Archive for November, 2009

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Doleful Eyes and Snufflepagus

November 30, 2009

Oh you guilt me with the doleful eyes of sad Marcel!  As he looks out from your last post I can only think I’ve let him down.  He seems to be thinking, “Sacre Bleu!  Put down that Agatha Christie and pick up À la Recherche Du Temps Perdu mon ami!”

Well Marcel my most sincere pardons. I’m back with you now.  But how did you know what I was reading!?!  (Why that’s a mystery fit for Hercule Poirot, non?–isn’t that a merry little circle!)

I was puzzled by some of the things in your earlier post…your knowledge of the life and times of Freud outmarches mine by quite a distance.  Who is Wolfman?  Is your play going to imagine a meeting with the actual Wolfman…full moons and whatnot (Go Team Jacob!)?  If so then I’m afraid you’re tiptoeing mighty close to copyright infringement of my Erich FrommBride of Frankenstein two-hander that I’m currently workshopping.

That was my first point of confusion.  My second: Your Muppet equivalent for Swann is Big Bird?  Big Bird?  My vote goes to Snuffy (the Snufflepagus).  I think its his melancholy.  (Either that or Fozzie…gotta love Fozzie).

I haven’t been reading as much of Swann’s as I’ve meant to…some, but not a lot.  (I was in fact reading some Agatha Christie–but how Proust knew beats me! You know what its like once Poirot starts sleuthing…the pages just cannot turn fast enough.)  But I was reading some Proust just know and it just makes me want to read more and more (and more!).

I do have some predictions…maybe that will be fodder for the conversation.

1.)  Religion is going to be a theme…he spent 10 pages talking about that church steeple…something’s got to come of that.

2.) M. Legrandin will play a larger role.

That’s all I’ve got.

Happy reading.

Jon

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He’s Waiting…

November 25, 2009

File:Marcel Proust 1900.jpg

…for you to post something.

You don’t want to disappoint Marcel, do you?

Justin

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“Now, That’s What I Am Talking About!”

November 22, 2009

That’s what I envision Sigmund Freud exclaiming as he sits in his smoked-filled Viennese study as he reads Part I of the Combray section of Swann’s Way. “See Wolfman?!? See Carl Gustav Jung?!? See Anna?!? Proust gets me!”

Okay, I’ll stop there because I don’t want to give away too much of the one-act I am currently workshopping. The working title is “Are You AFreud of Fiction?”

It’s a musical.

Now, I think you might be the first (only?) person to tie the boot-stomping wonders of “Achy-Breaky Heart” to Proust’s masterwork. I can’t help but think there’s a very good reason why.

And I’ll just leave it at that.

I just realized that I am well into my post, and I’ve failed to mention how much I am loving the eccentric characters who we’ve met in this book. Whether it’s the grandmother who gives age inappropriate “educational” or “historical” (read: used) gifts. The great-aunt who claims never to sleep. Not only does she claim not to sleep she demands that her household staff play along.

I also came to my first madeleine moment in the book. It got me thinking of a potential  Sesame Street version of Swann’s Way.

I see Cookie Monster laying in bed with a pen and paper saying: “I think back to my first bite of that delicious cookie. One, one delicious bite of cookie. I cannot wait to take the second bite, Two, two delicious bites of cookie. Cookie, cookie, cookie!”

In the background we see Big Bird (Swann?) from the window. He looks in the window, smiles, and waves.

Oh, and Big Bird has a mullet.

Well, I’ll be reading more in the coming days. Until then,

Justin

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Proust and Nachos

November 20, 2009

Bully for you for reading the endnotes!  I’ll admit I was lazy and didn’t flip to the end to get the cultural context of that particular reference.  Had you not reported thusly I’d be continuing to picture Swann with a mix between and ducktail and a pompadour.  Now I’ll imagine him as Billy Ray Cyrus circa 1992 in his “Achy Breaky Heart” days:

My discovery of the day was finding out that nachos and Proust just don’t mix.  I took my copy of Swann’s with me to the local Qdoba during my noon lunch break–thinking I’d read a couple of pages while enjoying some delicious three-cheese nachos.

The way I usually eat and read is to take a bite, read a sentence while I chew.  Take another bite, read another sentence–before you know it my belly is full and I’ve finished five more pages!

Well today I took a bite and tried to read a sentence…but it was so long!  By about the third clause of the sentence the first cheesey chip got eaten and I got hungry…so I thought I’d break protocol and take a break mid-sentence for another delectable tortilla.  Then when I went back Proust I couldn’t find my spot–so it was back to the beginning. But by that point I’d finished the second chip.

It didn’t take long to realize that this would be a Sisyphusian task.  So I put Proust away and listened to the end of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me (Oh how I love topical political satire!)

But I did read a little bit more…shortly after my last post (like another three pages after!) the cookies finally made their appearance so I was able to sleep better.  Sleep better until I got to this quote…”While my aunt was conferring thus with Francoise, I was going to Mass with my parents.”

Hold it right there Nameless Narrator!  I’m sure you think this is harmless (well I’m not sure, but it works better for my argument)…but I say nay!  Nay!   How can Nameless Narrator report the banal back and forth of Francoise and his aunty when he’s away at church? (Another topic–did the description of her head confuse you–“her sad, pale, dull forehead, on which, at this morning hour, she had not yet arranged her false hair, and where the bones showed through like the points of a crown of thorns or the beads of a rosary”–I mean the phrenologist inside of me (inside all of us) is intrigued…but really–where’s the footnote on that one?).

Methinks this was made up.

Now I know it’s a novel so it’s all actually made up, but there has to be a level of accountability in this fictional world and right now I’m not seeing it.  I don’t know if I even still believe that Nameless Narrator even ever ate a cookie.

What is truth?

