“Life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one, became curled and whole like a wave which bore one up with it and threw one down with it, there, with a dash on the beach.”
-from ‘To the Lighthouse’ by Virginia Woolf
Once upon a time in Australia I majored in Literature at the University of Melbourne. I spent a year in a slowly crumbling North Melbourne share house writing my honours thesis on Virginia Woolf and getting lost in To the Lighthouse. Almost six years later Woolf’s ideas have settled in my mind. “[W]e are sealed vessels afloat on what it is convenient to call reality;” Woolf writes, “and at some moments, the sealing matter cracks; in floods reality.” Woolf believed in two levels of being. The first is where we live most of our lives: getting up in the morning, riding the subway, filling out tax returns. And the second is made up of those moments, those scraps and fragments, where we glimpse something else. Something wonderful and ineffable that runs beneath the surface of ordinary moments and makes life worth living. A sip of strong coffee in a dusty cafe in Kyoto; finding a clump of caterpillars on a mountain hiking trail; suddenly noticing the way autumn in north east Victoria smells like campfires. It is impossible, in conventional language, to describe how these isolated moments come together “like a wave” to give life meaning. Art, however, is sometimes able to say the unsay-able, to bridge the gap and grant us access to this second reality. This blog is an attempt – through thinking about books and film – to capture some of the underlying beauty of life, and to reconcile the fragmentary nature of our experience with its unity.
About Carly Nugent
I’m a 32 year old Australian writer. In the past I have written mostly for theatre in Melbourne. In 2009 my script Shots was awarded the R.E. Ross Trust Playwrights’ Script Development Award and was performed as part of the Victorian State Library’s Flashpoint reading series. More recently, however, I have been writing a novel and short fiction. In 2012 my short story ‘Jeremy’ won the Olvar Wood Competition, and was published in 2013 by Melbourne Books as part of their collection Award Winning Australian Writing. In 2015 my story ‘The Last of Its Kind’ was published in the spring issue of the Bellevue Literary Review. My novel The Peacock Detectives was shortlisted for the 2017 Text Prize.