This summer I began to write a novella set more or less where I live and it takes place on a single day and it begins with flowers. If that sounds familiar, if you are hearing an echo of Mrs. Dalloway as you read this, then I’m happy. Because this is in some ways a retelling of that beautiful book. No plot, not really, but a group of people brought together for an occasion. Or rather a celebration of a number of events. I didn’t have a title in mind but then as I was working yesterday, one of the characters was talking to another about someone not invited to the party, someone who’d become increasingly difficult and remote, who’d finally abandoned a long friendship. “For years she’d celebrated the occasions,” one character says to the other, and I immediately saw the title. The Occasions.
Writing a book in homage to Mrs. Dalloway means rereading that book, thinking about it, taking a little time to plunge back into other books by Virginia Woolf. To enter those sentences and those rhythms and that vivid imagination. “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.” And in my story, Alice goes up the mountain to cut the flowers for her party. Hardhack, chrome-yellow tansy, airy Queen Anne’s lace. An occasion for flowers, huge jugs of them on every surface.