Archive for January, 2010


Hold The Phone!

January 29, 2010

I’ve decided my new catchphrase is going to be “Hold the phone!”  I think it’s such a funny interjection/exclamation.  So now whenever anyone says something outrageous or something I disagree with this is what I’m going to say.
“Hold the phone!”

But worry not I’m not in disagreement with your last post…I too think that Proust is like a milkshake and like Peanuts and sometimes like a peanut milkshake.

Some confessions:

  1. When you started comparing Swann’s Way to a milkshake, I imagined doleful Marcel singing, “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard” in a thick French accent while cavorting on a merry-go-round.  Thinking about this still amuses.
  2. I was a little disappointed when you started talking about Snoopy and Linus and the gang–from your post title I thought we were going to be talking groundnuts.  You know I don’t “get” Peanuts (Hold the phone!).  I’m more of a Family Circus man (not those confusing Family Circuses (Family Circusi–hold the phone!) where you have to follow the long, convoluted trails…more the Family Circuses where the parents flash forward to their old age and look wistfully back on their children’s rambunctious youth (that PJ!).)
  3. I haven’t gotten much further in Swann’s Way.

Gosh I really intend to hunker down and get to reading.  But other stuff keeps popping up…book reviews of scholarly publications, History of Love for Books and Bars, endless reruns of Dragnet available via streaming on my Roku (in yesterday’s episode Joe Friday wrestled a grenade from a troubled teen–“The pin, Bill!  The pin!”).

But the deadline for my review is early next week…so after a weekend of poring through a scholarly tome, Swann’s Way will be a welcome respite.

So soon, I’ll get to finishing (I promise).

Until then…recalcitrantly yours,



Proustian Peanuts

January 24, 2010

First of all, you already know that you are the pride of the Oxford Introduction to Latin…no need to pander to Quintus with your periodic latinate phraseology. Stop pandering.

I agree that we’ve been reading this book too slowly. I too have been forgetting the importance of characters I met earlier in the story. (I had several head scratching moments as Legrandin made a second appearance.)

I’ve been trying to pick up the pace this weekend as well, but this book is a book that I can really only a read  a few pages at a time. It’s a book that has to be sipped and not guzzled. It’s kind of like a milkshake…you take in too much, too fast and you end up with a head ache. (It’s also, thick and dense, you know like a milkshake. I sure could go for a milkshake.)

Maybe because it Sunday, and shortly after reading a few pages of Swann’s Way I was flipping through the Sunday Comics, but is it just me or are there a lot of similarities between Proust and Peanuts?

Both narratives features inordinately philosphical youngsters attempting to comprehend the world. I don’t know aobut you, but I’ve always pictured Bloch dragging around a ratty blue blanket, sucking his thumb while seeking spiritual enlightenment. Charlie Brown and Proust both even pine after a red-headed girl.

Perhaps we will find that our young narrator is befriended by a charismatic beagle with an active dream-life.

Now that would be unexpected turn.



Swann’s Way or Swann’s Way

January 20, 2010

So as I was reading yesterday I had a slight epiphany that perhaps I’ve been reading this book incorrectly from day one.  My sudden insight revolves around the title of this first installment in Proust’s magnum opus (Note Latin in my last two posts!  Quintus would be proud*)

Now I’ve been reading this book assuming the title meant the manner in which Swann lived…as in “Oh don’t take it too much to heart that’s just Swann’s way.”

But then I was reading yesterday and they go into detail about the expression “the Guermantes way” (an example: “‘There Francoise,’ said my aunt, ‘what did I tell you? Didn’t I say they must have gone the Guermantes way?'” The nameless narrator goes on to expound that there were two paths to choose from when they were in Combray–the aforementioned, “Guermantes way” and the way that passes by Swann’s house (i.e. Swann’s way–or the Meseglise way as it’s also known).

Now this may seem unimportant…but I’ve been reading wondering why Swann is not a larger character.  Granted his shadow looms large throughout the narrative…but we don’t get to know him, to see his “way”.

But if the way is this path..a path steeped in metaphor…why that a whole other kettle of fish!

The narrator says of the Meseglise way (Swann’s Way?):

“About Meseglise-la-Vineuse, to tell the truth, I never knew anything about the ‘way’ and some strangers who used to come and stroll around Combray…”

“…for me Meseglise was something inaccessible as the horizon, concealed from view, however far we went, by the folds of landscape that already no longer resembled the landscape of Combray”

“Since my father always talked about the Meseglise way as the most beautiful view of the plain that he knew”

It’s a path of mystery and beauty and inaccessability.

So maybe this whole book is about a road…a metaphorically hefty road.  A road like that road in The Road (full of metaphors that road).  I bet this wouldn’t be a mystery at all if you spoke/read French–then the homonym confusion would be nonexistant.

So that was my thought…I guess only reading on will tell.

And speaking of reading on…I need to pull the lead out.  I’ve been so lackadaisical in my reading that I’m encountering characters that I know I’ve come across before, but for the dickens I can’t remember who they are (sorry Vinteuil!).  That’s a wake up call to get moving!

One character I don’t have to worry about ever forgetting made another (all too brief!) appearance in the story…Bloch pops up again on page 149.

I’ll leave you with the Bloch-themed quotation:

I liked finding its image again in paintings and books, but those works of art were quite different–at least during the early years, before Bloch accustomed my eyes and my mind to subtler harmonies–

If Bloch made that much of an impact I think he has to be on this way back to the story!

