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To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Hosted by Mona Simpson
Begins on May 1, 2023 (14 Days)

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"I came to discover To the Lighthouse for myself,” Eudora Welty wrote in her introduction to the novel, which she read a year after it was published, when she was twenty one.

Virginia Woolf's much-mythologized life, her intellectually-royal family, her artistic crowd, and her suicide can all become entangled with the work. And the work! Not only did she leave us the beautiful, inventive novels but also short stories, reviews, essays, diaries, and letters. The idea of Virginia Woolf lives so thoroughly in the culture that people who have not read one sentence written by her have ideas about her, from Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Woolf’s biographer, the great Hermione Lee, says that the four questions she is most often asked about Woolf are: Is it true that she was sexually abused as a child? What was her madness and why did she kill herself? Was Leonard a good or a wicked husband? Was she a terrible snob? None of these questions or their answers have any direct bearing on To the Lighthouse.

Welty wrote: “Blessed with luck and innocence, I fell upon the novel that once and forever opened the door of imaginative fiction for me, and read it cold, in all its wonder and magnitude.” No matter how much we know about Woolf, how much we’ve read (and I haven’t read anywhere close to all of it), I’d like to read the novel cold, for pure pleasure, and then to consider how the three uneven sections work together to create a meaning greater than the sum their parts.

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Join us on May 15 for a virtual discussion of To the Lighthouse with Mona Simpson.

Mona Simpson

is the author of seven novels, including Anywhere But Here, My Hollywood, Off Keck Road, and Commitment. She’s received a Whiting Writers' Award, the Mary McCarthy Prize, and a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She’s on the faculty at UCLA and a visiting writer at Bard College. She lives in Santa Monica.

Virginia Woolf

(1882-1941) was born in London. A pioneer in the narrative use of stream of consciousness, she published her first novel, The Voyage Out, in 1915. This was followed by literary criticism and essays, most notably A Room of One's Own, and other acclaimed novels, including Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and Orlando.

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