Archive for February, 2010

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Happy Birthday!

February 28, 2010

Happy Birthday twin brother!  I know you’re in the process of a move so I thought I’d pick up some of the blogging slack as you make your way across the country.  (P.S.  This is kind of your birthday present so imagine this post with a giant virtual bow on it).

Originally I was going to title this post “Miley Cyrus Sings About Me Reading Proust” –provocative no?

As I was driving around the city yesterday with my MC playlist bouncing from my speakers I was struck by how Miley Cyrus’s paean to failure “The Climb” really spoke to me.  Here are the lyrics that made me gasp with recognition:

‘Cause there’s always going to be another mountain / I’m always gonna want to make it move / Always gonna be a uphill battle / Sometimes I’m going to have to lose / Ain’t about how fast I get there / Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side / It’s the climb, yeah!

Grammar aside that nice encapsulates my feelings (yeah!) as I meet my thirtieth birthday not having reached my self-imposed goal of finishing Swann’s Way.  It’s not about the finishing, it’s about enjoying the book as I read it (or “the climb”–yeah!).

And enjoying it I am!  I did finally come to the “‘Tripe and onions'” dinner party and all I can say is “well played” (that and “Whoa you were really far ahead of me!”)

Shortly after that (as I enjoyed a delightful birthday breakfast sandwich from Panera)  across a new favorite quotation–its a doozy so I’m going to have to break out the block quote

She was wrong, it was this that gave her away, she did not realize that the true detail had angles that could fit only into the contiguous details of the true fact from which she had arbitrarily detached it, angles which, whatever the invented details among which she might place it, would always reveal, by the excess material and unfilled empty areas, that it was not from among these that it had come.

Mayhaps Marcel was a fellow jigsaw enthusiast (or, dare I, aficionado–I do! I do dare!  Watch out wind here comes my caution!)

After reading this quotation…I think I had to read it twice…I have to tip my hat to Ms Lydia Davis.  Proust’s thoughts are so complexly worded and she not only has to understand them herself but then translate them into an understandable format for the English reader.  Very impressive.

Even though I’m not finished (enjoying “The Climb” too much–on multiple levels) I do have a steady pace going and think that I’ll be finished soon.  But first I have to put a copy of “He’s Just Not That Into You” into the post for Forcheville (dude you’re embarassing yourself) and then pull out the stick that finds itself firmly rooted in the nether regions of Mme Verdurin (Oooh..she makes me steam!)

Welcome to our thirties!  Happy reading!

Jon

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Packing Boxes; Unpacking Proust

February 27, 2010

Lost Blog Post Found! Now take into account that the following blog post was written on February 27th. (Also, notice the use of “Egads!” in the opening paragraph–nice, no?)

Egads! My self imposed deadline of ending my 20s by finishing Proust is quickly approaching and here I am still tens of pages away from finishing. I guess I did not adequately account for the amount of time it would take me to pack up my apartment in anticipation of my big East Coast move.

In any case I did stumble across two of my favorite Proustian quotations in my recent reading, and since I have surprisingly little original to say (ok, maybe that’s not so surprising) I will leave you with them–think of them as an early birthday gift from Marcel.

“But the hardness of his steely gaze was compensated by the softness of his cotton gloves, so that as he approached Swann he seemed to be showing contempt for his person and consideration for his hat.” (336)

“‘i do find it absurd that a man of his intelligence should suffer over a person of that sort, who isn’t even interesting-because they say she is an idiot,’ she added with the wisdom of people not in love who believe a man of sense should be unhappy only over a person who is worth it; which is rather like being surprised that anyone should condescend to suffer from cholera of so small a creature as the comma bacillus.” (356)

Justin

P.S. Consider that an early gift from Marcel and me. Happy Birthday (tomorrow), Twinner.

