Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Year of Reading Proust

No readings as yet of Proust, but I've been reading The Year of Reading Proust, and it's actually not about Proust when what happens during the year the author is reading Proust. Talk about being several levels removed from reading Proust! But I am enjoying the book because the writer is about my age and speaks to me, again on several levels and I like her sense of humor and sense of life.

Actually, since someone has already been there, done that, I am considering my options. Alain du Bouton also has a similiar Proust book out. That I have even read. Duh! Au revoir, mind.

Standing in line at the supermarket, I'm thinking a much more ORIGINAL stunt would be A Year of Checkout Counter Magazine Diets, as four or five new ones pop up each week.

Could I hack it? Probably not. Would I lose weight? At least a little. The problem is, although I like most foods and am basically omniverous, there is "stuff" I will not touch. Margarine, for one. Non-fat half and half. Total Yuck! Most diet foods. Have you ever seen an "All Natural" label on Egg Beaters, for example? Diet foods tend to be artificial ingredients to the max. Substitue chemicals for calories. Leaner living thru chemistry. Not even a Hobson's Choice? Why poison yourself? Read the labels.

What amuses me no end is that for years all the lipophobes were scarfing down margarine which turned out to be FAR worse for you that butter.

Maybe I should do food in Proust? Besides tea and madeleines is there any? There sure were enough receptions and dinner parties. Maybe that would work. And maybe old Marcel never says a word about what was actually served? Is that even possible with All Those Words.

We shall see.

Odette says, "If you diet, don't eat a lot of artificial foods with chemicals for ingredients. Eat less of everything except fruits and veggies. Eschew trans fats. If it ain't all natural, don't eat it. Bon Appetit!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

The character of the brother who attempted suicide in the movie is the self-described "best Proust scholar in the U.S." At one point in the story, he bemoans the fact that no one reads Proust anymore and also states what a great writer Proust is. Amen. One finds Proust mentioned in the damdest places. The screenwriters obviously honed in on an author well-known but little read. That would be our boy Marcel. I have been doing my own writing of late, and haven't gotten into Total Proust Mode. But winter, and January cometh. Alors!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Year of Reading Proust

Phyllis Rose wrote The Year of Reading Proust. It arrived today from an Amazon seller, and I am liking it already. Rose is an academic and a scholar, while Odette is a former computer programmer who once could have been a scholar and chose Another Path. Getting back to the scholar seems impossible. So there are regrets and a certain gnashing of teeth. It's amazing the pull that Proust still exercises. Books, movies, discussions, reading. We ask ourselves why? Maybe an answer will come. This is my hope. There is no point in nattering on about Proust for a year. Is there? I think not. So we'll hope this doesn't degrade to nattering.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Sonata CD arrived

I am underwhelmed by the Saint-Saens sonata. It's going to require my sitting down and listening with concentration a few times. Not that it's bad. I just didn't find it as riveting as Marcel did and wasn't even sure I correctly identified the petite phrase. Oh well. Must be a problemo with my tin ear.

Off to a writer's conference which mayhap will inspire.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Proust Receives Prix Goncourt in 1919

Today the NYTimes announced that Jonathan Littel, an American ex-pat won the 2006 Prix Goncourt for a 913 page book, Les Bienveillantes.

Proust's 1919 prize swirled in controvery for several reasons. The prize is supposed to go to a young writer, and Proust was 48, and the feeling was that the prize should have gone to a war novel or at least to someone who had served in the Great War. Proust had asthma and was excused from service. What a disaster that would have been!

When I read the article in the Times, I realized that a) I would never win the Prix, b) I would never win any great literary prize, and c) I probably would not win any MWA or Agatha awards either. Won't climb a tall mountain or cross a great desert on a camel. Like Proust, I was never adventurous, except in the mind which is the best and safest place to have adventures.

It was fitting that France awarded Proust his prize. If they had done it sooner, then 1919 would have been open for another writer. Windows of opportunity open and slam shut.


