Sunday, December 30, 2007

Proust can change your life

I found a new Proust blogger, and I liked what he (?) had to say.

Can Proust change your life? Time after time. In little ways.

I am always struck dumb by the number of people who are reading and blogger Proust. It's a movement. What an odd kinship we all are.

How cool is that?


Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Guermantes Way

A Christmas gift from me to myelf. I finally finished Young Girls in Flower, the Proust book set in Balbec by the sea where Proust first meets Albertine and her friends.

I was touched an amazed at how the last few pages summarized the whole book, with beautiful lyricism about the sea and the girls and how everything came together. One had earned these fantastic passages by reading the preceding pages, and contemplating Albertine's cheecks hundreds of times. It reminded me of the lyrical Kerouac after many tedious pages about the exploits of Dean Moriarty. I wonder if anyone has ever written a thesis about Proust and Kerouac. It won't be moi.

The odd thing is, I have the idee fixe that Albertine looks like a high school friend of mine, and I can't dislodge it, no matter how I try.

Now, on to The Guermantes Way, and long descriptions of the Guermantes humor which I don't think is anything like Saturday Night Live, or Susan Silverman, or Mort Sahl, Shelly Berman, Bill Murray or Blue Man Group.

I ordered the Proust cookbook or whatever it is, not, I assure you, to make truffled pineapple salad but for the whole experience of food in the Belle Epoque. The January edition of Gourmet Magazine is devoted to Southern Food, and noted that Southern Food is the only food genre, so to speak, that the United States has produced. I daresay this excludes Tex Mex which is derivative, and Yankee Cooking which is not, per se, a whole cuisine but a collection of "dishes."

Last night I made crepes stuffed with chicken and mushrooms napped in a Mornay sauce with some white wine added, and let me tell you this is good and it even looked Christmasy with parseley and bits of pimento for the red and green.



Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Proust Reader

There is a very funny cartoon in this week's New Yorker, the fiction edition, where a man is pointing out his designated Proust reader.

Proust is so big, I am just amazed. Still plogging away at Albertine and Marcel in Balbec. 706 pages into the novel. Savoring. Considering. Contemplating. Wonder what the Proust household was like a holiday time. Was there a Christmas goose? A plump capon? A roast beast. A buche de Noel?

Joyeux Noel, to touts le monde. And pardon my fractured French.


Saturday, December 15, 2007


A link to a blog not Proust, but I loved the discussion of the Italian foods. Yes, cannoli and manicotti and spaghetti and stuffed shells. What's not to love?

The best Italian food I ever tasted was at the SmokeEnders celebration where one of the women who had quit smoking hosted the gang for a bang up homemade Italian meal. Mama mia was it good!

By then I was a backslider and didn't quit for a few more years, but the food was great, even if I was dying to get outside and smoke a cigarette.

Everyone smoking in Atonement, of course. The anti-smokers are bullshit about all the smoking in movies, but that's the way life was and whatchagonnado?

By the way, I am in possession of the world's two best lasagne recipes. Both are a) a lot of work, and b) seriously high cal, but are they ever good.

I am still reading about Albertine and how she pulled the bell after inviting Marcel to her hotel room for the evening. What a tease. He is mystified, having decided apriori that the little "band" had loose morals. He didn't say whether he beat it or whether a servant came or what happened. Obviously he did not kiss and embrace her. This was a funny scene.

Where are the bistros of yesteryear? They have all been ursurped by trattorias and pasta places. This is too bad, as French food is now almost impossible to find. So is German food. The Italians won the food wars. They ordered ziti instead of shells. (Think!)


Friday, December 14, 2007

Is a blog just a public diary?

Inquiring minds want to know. Someone opined that blogging was "thinking in public."

I find the damdest links mentioning Proust. Read down a couple paragraphs and you will find the reference. Proust is renowned throughout the globe. Would he be surprised? The universal is always found in the specific.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hard to Film?

This blogger (?) has posted a list of the most difficult books to convert to film. Guess who is right up there? The movie version of the last volume was great. Who could ever forgot Catherine DeNeuve as Odette? Zowie.

Take a look:

The mother of all links, huh?


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's a Movement!

A fellow-writer told me she was listening to Proust on tape. There’s Proust madness afoot. Cool, huh? I subscribe to a service that puts all Proust references on the net in my mailbox.

The majority of references are in passing, like how the Madeleine made Proust remember, and I just bit into a cupcake and thought about by grandma’s chicken yard. Well, you get the idea.

Other references to all the books, from Proust and the Squid, Madame Proust, to large tomes of critical work about Joyce, Proust and whomever. Extreme literary stuff, parodied by the All England Summarize Proust Contest.

Then there are the Proust bloggers. My favorites are Orange Crate Art and Marcelle Proust. I believe they are both academics.

We have ordinary people who are trying to read or re-read Proust and blogging it occasionally, or habitually like Odette.

Taken together, one thinks the entire world is reading, studying and blogging Proust which is not the case, as one finds out when EYES GLAZE OVER, when the reading and blogging or our narrator is mentioned. Eeeek. A passive sentence.

So anyhow. I have to confess I have been slothful and less than energetic about pursuing Proust lately. Got bogged down with Albertine in Balbec. Onward.

Maybe if I whipped up a recipe of madelines? No? What then?


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Henri Bendel's Christmas Window a la Proust

I read that Bendel's had a window "quoting Proust," but Googling around didn't bring up the quote or any additional info. A fellow blogger and fellow writer has unearthed the details.

This is the Proust quote:
"If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time."

The nights this fall have produced some of the most incredible dreams for both my husband and me. Sometimes we tell each other, "we ate pork last night, and pork promotes weird dreams," but the night before it was chicken and last night beef. Two nights ago I dreamt that I was giving my husband detailed instructions about telling our friends they couldn't come for Thanksgiving dinner because I was shipping off to Iraq. Bloody unlikely.

Dream more. Dream all the time. Visions of sugarplums, whatever they are.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Swann in Love: The Comic

You read it here first:--several paragraphs down into the article:

Andrew Smith writes in the Nashua Telegram (New Hampshire)

"It's unlikely that Marcel Proust could even imagine a comic book when he published "Remembrance of Things Past" from 1913-27, much less that his masterpiece would be adapted to one. Come to think of it, it's still pretty hard to imagine today.

But writer/artist Stephane Heuet is doing just that. His latest book in the multivolume adaptation, "Part Three: Swann In Love, Vol. I (of II)," has been released by NBM Publishing ($16.99), and it's just as delightful as its predecessors.

The writing is faithful, taking its time with the dialogue and story progression. And the art, which owes a lot to early 20th-century comic strips (think "Little Nemo" or "Gasoline Alley") is perfectly suited – being both modern (in being comics at all) and nostalgic (in evoking a bygone era).I have to admit part of what impresses me is that Heuet is trying this at all. I can think of few novels that suggest themselves for comics adaptation less. Yet he pulls it off, adding texture to Proust's immortal prose. Comics: They aren't just for Spandex anymore!

Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at capncomics@aol. com or "

What will something think of next? Proust continues to inspire the widest swath of creativity from the Squid to the comics.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Steady Leisurely Pace

That's moi, reading Proust, with only a kinda-sorta self-imposed deadline.

Now the guilt at being such a snail is gone.