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Making Cattleyas

February 26, 2010

Is this the worst euphemism ever for making love?  What is a cattleya? (I think some research is called for!)

a cattleya

In Odette's Decollatage

So that’s what Swann is rearranging!  It seems rather ornate for one to be wearing along one’s bossom…but who am I  to judge?  (Along with Swann’s ginger mullet this book could be subtitled: Marcel’s Book of Fashion Don’ts)

According to Wikipedia this flower is of the order Asparagales …the same biological order for Marcel’s favorite green: asparagus.  Coincidence?  I think not.  What is that with that vegetable?

Well that’s one question answered…but many more remain (and aren’t easily searchable on Wikipedia).

Question 1:  Why did you tell me the action picks up in part two?  It seems to me to be the same old, same old…intricate metaphors and long asides on human nature.  Not that I’m complaining…some of it is quite nice (I am especially enjoying Proust’s descriptions of the effects of love on Swann) but I don’t think anyone is going to confuse this with a plot-driven page turner.

Question 2:  Does Odette eat at the Verdurin’s every night?  (Rude.)

Question 3:  Is Odette really stupid?  I can’t tell if she really is or this is some kind of French irony that I just don’t get.  Here’s a quote from M. Verdurin, “‘No, no, there’s absolutely nothing going on, and just between us, I think she’s making a great mistake and behaving like a real idiot, which she is, in fact.'”   However when we actually she Odette she seems pretty normal in the old brain department and I’ve already noted he ability to pepper her conversation with allusions to the Ancients.  That seems pretty smart to me.

Question 4:  What’s up with the asparagus?  (I can’t ask this question enough)

I know that you’re further ahead than me so I’ll look forward to your insight on these questions.

Until next time,

Jon

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Ignorance

February 19, 2010

This blog post title works on many levels.

First:  Your ignorance about my ignorance…or rather your lack of knowledge of my lack of ignorance.  On your pedestal you ask with haughty disdain, “Do you know, Dr. Cottard? Odette? The Verdurins?”

Well, yes, I actually do!  I have been reading and making some great headway.  (Well not super great headway…I haven’t actually met Cottard, but Odette and the Verdurins…we’re old friends they’re coming over for a literary barbecue.)

Ignorance number two…the ignorance of Odette.  Have we met a more stupid character?

Here’s a quote from her: “‘I realize I can’t do anything, pitiful little me, compared with all your great scholars…I would be like the frog in front of the Areopagus.'”

Dumb as rocks.

I know that when a person emphasizes their lack of learning by dropping allusions to Classical Greek Culture that we’re working with real numbskull.

So those are my conclusions moving in to Part II.  I thought “Swann in Love” would be good Valentine’s Day fodder, but instead it was more of Proust’s same old, same old (long flowing sentences, check.  Kissing, absent).  This book and going to see a matinee of The White Ribbon left me zero for two on the Valentine’s Day culture front (The White Ribbon is many things…but a romcom it definitely is not–I should have gone and seen Dear John.)

Well I should do less scribbling and more reading.

Until I meet Cottard,

Jon

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Tripe With Onions

February 16, 2010

This post title is brought you by Dr. Cottard. Ahh…inscrutable, zinger-loving master of one-ups-manship, Dr. Cottard.

Do you know, Dr. Cottard? Odette? The Verdurins? Being so far ahead of you makes it a bit difficult to post. I am afraid I am going to give away too much. Oh well, I will step gingerly as I cover plot points from here on out (or you know until you catch-up).

Good news about Book II: Swann in Love–the narrative picks up. It’s also all Swann, all the time. (I seem to remember you commenting on Swann’s presence–or lack thereof–earlier.)

We also learn that our friend Swann is, in fact, quite the ladies man. (He brings a whole new meaning to “Stopping to smell the flowers.”) But enough about the book.

I had a 3-day weekend this week (thank you President Washington and President Lincoln) and decided that to really get inside the book, I would take my bonus day off and have a Proustian Monday, spend the day as I imagine Proust would have. Try and experience life like him. You know, sort of like Method Reading, all the while I would keep detailed notes for posterity. Here’s a rough breakdown of my day:

7 a.m.–I awaken. Look at “Proustian Itinerary.” It seems Proust spent a lot of time in bed. I get comfortable.

