After reading the first three pages of Novel on Yellow Paper, I closed the book, walked into my living room, and handed the book to my fiancee saying, “I don’t get it.” He took Novel on Yellow Paper from me and read the first three pages aloud. When he was done I said, “see, it doesn’t make any sense and I hate it.” Though I didn’t really hate the book and I was already frustrated by the numerous other things I had to read or write that night, I judged the book very early. Eventually, I picked the book up again and continued reading. I was still frustrated with the style and found myself drifting off into other thoughts because I wasn’t fully following the text. I found the stream of consciousness writing difficult to follow, and, at first, everything seemed very random. As I continued to read, I started understanding–or at least following–the style. The use of stream of consciousness proved to be an interesting perspective. I began to appreciate the witty comments, humor, and historical awareness that Smith presented throughout the novel.
Although I did develop an appreciation for the style and content, I still wasn’t engulfed in the text. I was curious what kind of reviews the book had and if any reflected my frustration. I found a review that called Novel on Yellow Paper a “book of a lifetime” and spoke highly of the text. I found a another review that aligned more closely with my own views of the novel claiming it to a little frustrating and have little plot, but many ideas.
I also found a blog that claimed Novel on Yellow Paper to be Woolfian because of the stream of consciousness style in which it is written. However, I disagree with this claim because I found Mrs. Dalloway much easier to follow. Plus, as we discussed in class, Woolf does not use a stream of consciousness style, but rather free indirect discourse. Mrs. Dalloway also has a clear plot (Clarissa preparing for a party), whereas Novel on Yellow Wallpaper does not. I can see a slight connection between the two novels, but I
In the end, though it honestly was not my favorite book, I found Novel on Yellow Paper to be an interesting read. I think my favorite thing about the book, aside from the literary references and humor, was that the novel was reflective of random thoughts that happen throughout the day. Though this was also the part that I found frustrating, I began to see the artistic element in stringing together random thoughts. Also, I thought it was interesting that the random thoughts ended up not really being random because they were reflective of events and interactions in Pompey’s life. I think thought tangents, like Pompey’s, happen to everyone (at least they do to me), and you wonder how your brain got there. Though I wouldn’t place Novel on Yellow Paper on the same level as Mrs. Dalloway, I agree that the novel is compelling and witty.
Here are a couple recordings of Stevie Smith reciting her work. Novel on Yellow Paper is not included, but I think it is interesting and useful to hear how the author reads their work.