Archive for the ‘Swann’s Way’ Category


Bon Nuit, Marcel!

March 25, 2010

***Note:  This was actually written on Monday…but it looks like I forgot to push the “publish” button.  Well here it is, better late than never…but  if things don’t make sense chronologically you’ll just have to imagine that you’re reading this on Monday (hence all the references to Two and a Half Men)

That’s right twin I’m putting this book to bed.  I officially finished the book yesterday while I sat and waited for a diner in Brooklyn (not terribly creatively called Diner) to open and serve me some brunch while on vacation.  So as I salivated over thoughts of sticky buns, bloody mary’s and eggs six different ways I made my way through the end of volume one Proust’s mega-novel.

And since I’m posting the end of the book first here on the blog I’m claiming this title as a victory for me.  Really its a victory on many levels.  (Those levels–1.  I’m reporting finishing first 2. I actually found a book we both liked).

As Mme. Cottard says of Marchard’s portrait, “you aren’t fashionable, you aren’t really cultured, you aren’t up-to-date, unless you have an opinion…”

Well an opinion I have and its definitely pro-Proust.  I was using this selection as a test case for future Proust reading and I think I’m definitely going to delve into volume 2 of À la recherche du temps perdu. If for no other reason than to learn the narrator’s name (btw…irony police let’s put an APB on the last section of this book where the narrator extols the names of things and then refuses (blatantly!) to give his name) and to find out just what level of creepiness our nameless friend achieves as an adult…first the over the top mother loving and now his stalker-ish tendencies towards Gilberte–not to mention that caginess about his name.

But that reading can be on my own…what, dear twin, will we read next in tandem?

On the edge of my seat,



Broken Silences

March 24, 2010

Hello Twin Brother,

No doubt you were thinking that I had all but forgotten about my blogging duties. (Do you like how I assume that I can read your mind? Move over, Kreskin. Next thing you know I will be bending spoons with my mind.) Well, I thought it was about time I broke my blog silence and provide some parting thoughts on Swann’s Way.

Yes, that’s right, I said “parting thoughts.” The reason for my self-imposed silence is because I actually finished the book full of fun over a week and I thought it best I refrain from posting my various and profound thoughts on the closing portions of the novel as I might inadvertently give away a key plot point and ruin your enjoyment of the rest of the book. You know, it would be sort of like telling someone the end of the movie version of A Walk to Remember while they are in the midst of being smitten with the charming early scenes with Mandy Moore. (Damn that movie for breaking my heart–The Love Story–Not that that’s a very high bar–of our generation, I say.)

All in all, I have to admit I really enjoyed the book. It can be exhausting to read, and some of the observations Proust made probably could have been more simply stated (e.g. asparagus is good) in sum total it is a beautifully written book and there are some spectacular sentences. (And you know what I sucker I am for a nice sentence.)

Proust also gave me a new favorite euphemism: Making cattleya. In fact, I can’t wait for the next person to jump in line ahead of me or cut me off in traffic so that I can yell out with righteous indignation, “Hey buddy, go cattleya yourself!” When I’m greeted with a look of confusion, I’ll follow it up with: “Well, I guess someone never read Proust.”

And then I will run.

As fast as I can. (I don’t really like confrontation.)

Well, that about sums it for me. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts. Oh, and before I forget, I’ve been thinking about our next book. I am thinking Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth. Get yourself a copy, and let me know when you are ready to read.



What We Think About When We Should Be Reading Proust

March 15, 2010

Oh twin…I have stalled in the reading of Proust (once again!).  The very virtues you extol in your previous post are all the things that catch me up when I sit down to read.  The combination of the lyrical prose and long meandering sentences equals a one-two punch on my interest level.  After a quick shake of my head to revive my flagging eyelids I usually throw my copy of Swann on to the sofa and turn on the Amazing Race (P.S.  I haven’t seen tonight’s episode yet–so no spoilers!   I’m waiting to watch it tomorrow when once again I pick up Proust only to give up a fit of loathing that is equally pointed at me and Marcel (for god’s sake man couldn’t you employ a single declarative sentence?!).

Anyway since you’re further along than me perhaps you know the answers to some of the questions I think about when I should be reading ahead.

1.)  Does Odette marry Swann?  Is she the unfortunate match referred to in part one?

2.)  If so…is our nameless narrator preparing to go through a similar path to the one encountered between Swann and Odette in “Swann in Love” with Swann’s daughter?  (Swann’s Path = Swann’s Way–what does this title mean!?)

I know the parallels aren’t perfect…for instance the nameless narrator seems quite chummy with the father of his love (i.e. Swann) while Swann (the earlier incarnation) doesn’t appear to know Odette’s father from Adam.  (Unless of course Odette’s father makes an entrance late in the novel!  If he does I hope he’s a fictional father along the lines of the John Goodman in Coyote Ugly–blustery, curmudgeonly, but deep down inside he just wants his daughter to succeed…no matter how many table tops she has to dance on top of!)

Well it’s late…so I probably won’t try to crack open Swann‘s tonight–that would be a one-way ticket to Slumberland and I have laundry to do yet.

But tomorrow.  I promise.

Night, night



Euphemisms 101

March 13, 2010

I will be the first to grant that Marcel Proust is an author of many talents. Beautifully written, flowing, multi-clause sentences. Thought provoking ideas. A microscopic eye for detail. But one area where the man could really use some help is in the ol’ euphemism departments. You touched on this a few posts ago with your exploration of everyone’s favorite flower, the cattleya.

At first, I was willing to give Proust the benefit of the doubt. I thought flower as metaphor for sex–sure, why not? But then it happened: I would like to call your attention to page 384:

“Besides that time (the first time they ‘made cattleya’) when she told him she was coming from Maison Doree…”

That’s right Swann and Odette don’t “Get Busy” “Get it on” “Make whoopee” (am I the only one who misses The Newlywed Game?). No, no, they “make cattleya.”

Does that even make sense? Can you “make” a flower? Really, wouldn’t anything have been better?

I just finished Part II: Swann in Love. I have plans of truckin’ on through Part III and then I will be bidding adieu to Proust, Swann, Odette, Dr. Cottard, and this whole entire wacky bunch.

See you on the other side of Swann’s Way.



In Search of Lost Blog Posts

March 2, 2010


So it appears that the blog post I wrote on February 27th never showed up. This is a shame for several reasons:

Reason 1: I wrote the entire post on my phone. That’s right, I sat meticulously tapping buttons on my iPhone touch screen for hours. All for the sake of making several insightful comments on the travails of love, complex metahpor, and long, long sentences.

In other words: All things Proust.

Reason 2: I was ahead of the game and posted you happy birthday wishes ealry. Hours (hours, I say!) before our actual birthday occured. Thereby demonstrating my “on the ball-ness” and showing how thoughtful of an individual I am. 

Reason 3: I naturally used the exclamation “Egads!” in my post.

Now, it appears that the internet gods have taken my post as their latest sacrafice and I am stuck writing this frighteningly less original post.

Oh well, I am nearly done with the book, and am hoping to finish it up this week. (It appears that moving really can cut into your Proust reading schedule.)



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!



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)


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