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Quote for the Day

October 28, 2009

Michael Cunningham, on reading Virginia Woolf for the first time at 15:

“I was ready, however– or maybe I should say I was ready to be ready– for Woolf’s sentences. I had not only never seen language like that; nothing I’d read had prepared me for the fact that a human being could do what she had done, line by line, using the same ink and paper available to anybody. I had neither read nor conceived of sentences that complex and muscular and precise and beautiful.

It may, perversely, have helped that I didn’t quite understand what the sentences actually meant. It may have helped free me to better appreciate their tones and variations, the sheer virtuosity of their structures and sounds.

I remember thinking, Hey, she was doing with language something like what Jimi Hendrix does with a guitar. Riffing, that is, as only a genius can; finding over and over again an exquisite balance between recklessness and control, between chaos and pattern.”

-From Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives, (Free Press) edited by Elizabeth Benedict.

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