7:10 a.m.–Eat a madeleine in bed. Crumbs everywhere. How did he do it?

7:23 a.m.–Still sweeping out crumbs. (Damn cookies!)

7:48 a.m.–Begin searching for time past…think of flowers, bedrooms, church steeples…

7:49 a.m.–Bored.

8:08 a.m.–Start thinking of my Proustian dinner–should have cream of asparagus soup, asparagus casserole, with a side of steamed asparagus…oh, and a madeliene for dessert.

8:21 a.m.–More crumbs!

8:23 a.m.–New dinner menu: Cream of asparagus soup, asparagus casserole, side of steamed asparagus madelienes for dessert

8:49 a.m.–Build unProustian fort–note very difficult with only 2 pillows!

8:53 a.m.–Fort in ruins. Bored. Roll over.

8:59 a.m.–Forget this. (Regis is on!)

So perhaps my day wasn’t very Proustian in the end, but c’mon, I think we all know, Proust wouldn’t have missed Regis and Kelly.

Happy reading,
Justin


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Adieu Combray

February 11, 2010

Whoa heady stuff…avant garde art and Proust.  I was planning a post on the similarities between Damien Hirst’s The Wrath of God and Swann’s Way but now it just feels derivative.  I guess the world will never know why I think Francoise is the formaldahyde to the Nameless Narrator’s shark…c’est la vie.

But I think that you make some good points…this book is slow.  But luckily it’s also quite beautiful.  Here’s a favorite passage:

When on summer evenings the melodious sky growls like a wild animal and everyone grumbles at the storm, it is because of the Meseglise way that I am the only one in ecstasy inhaling, through the noise of the falling rain, the smell of invisible, enduring lilacs.

Pretty.

Nice work Marcel (and Lydia Davis!).

I just finished Part I last night and I guess I’m hoping that in Part II the narrative starts to pick up a little.  A little less 24 Hour Psycho a little more 24 Hour Party People (I haven’t actually seen that movie…but it sure sounds like stuff happens with that title!)  Maybe you’re further along than me and know better.  But until I hear otherwise I’ll keep the dream alive.

And by the way I think your definition of novel is too narrow…drop your prejudices and preconceived notions and just let a book be.  Why do you have to label it?

Zenly yours,

Jon

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Novel Narrative or Not a Novel?

February 10, 2010

I can’t help but notice that in all your puzzle-boasting you failed to mention my invaluable help (that LG sign didn’t just put itself together) in completing your jiggy. If you will recall, last time I visited you wouldn’t do anything but that puzzle and when I suggested something else you say, “We can’t leave. It’s Puzzlepalooza 2010!!!”

But that is neither here nor there.

While I to have been distracted by other books (Point Omega, The Lost Books of the Oydessy) I have also found time for our friends in Combray.

Now as I was reading, I found myself getting frustrated. Perhaps its been my piecemeal reading or sometimes somewhat spotty attention span, but I have, as of yet, not found a narrative arc to this story.

We have finely wrought moments magnified in the extreme. (Proust can go on for a page and a half describing one flower.) But the larger picture has to this point been a bit fuzzy to me. To the point where I was even questioning whether or not this should even be called a novel.

But then in my non-Proust reading (specifically Point Omega and David Thomson’s The Moment of Psycho) I came across references to Douglas Gordon’s avant-garde art installation 24 Hour Psycho and that got me thinking perhaps Proust’s In Search for Lost Time is its novelistic equivalent.

It’s a book that moves at an exaggeratedly slow pace allowing the reader to see the minutest detail of the inner workings of the authors mind. It defies narrative expectation simply because of the size of the effort.

Okay, all that thinking and paralleling has made me tired.

Later gator,

Justin