Friday, 23 December 2016

Deal Me in Challenge: Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf (1919)

Card Drawn:

Hello, my name is Mr. Snail.
A snail's perception of time and reality is juxtaposed with the tumultuous chaos of early 20th century life in Virginia Woolf's Kew Gardens. I can't remember any story in which a snail is featured so prominently. Even during her early phase as a writer, Woolf demonstrates a keen disposition towards various aesthetics of modernism; that is to say, her writing often self-reflexively attempts to represent a fragmented culture and consciousness. In this particular story, she seems on the verge of  discovering her own literary voice but has yet to reach the apex of her creative ambitions. Taking place during one hot day in July, the story revolves around a group of ordinary people walking around the famous botanical gardens in south-west London. Similar to an impressionist painting, Woolf paints this world with vivid colors but we only get various fragmented snapshots of "reality" as it happens in the moment. Perspective is incredibly important in this novel and the different ways of perceiving the world changes from person to person or even mollusc to person. Woolf eschews with a conventional narrative, which will become a common feature of her writing and while she does not employ her trademark stream-of-consciousness here, there is a sense that she is experimenting with this stylistic technique. It comes as no surprise that her prose has a marvelous poetic quality and the lyrical use of language is almost unparalleled but overall, the story lacks a certain level of pathos that I have come to expect from Woolf. The detached objectivism left me cold but there is still plenty to admire here, especially her use of language and metaphor.


The snail had now considered every possible method of reaching his goal without going round the dead leaf or climbing over it. Let alone the effort needed for climbing a leaf, he was doubtful whether the thin texture which vibrated with such an alarming crackle when touched even by the tip of his horns would bear his weight; and this determined him finally to creep beneath it, for there was a point where the leaf curved high enough from the ground to admit him. He had just inserted his head in the opening and was taking stock of the high brown roof and was getting used to the cool brown light when two other people came past outside on the turf. 

You can read this story HERE.

1 comment:

  1. This story, for me, was one of those works that I had to read twice to really appreciate it. Come to think of it, this also happened to me with Woolf's novel, To The Lighthouse - I see a pattern developing... This story was also part ofBehold the Stars' 2016 DMI reads. I love it when stories pop up multiple times among those who deal Me In!