What I wanted to do seemed simple. I wanted to create something alive and shocking enough that it could stand beside a morning in somebody’s life. The most ordinary morning. Imagine, trying to do that. What foolishness.

Richard attempts to evaluate his life’s work as he faces his own mortality and wrestles with his failures at truly capturing the complexity of life in his art. As his mind deteriorates, he feels increasingly that he has not succeeded in his project of perfectly rendering in his writing a single morning in a person’s life. Richard’s frustration is ironic, given that both Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Michael Cunningham’s The Hours attempt to do just that. In Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf attempts to create a whole portrait of a person by telling a single day in her life; in The Hours, Cunningham attempts to create three individual portraits by telling of a single day in the three lives.

Like Cunningham’s book, Richard’s book includes meticulous literary description of short periods of time. Richard’s book about Clarissa Vaughn includes a full chapter about a trip in which Clarissa shops for nail polish and decides not to buy any. Louis thinks that Richard’s ambition is ridiculous and wonders what could be so fascinating and engrossing about an ordinary morning. Some of Louis’s anger obviously stems from jealousy, in that Richard found Clarissa’s morning interesting enough to catalog in such detail. Indeed, Richard finds Clarissa interesting enough to make her into a character that can fill an entire book, perhaps because he feels so moved by how much she relishes her life. Despite the fact that Richard feels that he has failed in his artistic project, his comments call attention to the project of rendering an ordinary life in literature. And despite the fact that he feels as if he has failed, he has a deeper appreciation for Clarissa’s outlook on the world and the way she experiences her life.