As am I (on my way back to the story of Swann’s Way),


*For those of you who didn’t take Latin at Grinnell College in the early 00s–Quintus is the intrepid protagonist of the Oxford Introduction to Latin Textbooks.  For those of you who did take Latin–you gotta love Quintus!


An Answer To Your Riddle Of The Ages

January 14, 2010

Ah it’s a doozy of a question you pose in your last blog post my twin…let’s see if I can tackle it.

First you posit that since you were a philosophy-loving youngster that it lends credence to the fact that the  nameless narrator may be able to simultaneously toddle and parse Bergotte.  Granted when you weren’t writing exegeses on the Apples and Banana’s song and “Baby Beluga” you were forcing me to re-enact the biblical sacrifice of Abraham and Isaac (“Do you feel the Fear and Trembling yet?”).  But you were also a teenager who liked, nay required, his “tucky-tuck” to fall asleep at night.  So the mystery still remains.

No my proposal to the answer of your riddle may be a little bit deep (I’ve had a glass of wine tonight…and you know what the Latins said…in vino Jon gets really, really smart–I actually took Latin, so I know this.  I also know they called streets “vias” and that that “v” was pronounced like a “w”.)

Well here goes…I think the nameless narrator’s age cannot be quantified…although he may be just a little sprite (and therefore unable realistically to quote, let alone understand, Bergotte) he’s only presented through the prism of the fully-grown (and apparent Bergotte-literate) adult narrator.  You cannot remove the adult from his representation of the child…he’s presented the child with knowledge that he only gained later as an adult.  So the child is at once 8 (A good guess…I had him pegged at 7 and 3/4) and 42 (I think).

Therefore the answer is both all ages and no age.

Whoa…now you may need a drink!

I just don’t think any person under the age of 20 would have the perspicacity to eviscerate Legrandin as our narrator does around page 130.  He just pops the reader’s bubble regarding this character.

A dramatic way to re-enter the storyline…but I’m back and making progress.

You’ll be hearing from me again soon.

Yours in Proust,



Riddle Me This

January 12, 2010

Exactly how old is our young, nameless narrator supposed to be?

I feel this question is begging to be asked. First he can’t go to sleep without getting tucked in and now he drops this nugget on us:

“Above all else I loved [Bergotte’s] philosophy, I had pledged myself to it for life. It made me impatient to reach the age when I would secondary school and enroll in the class called Philosophy.”

I’m not saying it’s impossible that our young narrator responded so viscerally to the philosophy of an artist. Why at that age (I am guessing 8, by the way) I too was heavily influenced by an philosophical artiste that was mold breaking.

His use of meter and rhyme, stirring imagery, vivid characterization, complex language. All that, and just like me he “liked to eat, eat, eat apples and bananas.”

Yes, I too was deeply influenced by the troubadour of childhood, Raffi. Although come to think of it, he didn’t make me look forward to secondary school, but he did make look forward to snack time. (What can I say, I really like to eat, eat, eat apples and bananas.)

So maybe, it’s not the same thing after all.



Cornelius Vanderbilt

January 8, 2010

Or “Why I haven’t been posting.”

I got myself into one of those situations where you sit on a library book for long enough and then suddenly find that its due in a week and you still have 450 very dense pages left to read about a famed railroad magnate.  And the book won the National Book Award for Nonfiction so you almost *have* to read it, but in order to finish it without breaking your bank in library late fees you have to do nothing but read, read, read about Cornelius Vanderbilt all day long.

I think we’ve all been there before.

I’ve been beating myself up over not posting (luckily I have the upper body strength of an 85 year old woman with no upper body strength) but it seems I’m still ahead of you.  Get the lead out Jeffryes!

I’ve only got thirty pages left in The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt and then I’m really going to focus on Proust-y again.  Although I use it to scapegoat my lack of Swanning, I’m actually quite enjoying reading about this “robber baron” and my reading will pay out dividends for you (much like Vanderbilts railroads!) as I get to drop informative nuggets about the life of Vanderbilt into everyday conversation (example: “You’re as unforgiving to me as  Cornelius Vanderbilt was to Jay Gould–lighten up!”) and allow me to draw labored parallels between the Vanderbilt’s life and Swann’s Way (can anyone say “Parallels between the Narrator-Swann relationship and that of Cornelius Vanderbilt and Daniel Drew in the Erie War”?)

Look the fun’s already beginning.

So you’ll hear from me again soon and it’s going to be all Proust and asparagus and memory.



P.S.  I knew you’d love Bloch!


Fruit Baskets of Friendship

January 8, 2010

Well, Twin Brother, when you’re right, you’re right.

Just a few weeks ago (I know, I know, I am behind) you mentioned the comic whirlwind that was Bloch. Nameless Narrator’s, shall we say “quirky” young friend who is oblivious to rain, time, and maybe (just maybe) tact.

But in your celebration of this character you failed to note the narrator’s family’s main criticism of Bloch:

“They would have preferred for me, over Bloch, companions who would have given me no more than is suitable to give one’s friends, according to the laws of bourgeois morality; who would not not unexpectedly send me a basket of fruits because they  had been thinking of me with affection that day…”

This beg’s the question: Why? Why would you ever discourage someone from sending you a fruit basket.

A nice selection of kiwis, oranges, grapes, and pineapple can send so many messages ranging from “Welcome” to “Merry Christmas, I don’t know you well enough to get you a real gift.”

Yes, indeed, the fruit basket is a beautiful thing. If one expectedly arrived on my door, I wouldn’t kick it to the curb. (I’m just saying.) And that is why Bloch won me over.

He’s a peach.