"Reflecting on what it is that makes certain incidents and perceptions from the past stand out, Woolf theorizes that in some way they have provided a shock to the system. The passage can stand as a kind of manifesto or artist's statement, one especially applicable to the memoirist's enterprise: "I only know that many of these exceptional moments brought with them a peculiar horror and a physical collapse; they seemed dominant; myself passive. This suggests that as one gets older one has greater power through reason to provide an explanation; and that this explanation blunts the sledge-hammer force of the blow." The insight goes perfectly with Dillard's bedroom memory, the vividness of the imagining as it is then caged inside the bars of explanation.
I think this is true, because though I still have the peculiarity that I received these sudden shocks, they are now always welcome; after the first surprise always feel instantly that they are particularly valuable. And so I go on to suppose that the shock-receiving capacity is what makes me a writer. I hazard the explanation that a shock is at once in my case followed by the desire to explain it. I feel that I have had a blow; but it is not, as I thought as a child, simply a blow from an enemy hidden behind the cotton wool of daily life; it is the strongest pleasure known to me. It is the rapture I get when in writing I seem to be discovering what belongs to what. . . From this I reach what I might call a philosophy. . . that behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern; that we-I mean all human beings-are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art.
This demon of an idea, that there may be a pattern hidden behind the contingent-seeming procession of circumstance, is powerful in Woolf, and nearly overpowering in Nabokov. . ." pg. 45.46 Sven Birkerts