One of these days I must listen to the song "Orange Crate Art." When I was a kid I had some orange crates that served as doll beds, nightstands, hidey holes and useful places to store stuff. Do oranges still come in orange crates? Are they plastic now? Inquiring minds want to know.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Ecclesiasical Proust Archive

What next, you might ask.

The You-Tube stuff kind of barfed on my computer, but the site looks interesting, and anything to do with the All England Summarize Proust Contest is to be lauded.

Today is cat blog day. Thisbe insists on extra love and follows me around. When I failed to pet her quite enough she nipped me on the ankle. Annie is under the weather and allowed Thisbe access to the home office. Which cat will sleep under the Christmas tree this year? Which cat will attack the lower ornaments? Which cat will read Proust? There's an easy answer. Which cat will go out into society? Annie, of course.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Check out the hawthornes

Another Proust blogger on the radar:

Check out the cool photos of the hawthorne trees.

Yesterday's post was a bit mean-spirited, yanno? That's what blogging is: thinking aloud, and sometimes one should bite one's tongue.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Reading Proust Ain't All Beer and Skittles

I have no idea where the old term "beer and skittles" came from. Did my Dad use it? He had such colorful language. Beer and skittles is something easy and pleasant.

Last night I got tired of Marcel and his endless games with Andrea and Albertine and the other girls. I mean, it sounded so like high school, genteel, and oh so refined by still like bloody high school.

Marcel was nice to the girls he didn't like and cool to the one (Albertine) he liked. And the stuff about the exam, while interesting, didn't exactly advance the plot. Oh! There's a plot? Well, sort of. Getting close to Albertine and all that.

Gossip Girl in Balbec. Can it be? The problem is, I can't force myself to skip pages. What if I miss out on a true gem?

Not only is my goal of reading the entire oeuvre this year going to fall miserably short, I doubt if I'll get through half of it.

So what have I done? I finished my novel, (well, almost); I gave 10 speeches at Toastmasters; planted a garden, did lots of jobs for all my writerly organizations, went to Alaska, Denver, Nevada, New York, cooked up a bunch of meals, mostly good, and spent quality time with the cats. I read a lot of other books, magazines, 3 daily papers, I did a new website, tried to stay in touch with friends, relatives, Romans, countrymen. Seems like a pretty busy year.

I blew off my gym membership for six months (bad!) and sold my old car. I broke my ankle. But I didn't finish Proust. I feel like Sisyphus. Nonetheless. 700+ pages of really fine print ain't nothing. I also read about Madame Proust , but not about Proust and the Squid. I read Kerouac and participated in the anniversary in Lowell. So......

Onward, allons!


Friday, November 23, 2007

Back in bed with the Narrator

Confession: I read in bed.

Young Girls in Flower. Marcel loves the girls because they are girls, not women, girls still becoming, not fully formed. This is what he finds most interesting about them.

Oh course, he is still a young man, not fully formed either. So they are perfect for each other. He takes treats on the picnics, procured by the faithful Francois. I think he has a sweet tooth.

Becoming versus being. Is becoming a writer more interesting than being a writer? When is the "becoming" stage discarded? Is it discarded? Aren't we all in some respect unfinished, always becoming old, middle-aged, creaky, ambitious, bitter, opinionated?

Only when we die will we stop becoming something, and maybe not even then. Only when we're forgotten dust will we stop becoming. In the meantime, Marcel glories in hanging out with the girls in flower, even spurning invitations from St. Loup.

Food for thought, which is the best food on this post-Thanksgiving day.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Grad Student Madness

I love a good rant.

Even better if the writer mentions Proust.

Proust and Kerouac revisited

So, all summer I was on a Kerouac kick, along with readings of Proust. Seemed like an unlikely duo. Lately, working through some New Yorkers from the fall, I found "Drive, He Wrote," by Louis Menand.

On the whole, this is a very sympathetic review of Kerouac and "On The Road." But what stopped me in my tracks was the following sentence.

"'On the Road' is as self-consciously a work of literature as 'A la Recherche du Temps Perdu'--and Proust was a writer whom both Kerouac and Cassady emulated, someone who turned his life into literature." Louis Menarnd, New Yorker Magazine, Oct. 1, 2007.

Maybe my reading Jack and Marcel side by side wasn't so weird after all. How did I not notice this, now, when I certainly would have noticed it when I was 21? I don't read so analytically anymore, no longer being an English major. But what a stunning observation.

Truth be told, I did not find Dean Moriarty aka Neal Cassady so enchanting this time around. Manipulative was the word that came to mind. Something I didn't see at 21. This is a good argument for reading works of literature several times in the course of your life. Something new always pops up.

Back to Proust. He may be just the antidote to the holidays.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The facts, s'il vous plait

Always poking around, looking for Proust "stuff."

Here is a vanilla site that gives the facts of Proust's life and a list of his works.

I have put Proust aside (again) to catch up on the New Yorkers. There is not enough time in the day for reading and writing and cooking and exercise and all the tasks of modern life. My grandmother worked much harder than I do, but I believe she had more leisure. Do we fill up leisure and then complain of no time? Yes?

Did Proust manage time? Yes, when he withdrew from the world and wrote his great work he managed time very well, because he finished his work. Just barely. If he had been gallivanting around in society, the work would not have been completed. Is writing a "leisure" activity? Some would say yes.

In this electronic life of ours with email and instant messages and cells and all of our wonderful hideous gadgets it's hard to categorize what is leisure and what is work. I have to confess that lately, I've no idea.

Tomorrow I must make a pie crust. Thursday is pie day. I'm concocting an apple pie with dried cherries soaked in scotch whiskey. Not my original recipe, but you must admit it sounds quite temping. We are calling it apple pie with drunken cherries. The apples are Golden Delicious and cost so much they are indeed Golden Delicious.

A long way from Proust, but maybe not. I always wonder how the educated American taste buds would react to a meal from Proust's time, when the food all came from someone's garden and was grown without chemicals and additives and the poultry ran around in the yard eating bugs and what have you. We would probably reel from the delicousness of it all. Swoon at the chicken. Savor the the flavorful veggies. With Francois keeping a sharp eye on us.



Sunday, November 18, 2007

Remembering Proust's Death

I always wondered who mourned him most. His brother? The servants? No wife, no children, only one sibling, parents long gone. Was he lonely?

He had his great work, and must have been racing to finish it before death overtook him. Was he in a frenzy? Did he rework his sentences over and over? The last volume is to my mind, the greatest.

These are some of the things I don't know about Proust. In many ways, the more I read and the more I learn, the less I know.


Friday, November 16, 2007

What would Proust drive and other minutiae

Ye gods, am I the only one still reading Scott Montcrief's translation?

One of these days I may spring for a newer Proust translation. The old books seem comforting, somehow. I've had them since I was an undergraduate. No idea where they came from. The covers look too old for me to have purchased them new.

I sometimes bought books at a used bookstore in Houston. They had the entire (surviving) books from the old Seamen's Library in Galveston that had been damaged in the 1901 (?) hurricane. One held a moldy piece of history.

My Proust isn't moldy. It would be nice to have separate volumes, small enough for travel. I normally travel with light paperbacks. Nothing like a big tome to weight one down.



Thursday, November 15, 2007

Reading Proust in England

Found a new blogger. She likes to talk about food and recipes, too, as well as Proust. She's into Sodom and Gomorrah (so to speak) right now in the great oeuvre.