Monday, November 06, 2006

In Search of Something Original

Merde! I'm still smarting from my new knowledge that the the idea of blogging a reading of Proust is so yesterday. Makes me want to skulk around and forgot the whole project.

Being in IT (Information Technology, 'computers' for you Luddites) for 20+ years has left its mark. I'm no longer a scholar or even a thinker in the academic sense. Instead I'm more of a logician. Me? How could this has happened? Of course it helps cut through the crap and the bullshit. Leading the sacred cows to the slaughterhouse , however, wins won no medals. I confess to a competitive bent, so unattractive in a young lady of my generation, or even a grown woman.

Nonetheless, ladylike, I stop and smell the flowers. Maybe the hawthorns? For sure the linden trees. Will I even have patience with Proust? What if I hate him now? Can I even be honest about the whole endeavor?

We will find out all these things down the road in Foxborough.



Saturday, November 04, 2006

Not terribly originale. . .

Merde! I thought I was the only person ever to devote a year to reading Proust and blogging it and the world is full of us. There is indeed, nothing new (nouveau) under the sun except maybe the first Beaujolais.

So here are some links to other Proustians.

Odette will be generous with links to others and citing opinions of others. We're all in this together, right?

C'est Bon!


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Proust, The Early Years

I got out George D. Painter's Proust biography, astonished that it was written in 1959. He provides photos and maps and good references. If Proust were writing today, he might publish his great work as memoir instead of a novel, as he used his life but he synthesized and shaped and molded like some of today's memoirists, except he called it fiction. Too bad others don't always follow his example.

The Sonata has been shipped, and I am chomping at the bit to listen to it. Any number of classical "tunes" are sort of like a cheapy pop songs. If you can hum it, does that make it cliched and sentimental. I don't think so.

But then, I used to like Rod McKuen. Way back when God was a boy. I like to think that my tastes are catholic.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Vinteuil's Sonata

Why is it so difficult to find a recording of Saint-Saens Sonata in D-Minor for Violin and Piano Opus 75? This music inspired the "petite phrase" that became the love song for Swann and Odette. I've been looking for this recording off and on and finally found it in stock (barely) at Amazon. Ordered it, and am looking forward to listening to it over and over in an attempt to make out the peculiar fascination of the music for Proust.

In his biography, Proust, The Early Years, George D. Painter says of Proust, "his imagination was captured by the chief theme of the first movement, a mediocre but haunting melody whose only musical merit is its simplicity and whose fascination comes from its very banality, like that of a popular song. . . " page 214.

The album has a nice cover that might be a French Village where Proust walked and pondered, in fact it looks like Swan's Way. There's a bit of serendipity here, a nice omen.

Will I be able to recognize the phrase?


Monday, October 30, 2006

Paddlin' Madeleine Home

I raised to my lips a spoonful of the cake... a shudder ran through my whole body and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place.

Proust describes eating a madeleine, really a cookie, and the past comes rolling back. A madeleine mold resides somewhere in the bowels of my kitchen cabinet. Once I have made the cookies, I'll share how good they really are and whether this recipe, which looks like a pain in the butt, is worthwhile.


4 eggs at room temperature
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 cu sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

Make this recipe for 48 madeleines. If you only have molds for 24, make half the recipe. (Don't you love it?)
The melted butter musn't stand too long.

Grease well and flour pans for 4 dozen madeleines.

Place oven racks near the bottom of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Beat eggs with salt, and add sugar gradually, until the mixture is pale and very thick. ('Forms the rope' in cookspeak). The mixture drops from the beaters to form a rope that gradually disappears. Add vanilla. You will need to beat longer than you think.

Sift about one-quarter of the flour at a time over the egg misture. Fold it in until no flour shows.
Add the butter about a tablespoon at a time and fold it in as quickly as possible. Fill the prepared pans about three-quarters and bake until brown, about 10 minutes.

Yields 4 dozen or 2 dozen depending.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Odette in the Georges Pompidou Centre Restaurant in Paris

Proust Whore

My favorite Monty Python episode: Summarize Proust Contest