|To The Lighthouse "Mind Map": Reading a novel shouldn't be this complicated.|
To The Lighthouse (1928)
by Virginia Woolf
My personal feeling is that you shouldn't require a schematic drawing to "get" a novel. The very need for such a diagram as is pictured above is evidence that the novel has, in a sense, failed. I am clearly in the tiny minority in this opinion, since To The Lighthouse is a lock for many "Best 100 Novels of All Time" list. I understand the argument of the avant-garde that art need not be pleasurable (or even should not be pleasurable) to be good, but I don't really buy it.
It is possible to read To The Lighthouse for the first time, as I did, and only have a vague idea what was going on for the entire length of the book. I'm sure I would have understood more if I had read in the context of an undergraduate or graduate literature class, but I have to integrate my reading into my daily schedule: sitting in court, waiting in jail, on the train back and forth to Los Angeles, and reading after I've spent 10 hours working as a lawyer. If I'd really wanted to "get" the brilliance of To The Lighthouse, I would have had to been reading it at a desk, with a lap top or notepad handy, taking notes and cross-referencing internet sources.
This will probably be the last Virginia Woolf novel I read on the go- after this I foresee needing to be sitting down in a quiet spot and focusing 100% of my attention on the book. Is that any way to read a novel? I would argue, no, it is not.