I am currently reading The Joy of Writing Sex Scenes. It's very good, and probably not what you think. Elizabeth Bennet is the author, and I heard her speak last Friday evening at a writing event outside of Boston--not in Foxborough!

Proust intuitively knew what she discusses. Proust intuitively knows everything. I bow before his great genuius. It's just amazing how many are reading and blogging Proust. Or: is there something about bloggers (who are obviously writers) that attracts them to Proust? Is Proust's somewhat confessional style seductive to bloggers?

What is this blogger/Proust relationship all about? Damned if I know. I'm just swept up in it.

The Joy of Blogging Proust?


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It Was The Year Everyone Was Reading and Blogging Proust

Another Proust reader and blogger:

And yet another:

This reader liked the first and last volumes, Swann's Way and The Past Recaptured. Have to admit these are my faves, too. But one has to merit The Past Recaptured, which is won, so to speak, by reading the whole WORK.

The blogger above, booksinnorthport, has an interesting post. When does one actually abandon a book? When I was younger, I would pursue the book to the bloody end, no matter what. This is how I actually got through Moby Dick and others classics. It was how I got through Proust the first time as an undergraduate, that and the fact that I was writing a senior thesis on a group of writers of whom Proust was one.

I had a bunch of false starts with War and Peace and then one Christmas vacation I read it from cover to cover in about a week. Wanted to weep at the end. No, not from relief, but from the final passages about history.

I am having trouble getting through Three Trapped Tigers, but I will. Works of so-called popular fiction, i.e. genre writing, I abandon after 50 pages if it doesn't grab me. Have a whole shelf of those. Some of the authors are famous.

A book I read recently that I would heartily recommend if The Poisonwood Bible. Just knocked my socks off. Kingsolver gets better and better, and I would love to read her latest non-fiction about growing your own food.

Now I have to make a mad dash through my own latest oeuvre, before sending it off to a publisher who will maybe even like it. One gets so close to one's writing that the perspective just disappears.

In the meantime, I am enjoying the narrator and Albertine and the little band at Balbec. With winter approaching, Balbec seems desireable, non? The sun, the sand, the dining room, the snobs, the parading up and down. Does Balbec have a Strand Promenade? I feel I know these people. That's what a great writer does.


The Pleasures of Re-Reading

The books you loved at twenty will be different at forty and still different at sixty. These are arguments for re-reading.


How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read

Professor Bayard's book was reviewed on Sunday in the New York Times.

I read some Proust on Friday and Saturday nights after long brutal day's work. The thing about Proust is, that you know he won't keep you awake past your bedtime flipping pages likes crazy to find out "who dunnit." This can be a good thing.

How tongue in cheek is Bayard's book? Methinks it is.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Back in bed with Proust

Big weekend coming up, and since we are old enough to be sensible, it was early to bed last night. I looked at the two exciting mysteries on my nightstand and thought "no way." The last thing I needed was to be flipping pages past midnight.

Picked up Proust for the first time in weeks. He was meditating upon his introduction to Albertine, and puzzling why the beauty mark on her face seemed to move from brow to cheek to chin. Marcel and Albertine certainly do prove the point that opposites attract. At the seaside he walks a bit and spends a lot of time in the sun (not swimming), while she cycles and plays golf and confesses to being mad about sports. Her Little Band almost presages the flappers. Wonder if anyone ever wrote a thesis about that? Our narrator still doesn't know what to make of her. A very intriguing passage, but half an hour later I turned off the light.

I had a scary dream that might have turned into a nightmare except that the presumably vicious dog guarding the dark warehouse where I was spending the night became a friendly beast that licked my hand.

So this will be the last post until Sunday, because I am off to a writing conference. Meeting with editors and agents and picking up useful advice, schmoozing, probably drinking too much. It's been years since I was seriously drunk, but don't think this would be the right time for that. Proust never mentions wine or spirits. Wonder why.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Passing the time reading Proust: Who Knew?

From the Concord New Hampshire Monitor

What an compelling story. Time in the lab waiting for experiments to finish, passing time by reading In Search of Lost Time. Brilliant deductions. Time passed is perhaps time future.

Now I have yet another Proust book to read. Hard reading Proust when one has to keep up with the Proust books, too.

Right now I have two crime novels I have to finish before the weekend, and then it' s Marcel and me again, baby.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Proust Was A Neuroscientist

A new book making the rounds of the reviewers dealing with memory and our sense of smell and taste. For example, the smell of burning leaves transports me back to my high school years in Brush, Colorado. Fall was in the air, and folks burnt their leaves back then. Barbara Wood and I were walking along the street by the library. I was 16, and telling Barbara that I really, really wanted to attend a "wild party" sometime.

Within the year I had my wish, but that's another topic. The odor of burning leaves. The odor of Old Spice: first boyfriend. The smell/taste of gin: getting horribly drunk on an empty stomach. One of those wild parties. The odor of boiled beef: poverty. Can't help it.

Here are the links:
This non-fiction book has generated lots of buzz. The New York Times had a review yesterday.

Here’s more commentary:

From the Toronto Star:

NRP: Scroll down

The New York Post – Swann In Your Head


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Madame Proust

I finished Madame Proust last night. Of course the ending was sad, with her sickness and death at a relatively young age and leaving the somewhat helpless Marcel, who managed to pull himself together and write his great work.

At some of the writer's groups I've been in, there have been deep discussions of how members really started to write after the death of a parent. Seems to trigger something.

Madame Proust hectored and nagged and cajoled like any mother. Proust's impossible habits--sleeping all day and up (and out) all night with total quiet required during the day would drive anyone batshit. Weird how he always showed up with overcoats and scarves even in mild weather. I know womeome else who does that but she is a frail little thing with no fat on her bones and obviously suffers from the cold. There's a lot to be said for a bit of padding. And poor Madame, walking 10 hours a day at the spa to try to lose some weight.

Is it just me or does pineapple salad with truffles sound rather. . . unappetizing? In days of yore, we sometimes at dined at Le Francais in Wheeling, Illinois, and the meal was often tres truffled but I don't believe the dessert was. Almost sounds like a Roman feast oddity. Pineapples must have been a rare treat.

My husband's father always announced he would only eat the kinds of vegetables that grew in his grandmother's garden. No new-fangled broccoli for him. Rest of family rolled their eyes, of course. I wonder what grew in Swan's garden. Monet had a great vegetable and herb garden. The recipes in the Monet cookbook are so simple that you just know the produce must have been so spectacular it stood on it's own. Meat and fish and poultry, too. Quite frankly, the chickens my grandparents raised were the best, as were the strawberries and the tomatoes. I can mimic the strawberries with organic local ones, but the tomatoes, the tart Kansas tomatoes are gone. Mine were all right this year, better than store bought, but nothing comes close to my Grandfather's. He fed them with horse manure. Maybe that was the trick.

How did we get from Madame Proust to my grandfather's garden? Not so far a jump as you would think. Madame Proust's life was a mirror into the past, and was interesting in her own right, even if her son had not written the great book. How did he do it without her? A miracle of sorts. Something to ponder.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Time Regained, the Movie

Significant Other and I saw this movie a few years ago at Harvard Square. It was shown in the funky cinema in a basement with folding chairs--they frequently have revivals of movies you can't see anywhere else. 50 cents says your local video rental place does not have Time Regained. Probably Netflix does. We are so time-starved (and so picky) about movies that we can't barely get through the On Demand offerings.

