a teacher and Shreves interprets it as encouragement to dispose of old notions (her weight being an issue) and reevaluating her self-image. Adding Woolf to this story helps highlight the feminist message of the novel: that women and girls do not need to have Barbie bodies to be beautiful. 

Because of this trashy young adult fiction novel (I'm rereading the synopsis on Wikipedia and it's pretty bad) I discovered Virginia Woolf, most likely for me the most influential writer of my life so far. Where would I be if I didn't discover Woolf when I did? I probably wouldn't be a writer or if I still was, I definitely wouldn't have the same style that I do today. Woolf never helped me with my body issues and I don't know if she ever will. I know Woolf was concerned with her own appearance and yet that rarely makes it into her work. What I enjoy about Woolf is that she does not focus so much on the physical (I'm saying this in light of The Waves; I don't think she has concretely described any of the six characters' bodies or faces at all so far) but the metaphysical. In Woolf, we are caught in our heads. Sure, our physical appearance and its acceptance or rejection plays a part in the construction of our consciousness, yet there are depths much deeper the mind explores than the ever changing body. I'm sure I wouldn't have gotten much further in my life without hearing the name Woolf or being exposed to her work but still I am happy it happened when it happened. Even if it was all because of some young-adult fiction. 

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