woolf waves

I’ve been listening to Max Richter’s glorious new album. It’s inspired by the work of Virginia Woolf. Specifically, Mrs Dalloway, Orlando, and The Waves. It’s tremendous, as are all things Richter does. The final movement–and perhaps his most emotional piece in years–is in the above video. It begins with the reading of Virginia Woolf’s suicide note, which I’ll copy in full here:


I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer.

I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.

It’s always struck me as a profound and devastating statement of love and illness.

I don’t have a lot to say about it, really. Or, I do, but I’ve said it before in a dozen other blog posts over the seven years I’ve had this site.

I’ve been writing my novel to this album. It’s a completely normal thing for me to listen to a Richter album on repeat for days, and he’s been the soundtrack to more than a few of the novels I’ve written. I don’t know if my work is capturing anything as well or as beautifully as Woolf or Richter, but I’m very pleased with the words coming out of me lately.

I feel fortunate that I’ve managed to avoid any serious bouts with depression over the last years, and it’s certainly what’s allowed me to be so productive.

I’m nearly 40,000 words into the new novel. I’m hoping to have it finished before May, which seems doable, even though the novel may balloon up to about 200,000 words.

As is almost always the case, I sort of saw this as a short novel, but I quickly grow comfortable with the size of this novel. I said that I’d keep it underwraps this time, rather than share the process of writing this novel while I write it, and I think I’ll keep to that.

I will say, though, that every chapter presents a very difficult challenge. It’s the kind of writing I simply was not capable of writing even a year ago. It’s the kind of writing that is exhausting, but ultimately rewarding. Complex yet simple. Dangerous yet loving.

I want this novel to be a surprise, and I think it will be. I think I’m doing something that is rarely, if ever, done, and that pleases me. I’m also writing in a mode that I’ve never written in before. In many ways, I think it’s my most daring and most normal novel, and I like that juxtaposition quite a lot.


mysteries of power

Who knows
doesn’t talk.
Who talks
doesn’t know.
Closing the openings,
shutting doors,

blunting edge,
loosing bond,
dimming light,
be one with the dust of the way.
So you come to the deep sameness.

Then you can’t be controlled by love
or by rejection.
You can’t be controlled by profit
or by loss.
You can’t be controlled by praise
or humiliation.
Then you have honor under heaven.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

A poem full of what should now be familiar as Taoist statements. Paradoxes. Oblique phrases wrapped in simplicity.

But it really is this simple. Those who talk all the time reveal very little knowledge. Those who move and shake and can’t stop speaking blunt your own sensibilities, loosen your own sense of control, and dim your life. I think often of social media as a contrast to what the Tao asks of us. The deluge of information blunts our ability to respond, to react. It blurs our ability to see what matters. It makes us slave to praise, to social reinforcements. It makes our fear of rejection, of humiliation, our anxieties about loss and money all run amok.

There is a fight going on within our nation, and I wish I could use less aggressive terms for it.

Perhaps just using the word conflict is enough. But there is a conflict in our nation, and most are clinging to social media to remain part of the conversation, to make sure we have the most relevant up to date hot takes to pepper their status updates with.

But when you live in the forest, it’s hard to see anything but thousands of different trees. Sometimes you need to walk up the hill to see that these are not thousands of distinct trees, but one forest.

This will bring you more peace and serenity, as well as making you more effective.

By all means, remain connected, but make sure to take a step back at least once a day, and try to synthesize all the information you’re receiving. Try to fit it together. Because everything is connected. Especially in politics. Most of the issues stem from a few sources, though they lead to myriad problems.

Find the sources. Focus your energy there.