Click here for a review:

Catherine DeNeuve is beautiful as an aging Odette, whom I had always imagined as a brunette. I always liked Odette better after seeing the movie. Ruiz was perfect at Marcel, the narrator, and the rest of the cast was stellar. It's definitely worth finding or renting if you dig Proust.

I continue to make headway into Madame Proust, sympathizing with her "female troubles" and intrigued by her dinner parties for Proust's friends. The Dreyfus affair is always riveting, a small precursor of what would happened in Europe during the 30's and 40's. The book explains some of Proust's anti-semitism in the novel. The descriptions of the seaside hotels where she stayed are interesting. We were at one of those old dowagers once on the Ligurian Riviera. It had seen finer days, but one had one's own table, en famille, with the water and wine carried over from meal to meal. The same waiter, alas sometimes the same napkin, and the waiter would become familiar with one's likes and dislikes. Are there still such places?
But I digress.

Today is cat blog day, and this morning there was the de riguer game of chasey-face with somewhat desultory running about the living room. Annie finally settled down on the sideboard, and Thisbe on the dining room table, where they ignored each other until the game was forgotten. Last night I went to bed really early and forgot to check the contents of the cat bowl. Significant Other was awakened in the middle of the night by a cat licking his face, a gentle reminder that the dish was empty. They never come upstairs into our bedroom and bawl for food. It's always just a very gentle reminder. Wake up and feed me.

Off to do battle with HTML. Read some Proust this weekend.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The All England Summarize Proust Contest

This is a classic. You have to admire Maud's mother-in-law. Obviously a lady with a certain amount of leisure.

Everyone is blogging Madame Proust as well as her great son. See below:

And yet more literary musings. Did I list this yesterday?

Sometimes it seems the entire world is Proust obsessed, except here in the Boston area where we in Red Sox Nation are World Series and the-end-of-a-perfect-baseball- season obsessed. The fete yesterday was one for the books. It's like a tsunami of energy is rolling onward.

My question: after Proust secluded himself in the cork-lined room, did he still want to go out into society? Maybe some of my readers know the answer. I have Painter's biography, but have not perused it lately.



Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Crazed Authors

This blogger is a person after my own heart. It's not often that anyone mentions Proust and Kerouac in the same breath, although Odette has been known to. It's comforting to think of kindred souls all over the world. Makes the universe less lonely.

Look at the Proust photo and then the cat in a previous blog. You must admit, the likeness is there.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Do French Scholars Read Proust?

updated 10/31/07

Apparently they (scholars) skim Proust. Kind of heavy lit to "skim." I think Professor Bayard is teasing the interviewer. In fact, they seem to be having a vicious little fliration. He is photographed all in black of course. Just like Bernard Henri Levi. Wonder if they know each other.

Inquiring minds want to know:

The man is saying Proust is unreadable and Proust is eminently readable. What's a reader to do? Plow ahead. I see nothing wrong with dipping in here and there. Seems like that was how I read Proust the first time. Granted, the dips were extended ones, kind of like swimming the channel but not the Atlantic.

I am back with Madame Proust, and trying to figure out what to make of all this mother and son business, and how the parents learned he was gay and all the pussing footing around and then suddenly weird four letter words tossed into letters. It's like I'm reading two books at once. Or something.

I have to confess there are beaucoup books I've read and forgotten. Lots of popular fiction is throw-away, read and forget. I won't forget The Poisonwood Bible, however. Or Lost Time.

In my writing life (yes, there is that), I need to read a couple of books in the next week, enter the Gather/Borders contest and work on my web page, so Proust and I may not meet until mid-November, but Madame Proust will be my companion. She is an interesting woman in her own right and the family life seems typical and yet a little strange.

I am perplexed, but that is nothing new.


It's great to be a member of Red Sox Nation. What a team! What a game! What heart they displayed! I couldn't go to sleep last night from the late hour excitement. But then I had HTML dreams.



Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday is Cat Blog Day

French Cats but without berets. Doesn't this cat remind you of Marcel? Weird.
When I googled the images of French Cats, all sorts of feline possibilities appeared. I don't think Timmy is French at all, rather English, but he must have gone on holiday in France.
What do you think?
A frost is coming to Foxborough this week, and I must hobble out and rescue the geraniums and the last two tomatoes along with the kalanchoe and the miniature rose. Now where to put everything for the winter. Where is the orangerie when you need it? Did Swann have an orangerie? A dovecote? What do we really know about his garden?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Narrator, Neglected

Eeek! It's been a hideous Proustian dry spell, with no reading of Lost Time and not even any progress in Madame Proust.

Odette broke her foot and her ankle (major bummer) and has been taking a novel plotting course and an HTML class, and getting ready for a writer's conference and stuff like that. Reading Ridley Pearson instead of Proust, can you believe it?

Now if I wrote like Proust, I wouldn't need a plotting course, because I could use my life as a plot, except that taking HTML courses and reading Ridley Pearson don't sound as though they would provide any kind of plot at all. Not literary, certainly not genre, not even mainstream fiction, whatever that is. Does it exist anymore? Seems like there's thriller and paranormal and fantasy and romance and a few actual mainstream books like The Kite Runner, but not many of those. What is mainstream fiction anyhow? Anxious minds want to know.

I also began a new novel, not crime fiction, titled, Such Stuff As Dreams. Sort of a historical mainstream romance, but not a gloppy romance, a kind of tough romance. Well, we'll see what kind it is. I do have a plot, though, and turning points, and archetypes and all that jazz.

So Odette has not been dawdling, except her poor injured foot has turned all sorts of interesting colors and refuses to fit into anykind of shoe except a big klunky sneaker. No stillettos, no pumps, no cut little ballet shoes, no boots. Nada. Shapeless houseshoes, mostly. Madame Swann would be appalled. So am I.

Au revoir!


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Madame Proust again

A link to a talk given by the author of Madame Proust.

Hope she comes to the Boston area. After all, isn't it the hub of the universe? Films like "Gone, Baby, Gone," reviewed in today's Globe, would have us believe Boston is the little tight-knit place, corrupt and incestuous, a place where a local dare not get too big for his britches. (Interesting old expression). Think Whitey Bulger.

But we have rambled far from Proust. On the other hand, the Vinteuil's little clan, with it's rules and loyalties, isn't so different from Southie. A great writer always expresses universal truths in the particular, and the more particular, then the more universal. I am not comparing Dennis Lehane to Proust, but any good writer can paint a scene and characters such that we recognize it immediately, by relating it to our own experiences. Growing up, coming of age, the old neighborhood, enough meat for an infinite number of novels.

Back to my HTML studies.



Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Isabelle Archer reads Proust

Lost Time is indeed a good cure for insomnia, as no one has ever accused the great work of being a "page turner" or a tome which one might excitedly stay up all right to read.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Everyone's Reading

Not only is everyone reading and blogging Proust, but everyone is reading Madame Proust, too.

Michael Leddy's take:

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Votre Santé or Proust!

Sometimes the funniest things on the net are the least deliberate. I couldn't understand the photo caption until I remembered that the German word for "cheers" is "Prost," short for Prosit. Maybe now there is a new toast. Proust!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Random Links and Musings

Arrrrgh! An HTML course and a novel plotting course are occupying my time along with my busted foot and ankle, and now, of course, the tasks are piling up.

