Wednesday, May 23, 2007


As I sit in the handsomely appointed reading room of UCLA’s Special Collections Department in the Research Library, it is comforting (if perhaps too flattering to myself) to know that Woolf found the process of correcting proofs tedious. As my eyes glaze over, I do little calculations in the margins: I have ten more hours in the archive and 238 pages to check, nine hours and 222 pages. With each passing hour, I fall a little further behind.

Then, suddenly, I see something I haven’t seen before--another instance in which her revision falls into a pattern. I hear a resonance and now have a phrase to check--is it an allusion to something?

Today it was birds. What about all the birds? I figured I could do something with the flowers in the books--roses and carnations, hyacinths and lilies--but, until today, I hadn’t thought about the symbolic weight of the birds. Swallows and nightingales I can do (going back to Ovid and the story of Procne and Philomel), but what about sparrows and thrushes?

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