I found this particular essay quite interesting. Woolf’s insistence that fiction has no boundaries nor an exact definition is my frame of mind to the letter. For the most part, this seems to be her stance; that there is no framework or guidelines one must follow in order to write fiction, it is entirely what the author makes it to be. However one particular quote seems, to me at least, to contradict this view – perhaps not fully opposing to it – but to some degree limiting it.
“Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; but a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible?”
I agree that life is not uniform by any means, that it is varying and unpredictable and thus should not be portrayed as such. However, if “everything is the proper stuff of fiction” as Woolf says, then why shouldn’t a writer portray life is such a fashion? Just because it is not the way I would write it does not make his or her version of fiction any less fictional. In fact, would this act of making a life that is a “series of gig lamps” not be more akin to fiction because it does not occur in the real world?
The second part of the quote that speaks of the “task of the novelist” also seems to limit the vastness of fiction. It is true that writing fiction with “as little mixture of the alien and external as possible” is a very interesting and talented way of writing but it is not the only way. Why should fiction not contain the alien and external? Where else could it possibly be categorized? I am not saying that there is anything wrong with this way of writing fiction, I very much enjoy reading Woolf’s fiction, I am merely pointing out that there are other ways of going about it that can be just as different, entertaining, and thoughtful.