Here are a couple of Proust blogs you might find edifying or entertaining or whatever.
One hopes to amuse.

Proust Dreams of Marcelle

Proust and more Proust

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Weirdest Proust Post of the Year

This has to be a put-on, but then, who knows? Anyone for a precocious four-year-old?

Mordecai reads Proust:

Odette, of late, has read no Proust. The reasons? I got out of the habit on my trip to Nevada. Nevada and Proust don't meld nearly as well as Foxborough and Proust. And then I had been gadding about all summer and having house guests and then post-Nevada a big dinner party, and then eeek! it's almost October, and there were a number of icky things on the to-do list that just wouldn't disappear and then October comes in and I have to get ready for my HTML class with a finished design of the web site and now there is a plotting class, and I realize the characters is the book-to-be are all cardboard, so I try to get to know them a little better, and there's a speaking "gig" for Sisters In Crime which needs a soupcon of prep, and here it is today and did I mention that I broke my frigging ankle a week ago which should be a fool-proof reason to sit and read Proust all day, but I have felt like lighter fare, such as Harlan Coben and Ridley Pearson, and also I became absorbed in Madame Proust.

Do you get the picture? When I finish the Pearson book, I'll return to Proust. So this should be an exciting month with beginning my new novel (not crime fiction) and the class for the web site. And fall is pretty is New England and Foxborough and...and...and.

What do you think of Mordecai?


Monday, October 08, 2007

Albertine Murdered?

The variety of Proust musings is truly staggering. A blurb on Milan Kundera, a mountain hike and the mysterious lady.

I continue my trek through Madame Proust. It's lonely reading Proust in Foxborough.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Blogging Proust Again

Here is a synthesis of a number of Proust blogs from the net.

Blend of Proust and Page Turner?

Harold Nicholson meets Proust

Fire in the Blood

My reading of Madame Proust continues. Proust's mother was, I believe the term is, an enabler. Such a fascinating study of mother and son. Describes a terrible asthma attack. A classic study of the hovering mother and the distant father.



Wednesday, October 03, 2007

October is Proust Month?

The blogger below states that October is Proust Month. I don't know if this is a universal celebration or only his. This is the link:

I'm reading Madame Proust and finding good insights into the narrator as a young man, and also learning that he was 7 on that famous night at the beginning of the book.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Madame Proust revisted

I have snagged a copy of Madame Proust, and now there is a Hobson's choice facing me. Do I drop everything and read about Proust's old mum, or do I continue my slow trek through Time Past? Of course, there is no law against reading multiple books at once--my nightstand looks like a lending library, so perhaps after Kerouac (almost done) I can dip into it. Something about a brand new book. One just can't wait to read a few pages.

NEIBA is over, and our New England Crime Writing Crew judged it to be a successful endeavor. All those books! Sigh.

What a delightful dilemna! Shouldn't they all be like this?


Friday, September 28, 2007

Madame Proust

If you happen to be in the vicinity of Urbana-Champaign, drop in on the lecture about Proust's mother. I know I read somewhere that instead of his dear grandmother, he was really writing about his mother, and we all know from the opening chapter that he was a real mama's boy.

The University of Chicago exhibit at NEIBA has a copy of this book in their booth, which I am coveting greatly, since all things Proust are grist for the New England mill here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Dehumanization of Love?

Proust is popular? Well, o.k., in some circles, not in mine, but I live far from academia, alas.
Nonetheless, the blogger has given us food for thought.

There are many good links off the PEN blog. Follow them.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Literary Blog and On the Road

A blog with a list of books every critic should have in his/her library, and of course In Search of Lost Time is there. What I really love is the fox drawing.

I'm just about finished with a new reading of On the Road, and except for a few lyrical descriptions, I'm very disappointed. The phrase "running around like a chicken with its head cut off" comes to mind. Maybe I have grown old. Maybe I have grown up. The book now makes me sad. The energy consumes itself. Dean Moriarty has become extremely tedious.
How did this happen? Racing through the great American night no longer hath charms. The old doper in New Orleans is the only character I find sympatish.

Maybe too much time has passed. Time. Passed. Eeeek!


Monday, September 24, 2007

Proust online in English and French

Proust available in English and in French online! This looks like a great web site and I want to check some of the weird translations of menu items from the French to the English.

Last night I read more of the narrator's first formal introduction to Albertine, a shape shifter if there ever was one, at least in his head. The little band is interesting, with their golf clubs and their bicycles. They sound almost- - - liberated. He assumes they are mistresses of bicycle racers. Ah, the bad assumptions we all make. And of course Marcel is not exactly athletic by any standards, au contraire! And they know the artist Elstir in a kind of casual way, the way locals know each other in Nantucket. Elstir admits being a past habitue of the the Verdurins' soirees, and I loved what he said to Marcel about it. I'll quote when I remember to drag the book down to the computer's area.



Saturday, September 22, 2007

Albertine Asleep

Orange Crate Art has another interesting post this week.

I remember the Sleeping Albertine scene in all its obsessiveness.

For a few weeks, due to travel and obligations, I have put the great tome down on my nightstand and taken up "lighter" reading, although I don't know how light The Poisonwood Bible is. Not very. I need a kick in the pants to get going again.

We entertained last night, but the Duchesse Guermantes reception it wasn't. This is, after all, Foxborough, and maybe Manchester-by-the-Sea would be grand enough for the Duchesse. Come to think of it, Boston wouldn't be her cup of tea, and the famous Guermantes wit would be lost on us.

Alas, alas,


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Little Miss Sunshine Gives Proust a Push?

SLUNCH has an interesting post, and I agree that the Little Miss Sunshine movie might have moved some readers into Marcel's radar, so to speak.

Serendipitous, wouldn't you say?

Odette who is having a very busy week and wishes for a good (even if grumbling) servant like Francois.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Landscapes of the Heart

The image was taken above the tiny town of Gerlach, Nevada in the northern part of the state, where, excepting Winnemucca, only 800 souls live. No Guermantes or Meseglise Ways to walk, although you can walk around town and out to the old glass dump, and various funky places. I read all of The Poisonwood Bible, and could have just as easily finished the first volume of Proust, but I never travel with a hard cover.
The imagination boggles thinking of an early 20th century Parisian in these vast empty landscapes. What would he have thought? The wind. The dust. The aridity. And yes, the beauty.
Here is a link to Pamuk blogging Proust. I think everyone who's anyone is blogging Proust. Weird, isn't it?
Odette, still shaking the dust from her shoes

Friday, September 07, 2007

Proust Not A Beach Read

Today the Wall Street Journal had a column about summer ambitions, and Donna Shalala wanted to read Proust. She didn't. Proust's great epic is not a summer read, not an easy read. The novel requires persistence, even stubbornness. And the reader has to think and ponder and analyze, not just turn pages. It's. . .work.

But rewarding. Just working one's way through all that time. Regaining it even. Major accomplishment.

I'm travelling to darkest Nevada (not Vegas) this coming week, and won't be posting, nor will I be reading Proust, as the volume is too heavy to travel with. I'm not travelling light. A journey to Outer Mongolia with a camel caravan would require less stuff than I'm schlepping. So be it.