Jon

P.S.  On a completely non-Proustian note I think everyone should listen to the Slate Audio Bookclub Podcast…I just rocked out the Raymond Carver edition the other day and it was quite scintillating.  It’s my new favorite podcast (But I still love you too, Andrew Marr’s Start of the Week!) and I want to share it with the world!

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Proustian Mullets

November 19, 2009

I, too, am enjoying Swann’s Way. Despite its page-long paragraphs, rambling, multi-clause sentences–there is something undeniably enjoyable about Proust’s trip down memory lane.

My favorite part of the book so far would have to be the physical description of Swann:

“In fact one could recognize him only by his voice, it was difficult to make out his face, his aquiline nose, his green eyes under a high forehead framed by blond, almost red hair, cut Bressant-style….”

“Hold it!” I said to myself what is this “Bressant-style” Proust speaks of?

Well, conveniently, Lydia Davis (my intrepid translator) has provided a very illustrative note at the end of the book explainging:

“Bressant-style: Jean-Paul Prosper Bressant (1815-86) was a well-known actor who introduced a new hairstyle, which consisted of wearing your hair in a crew cut in front and longer in the back.” (445)

That’s right, our friend Swann is sporting what is commonly referred to today as a “mullet.”

Business in the front, party in the back…and all Proust.

And it was with that, that I knew I was destined to like this book.

Justin

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Regrets, I’ve Had Few

November 14, 2009

…but on of them isn’t reading Swann’s Way (by the way the subject post and this first sentence fragment should be sung to the tune of that Paul Anka/Frank Sinatra classic “My Way” or “Strangers in the Night”–just make sure its Sinatra!).

Well its Friday night and I’m home reading Proust.  I can’t decide if this makes me really intellectual and cultured or just nerdy.  I think I’ll let you make the call.

But part of the reason I’m spending my Friday night thusly is because I’m enjoying this book so much.  So far its a corker!  Sure there’s some room for complaint…let me enumerate

  • Not a lot happens. I’m on page 43 and this guy is still in bed.  At this rate this 450 page book is going to end at breakfast.  And where are the damn madeleines?  Bring on the cookies!
  • Some of the metaphors are a little…extended. For instance:

My mother did not come, and with no consideration for my pride (which was invested in her not denying the story that she was supposed to have asked me to let her know the results of some search) asked Francoise to say these words to me: “There is no answer,” words I have so often since then heard the doormen in grand hotels or the footmen in bawdy houses bring back to some poor girl who exclaims in surprise, “What, he said nothing? Why, that’s impossible! Did you really give him my note? All right, I’ll go on waiting.”  And–just as she invariably assures him she does not need the extra gas jet which the doorman wants to light for her, and remains there, hearing nothing further but the few remarks about the weather exchanged by the doorman and a lackey whom he sends off suddenly, when he notices the time, to put a customer’s drink on ice…

Um..what were we talking about?  What was that doorman like?

  • The narrator’s a little creepy. The little dude is staring at his mom’s face planning where he’s going to give her a kiss.  That’s a little weird.

But I like it…and I can’t decide if its because of the idiosyncracies listed above or in spite of them.

Here’s something I know I like.  The narrator as a little boy thinking “I had heard people say that George Sand was an exemplary novelist.”  What a delightfully nerdy little kid!  I’m probably just jealous because when I was little I wasn’t so much weighing the relative merits of gender-conflicted novelists as trying to be funny because I thought that when people on TV watched TV they were watching us.

And don’t worry…I’ve just come to expect that you identify with every major character in fiction from The Hunchback of Notre Dame‘s Quasimodo to The Secret Garden‘s Colin (I’ve told you…it’s not that noticeable).  And I imagine it will continue…when we read Moby Dick you’ll be Ahab, when we read Watership Down you’ll be a bunny.

Well I think I’ve written enough for one night (Proust makes me wordy…its contagious!).

Adieu,

Jon

 

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Proust C’est Moi

November 12, 2009

I had originally planned to further outline the parallels between the life of of Marcel Proust’s as of yet unnamed narrator and myself by writing this entire post in French, but then I realized that I had pretty much exhausted my French vocabulary with the title of my post.

So instead I will carry on in English, which should as an added bonus make it easier for you to read, Twinner.

I know what you are thinking, I am once again too quickly jumping to the conclusion that there are undeniable similarities between myself and the protagonist. You will probably throw my earlier claims of “Dodo Brooke c’est moi!” (We’re both idealists!) and “Frog and Toad c’est moi!” (Give me a break already, I was four.) But this time I really think I have something.

On page 1 of the book Proust tells us how his narrator falls asleep while reading and he feels like he becomes a part of the narrative. Me too!

Sure, our narrator is reading about “a church, a quartet, the rivalry between Francois I and Charles V.” and I am reading mysteries featuring deceptively clever elderly sleuths and the latest happenings of the glitterati. (Thank you very much, People magazine.)

But still, parallels!

Let me just say, that Proust sure can write a sentence. Take this one for instance:

“I did not know that, much more than her husband’s little deviations from his regimen, it was my weak will, my delicate health, the uncertainty they cast on my future that so sadly preoccupied my grandmother in the course of those incessant perambulations, afternoon and evening, when we would see, as it passed and then passed again, lifted slantwise toward the sky, her beautiful face with its brown furrowed cheeks, which with age had become almost mauve like the plowed fields in autumn, crossed, if she was going out, by a veil half raised, while upon them, brought there by the cold or some sad thought, an involuntary tear was always drying.”

Yowza! That’s just one sentence.

Funny you posting that Germaine Greer article in your last post. I saw that myself and almost forwarded to you.

Well, back to Combray,
Justin

P.S. Welcome to the blog Marie. I saw your comment glad to have you reading with us.