So au revoir until the 17th. Odette

Monday, September 03, 2007

Remembrance of Proust Past

Finally found another blog I could recommend:!C7E18603B826B898!127.entry

Proust has been temporarily abandonned on my nightstand, but I can tell you this:.
I re-read some of Kerouac in a Beat Generation anthology and I was a tad disappointed.

I have noticed that with few exceptions(books I read on vacation), since I've taken up Proust, nothing else has had any literary appeal. Two books assigned for a plotting class? Put down each before 50 pages. Poisonwood Bible? Not quite into it. So, this seems to be something between me and Proust right now, and I am his faithful lover.

Who would have thunk it?


Friday, August 31, 2007

Proust in Unlikely Places

The Montgomery Advertiser has this to say about Proust:
RAVE: For the donation by William C. Carter of valuable material on the French author Marcel Proust to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Carter, who teaches at UAB, is a renowned Proust scholar and author of what is widely regarded as the definitive biography of the writer. His donation will make UAB the home of one of the world's leading collections of Proust materials.

Will Proust scholars trek to the University of Alabama at Birmingham? Probably. Will someone go to Birmingham, England by mistake? Undoubtedly. One finds Proust and Proust references in unlikely places. Even here, in Foxborough.

I am thinking about changing this blog to the new blogger format.
Today, Friday, is cat blog day, however the cats have not behaved in a blog-worthy manner all week, having been quiet and even sedate. Annie has learned to flick her head to dislodge the hairball medicine that I put on her nose. Whatchagonnado?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Is Proust on Vacation, Too?

Not much Proust news this week. Is everyone at Balbec? The Univeristy of Alabama is to receive some important Proust papers. Nice to have them on this side of the pond.

I confess I've dropped the ball the past few nights and have been reading about the Beat Generation in prep for the big Kerouac celebration on Wednesday. Began reading The Poisonwood Bible. New edition of Poets and Writers also littering nightstand.

And I'm working hard on umpteenth revision of my high-tech mystery Festival Madness, gearing up to put the finishing touches on it before approaching editors and agents.

Summer pulls one in various directions, deliciously, but it is hard to stay focused. The garden calls for attention. We have the sweetest ruby throated hummingbirds, and they really like the butterfly weed or whatever the HUGE purple thing that is full of bees and blooms. I have a riot of color, right now, worthy of Monet, but on a greatly reduced scale. Smaller than Swann's garden, small, small, small.

Here's a belligerent view of Proust from a young man. Young, young, young. Ahhhh!


Monday, August 27, 2007

Proust on a Plane?

Here's a link to a blog you might enjoy.

One of my Proust feeds today was a short story that was a cut way above what one normally finds just surfing around. Here is the link: BTW, Proust is mentioned.
Ah California!

I have been reading The Poisonwood Bible the past few days and neglecting Marcel. At my current rate of progress, I'll finish the first of the two long volumes this year. Extrapolating, good work that, from there, it's going to take 2 years to make it through Lost Time. Don't know what I expected, that maybe I would zip right through like it was Robert Parker or Janet Evanovich? No. No. No. Proust is Proust. Dense as a black star. But rewarding. And even wise.




Friday, August 24, 2007

At Long Last, Albertine

We finally meet Albertine, one of the little band who will become a very important person in the narrator's life. He teased and teased and teased until. . . finally it was her, the girl with a name.
Balbec in summertime appears to be an interesting place. Now I think of the south of France and divas emoting on the docks of St. Tropez or campers cheek by jowl along the coast in those really really crowded camping grounds. Nice is nice. The signs for the doggy potties are so cool.

I wonder what Biarritz is like. And then one thinks of Mr. Hulot's Holiday. There's plenty of room for everything and everyone in French summer vacations. Vive Les Vacances!


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

An interesting post:

I'm still slogging through volume II. No mention of anything except girls who are not as good as they should be, as they used to say. The naughty bits are still to come.

One has to think about the funeral of Mrs. Astor, so inconveniently held on a Friday afternoon in August when everyone is champing at the bit to go to the Cape and the Islands or one of the Hamptons or wherever the hell it is the billionaires go these day for a late summer weekend. The church was half-empty. Does this tell you something? It should The more things change, the more they stay the same. Whatever. En Francais.


After the Ball is Over

A blogger has just finished Proust's masterpiece.

Last night, wired by some coffee, I read more pages than usual. Dinner, still at Rivebelle, and descriptions of the dining room, the funnel-shaped tea room, the guests, and the narrator in love with. . . what? Love. Hard to say. The late sunlight filtering in. We have that in our dining room at home, too, and it blinds you. Good sunsets, sometimes in the trees beyond the slough. In France, the sun would set over the ocean. Good clouds would produce a prime spectacle.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Mention of Proust

A mere mention of Proust but an assessible essay on Joyce's Ulysses. Since Proust and Joyce are often mentioned in the same breath, read on:

Last night, more of Albertine, although we do not yet know her name. Maybe her last name. The narrator is giddy in love and scheming about ways to meet this woman. The description of the restaurant at Rivebelle (great name that) was interesting, and the summer is obviously winding down with darkness coming earlier, just like here in Foxborough. They dine late, when night has fallen. Good stuff.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Lighter Side of Proust

I found a clip on youtube of the infamous Monty Python summarize Proust contest.

Last night, I read the introduction of Albertine, although we don't know her name yet. Her little band has appeared, causing consternation with their careless ways and slangly speech. Today one would say they were club kids.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Reading Proust

Where I am in the novel:

Marcel is still at Balbec with Robert St. Loup and Bloch. Block's family and the Baron de Charlus have all been introduced.

The weird anti-Semitism makes me uncomfortable. I guess only a modern sensibility would blanche, but the term "Israelite" sounds so odd. Nonetheless, an interesting portrait of Bloch's father, uncle and sisters emerges. Again, I had missed all this humor on previous readings. Must have been hoping to get to the sex and violence parts. Just kidding, ha ha.

Bloch made remarks about having been intimate with Odette, and one doesn't know what to believe, except that it could or could not be true. The narrator cries himself to sleep, a true neurasthenic. Proust is so busy describing all the characters that I don't always understand what Marcel the narrator is feeling about these people and encounters.

And the writer Bergotte--I get no sense of his writing from the way the characters discuss him. Is this a flaw or not?



Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Proust on Crystal Meth

Now there's an image! From neurasthenic to. . . . crazed socialite! The mind boggles.

I found this expression in:

Look down as far as the 5th paragraph. I liked this blogger's voice. Getting organized! How do you think Proust organized so much material? Did he have charts and notes? He had no "stickies," no computerized lists of characters. The man was a genius.

It is a little difficult for me to get a fix on the grandmother. She's a little intellectual, very motherly, an anti-snob snob, not exactly petit-bourgeouise, but what else, then? Of course the early descriptions of the Baron de Charlus are amazing. I had fogotten St. Loup was his nephew. Everything and everyone is related. Mon Dieu! How to keep this vast detailed structure in one's head? Probably I have read how he did it and forgotten, being too young in college to worry about trying to keep huge structures in my head. Ah youth, she said.

Boston is the bloggiest town according to today's Globe and here we are blogging and reading Proust in Foxborough. How cool is that?


Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Proust Vacation

Mon Dieu! Here I was trekking all over Alaska and up the Inland Passage, and I could have been on a Proust tour. Pricey, but it definitely sounds intriguing. Tempting, so tempting.

Do follow this link.

I read a few more pages about Bloch last night and snobbishness. Not 100% absorbing. But perhaps this was because I was reading Janet Evanovich before I picked up Proust. My tastes are catholic. . . . what can I say?


Friday, August 10, 2007


Another readable post from Marcelle:

I know a number of neurasthenic people. I tend to think of them as low-energy types who should eat more red meat, a suggestion that's never welcomed, since many of them follow the preaching of a few years ago, and boil fish (no fat need apply) and order up the decaf soy latte. Drink high-test coffee and eat a piece of beef once a week, I say. Watch the Sopranos. Get out into the world.

Or not.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Thoughtful Proust Post

I liked this blog entry a lot.

The author says much that needs to be said.

Moi? I am reading Proust for the third time. Slowly. Savoringly.

My other projects: third draft of a crime fiction novel, attempted sales of two other crime fiction novels, plotting of a young adult novel, procrastination in re starting to writing a California 1928 novel. Update of website, long neglected. Tasks for 3 Crime Fiction organization boards. Garden. Cooking. Cats (Friday is cat blog day). An occasional trip into Boston for theater, concert, cuisine, people watching.



Monday, August 06, 2007

Marcelle & Odette are BAAAAACK!

Marcelle Proust is posting again.

I'm so happy that Friday is cat blogging day. Who knew?

I've been away at a class reunion since Thursday, a BIG in terms of years class reunion--on the high plains of Colorado. I did not bite into a hamburger at Crane's Cafe and have the past come back. Ye Gods, what a frightening thought. I did open memory's jar. What is amazing is that we all remember such different things. For example, no one remembered Shirley Brandt singing "Found A Peanut." How could they forget?

We tooled around Denver and took in the new (and old) wings of the DAM (Denver Art Museum). Liebeskind is the architect for the new wing. It soars like a mountain, and I liked it a lot. The Western Art exhibit was great. A couple people missing, but eventually they may correct that. Two nice restaurants, one white tablecloth, the other Mad Greens. Mad Greens had salads that couldn't be beat, and a wine bar and a patio. I don't know if they took notes from the MFA in Boston, but both restaurants are good and even the less expensive is sophisticated. We like that.

A Mexican dinner on the patio Thursday night. You can go home again, but it won't be the same. And you will see everything with new eyes. New eyes are good eyes.

Northern Colorado sure ain't Balbec or Paris or even Boston. But it hath its own charms. Hey, how about Sarkozy vacationing in New Hampshire. Getting a bellyful of the press who don't really care if he wants to be left alone.

Another mention of Proust in this interesting blog. The blogs mentioning our guy Marcel never cease to amaze.

Back to reading Proust tonight.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Duchesse of Guermantes Speaks

Orange Crate Art blogs Proust, too. Still seems like everyone is blogging Proust, even those who admit to never having read him, or pooping out halfway through Swann's Way. That would not, of course, be Orange Crate Art.

Do oranges still come in the kind of crates of yore? I had an orange crate in my room as a kid. Kind of a doll house/nightstand affair. I thought it was cool. Of course I also wore pajamas made out of chicken feed sacks. Chicken feed came in nice muslin prints and in those days items like orange crates and fabric were always recycled. There were no McMansions, and the town banker lived in a house just a little better than everyone else. A new car was the big thing.

The character Bloch has appeared at Balbec. In college, I had a friend very much like Bloch. Life imitating art? His name was Dennis. Bloch is very funny when he accuses he narrator of sucking up to the snobs and aristos. Isn't the Duchesse of piece of work? The thing is, I have heard people talk like that and not very long ago. In the particular is the universal.



Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Time Regained

Below, link to a blog that discusses the film, Time Regained. I saw this film years ago at an art house in Cambridge, MA. Being Cambridge, the audience was fairly large. Catherine Deneuve played Odette, putting a new slant on Odette, who of course rises in the world and into society from her days in the demi-mondaine. The man who played Proust looked like Proust, and since Time Regained is my favorite volume, I liked it a lot. Who knew Proust could be put into a film? It still boggles the mind.

In my own worn volume, I read and re-read the introduction ok of Robert Saint-Loup en Bray. What a name, eh? Seems perfect. His description is also so perfect. How could Proust write that many good words? His feat boggles the mind. I hope to write just a few.

The other Odette

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Proust and Time

Below is a link to a blog I like a lot. Keep reading down and there will be a mention of Proust.

Last night I read the scene where St. Loup is introduced. One of the things I've learned in writing is that when the writer first describes a character, that character should not be static--there needs to be some movement somewhere. Proust first shows us St. Loup coming up from the beach, and ends the description with him jumping onto the carriage and taking off. Lots of the action consists of his trying to control his monocle. So although the description is quite long, it also portrays St. Loup in action, at least about as much action as a Proust character ever performs. This is not to damn with faint praise. Action doesn't need to be jumping out of airplanes and shoot off firearms. Action can be small, like fiddling with one's monocle. Think of master spymaster George Smiley polishing his glasses on his tie all the time. Action, revealing character.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Past Is Another Country

Do writer's always make stuff up? Only writers know, and of course Proust and Shakespeare aren't talking. If we make stuff up, it's by way of empathy and intuition and sometimes we get it right, so right.

I am at a period in the book where I am falling asleep after a page or two every evening. Hard to make progress. Lots of late nights and long days. Maybe the reading will go better this week.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Memories of Times Past

This week, with houseguests, we have been looking at old slides of Paris, Nice, Portofino, St. Tropez and vacations past. Everyone in the family, even the kids, dressed to the nines. Not formally, but very well. wonder when that habit disappeared. Maybe during the Jeans Years. Lots of memories of the Nice train station, and photos of us sitting at the Cafe de la Paix eating croissants the size of luncheon plates. We ordered 'way too many. A family joke by now. The beach of rocks (shingles, so-called) at Nice. No comfy sand there.

Lots of yachts and always a scene somewhere. Like Balbec? That would require some analysis, and of course one can't really go to Balbec again, except with the narrator. Is he a reliable narrator? Probably, but his interests aren't necessarily ours. A huge disconnect. I would have to think about this stuff for a long time. In the meantime, I fall asleep after a few pages before bedtime.

Speaking of aids to sleep, The History of Political Ecomony (by Bell) was always the best soporific, followed by Henry James. My god, the number of times I snoozed a few pages into those books, although I love and respect James, he can be rather turgid.

I found a couple more good Proust blogs for you. Interesting perspectives.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Proust on Deathbed

Take a gander at:

Proust shows a striking resemblance to the head chef in Ratatouille. The charicatures in that movie were wonderful, esp. the female chef and the head chef. Linguini was good but stupid, however, I said that already.

We had a different seaside (way different) experience than Balbec yesterday. A whale watch out of Plymouth on Cap'n John's boat. Totally middle America in all that's good and bad. Beaucoup whales, up close and personal. Whale's spouting, flipping, diving, eating, and showing off their baleen. Close in to Plymouth on the return trip, an orphan calf trying to eat. We all hoped the mother was just lolling about somewhere not too far off. Lots of pleasure and fishing boats patrolling the whaling area, along with the whale watch vessels and research boats. Altogether too many boats for my liking, but it didn't seem to bother the whales.

Our society today is so different than Proust's. Could almost be on another planet. And yet, and yet, his portrait of Combray reminds me of Significant Other's home town and his father and aunts in their petit bourgeois pursuits. But that time is also passed, and all those old relatives are gone. When a generation leaves this earth, they take a whole culture with it, and nowadays, when each generations seems to have its own quite distinct culture, this disapparance is accellerated.

Imagination fails at what the world will be like in 50 years. I do believe that Proust will be remembered.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cool Quote

I mentioned this same passage earlier. The narrator's disappointment with the statue. But of course he says it most eloquently.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

La Mer

. . . to see in the window. . . as in the portholes of a ship's cabin, the open sea, naked, unshadowed, and yet with half of its expanse in shadow, bounded by a thin and fluctuant line, and to follow with my eyes the waves that came leaping toward me, one behind another, like divers along a springboard. . . . that vast ampitheatre, dazzling, mountainous, and upon the snowy crests of its emerald waves, here and there polished and translucent, which with a placid violence, a leonine bending of the brows, let their steep fronts, to which the sun now added a smile without or features. . .


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Read Proust, Too!

Lots of people seem to be reading "How Proust Can Change Your Life," but are they actually reading Proust? Methinks not.

I am with the narrator and his grandmother at the Grand Hotel in Balbec. Lots of snobbery and social commentary. The odd thing is that he thinks it being a seaside spa, that the social classes are mixing more than back in Paris, but to me it seems like stratified layers as usual. I loved how Proust described the sea as an ampitheater, and the undulating waves. It was a fantastic description, and one thinks, well, hell, I might as well just pack it in and never write another word.

Proust's name is bandied about greatly, by one and all. The name of all names to drop.

I did see Ratatouille, and observed the great Proustian moment. The movie was fun and I liked the kitchen types--very well done. Did not like Linguini--he seemed really stupid. When a film is hyped too much, one goes in with expectations that may not be matched. Kinda sorta like when a book is hyped too much. It's better to have low expectations and have them exceeded.

The smell of privet in Nantucket is for me a Proustian odor. Brings back all the summers for endless years. Everything has changed but not changed. The bookstore building is for sale. Not good. The Mad Hatter is gone. The Dolphin Guest House is gone. The galleries move around all the time in a stately gavotte. I didn't see anyone reading Proust or even reading How Proust Can Change Your Life.



Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Words In Your Head

Now, you can listen to Proust. I'm trying to imagine what that would be like. For now, I'll keep reading. I finally got to the first description of the ocean at Balbec, and it blew me away. More about that tomorrow. In the meantime, think about listening.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Balbec, at long last

The narrator is finally in Balbec, embarassed by his grandmother's dickering over the room rate as any adolescent would be. We hear very little of the beach but a lot about the bad complexion of the manager. I must say I have never had a dread of strange hotel/motel rooms, but everyone in this family agrees that home is best, bed-wise, pillow-wise, bathroom-wise and midnight snack wise, but this must be universally true.

I am finding Proust minutae in England newspapers, esp the Telegraph. Here is the woman who wept when she finished Proust's masterpiece, and not with relief, as some might believe.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Happy Birthday, Marcel, July 10th

Yesterday was Proust's birthday and if you're in the Washington, DC, area you may want to celebrate today:

I would whip up a batch of madeleines, but we are a) on one of our perpetual diets and b) it is too hot to cook.

I know! A drink, a French drink would be just the ticket. Some red wine, perhaps? We've got a bottle of Dubonnet in the fridge that is so old that it must have grown whiskers. No absinthe in this household. Maybe a nice snort of Grand Marnier after dinner. One must really do something.

I found this blog, in which the writer was unable to read Proust. Maybe he has too modern a sensibility, whatever that means.

Last night Marcel was disappointed in the church at Balbec, which was not on the seashore and just didn't measure up. What's an aesthete to do? In my experience, Paris and Venice were two cities that did not disappoint.

I ran across this now defunct blog a while back. Lots of food for thought and interesting observations:

I'm listening to a French CD: En Rouge Et Noir - Le Train Des Enfoirés - hardly Vinteiul. Oh well, cheers!


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Did Proust Eat Ratatouille?

At my house, we like to make up a big skillet of ratatouille every August, when the tomatoes are ripe and the eggplant and zucchini are rife. Onions, garlic (lots of garlic) and a few capers round it out. Julia Child has an excellent recipe. It's a pain to make, but sure tastes divine. I serve it cold, and my mom, who probably never cooked eggplant in her life, wasn't too keen. It's a taste of Provence, not Normandy.

Who knew the movie Ratatouille would has Proustian references? Sounds like this movie is for adults. Can't wait to see it, and I know just the child I'll drag along.

I am finally on the train with the narrator to Balbec. Right now he's acting like a homesick wimp. It was funny how he went to the bar car and downed a few (for health's sake) to the shock and horror of his grandmother. Maybe he's not such a wimp. O.K., a wuss. I never hear the old fashioned term "panty-waist" anymore. As a child it intrigued me.

Can't wait to actually arrive at Balbec. La di dah!


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Balbec is a Summer Place

Hmmmm. Another post where I cannot move the cursor to create a title. What's going on? This will require a trek through the help screens, maybe an email, maybe a session of head-banging.
Note: a seach of the issues revealed the title "problem" reported on 7/9/07 and a work-around, which you can see is actually working.

Proust, Monet, Balbec, etc.

More Balbec,memory and Ratatouille the movie--how weird the connections we make:
Summer even in Proustville. Noteworthy is that many of the Proust postings have move to the coastal town of Balbec. Can't be an accident. I plan to start reading those sections of the great narrative any day, having done with Donna Leon, Sue Grafton, Robert Parker and others. Vacation reading.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Hmmmm. Blogger is acting weird and refusing to accept a title, no matter what shennanigans I attempt. So: the titleless blog:

Read about that charmer, Gilberte. I find her rather opaque and secretive, like many young ladies that age. Maybe a closer reading of the text will bring forth more understanding.

Now that the vacation is over, I'll pick up "Remembrance" again and get going. I hope my garden is as good (if not as extensive) as Swann's this summer. The flowers, herbs and tomatoes are growing in massive profusion. One thinks of Combray and Tante Leonie. The description of Combray was so perfect--one can see it so clearly, unlike young Gilberte.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Proust and Practically Everyone

It's been a while. Odette has been cruising the inland passage of Alaska and touring Denali--all those good unProustian things, but of course Proust is everywhere, and the ship's dining room with the characters on display every evening was one scene. People watching always fascinates, and who knew that better than Marcel?

I found a few blogs of interest while I was cruising the fjiords, etc. My reading while on board, was predictably pedestrian, although one gentleman on the Denali train read St. Augustine's Confessions. He was in the beginning, where St. Augustine was still being a bad boy. Mostly people were reading read dreck, like beach reading, but I'm casting no stones.

Check out these blogs:

More anon,


Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Silly Season

The All England Summarize Proust contest: shades of Monty Python.

I won't be posting for a couple weeks while I am off on a cruise to Alaska. Unfortunately, Proust will not be coming along due to the weight of the volume.

More anon,


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Proust Gleanings and Other Potpourri

This week I have been commuting to Boston's Federal Courthouse to sit in on a trial which interest me. My reading for the week has been Hank Philippi Ryan, Carl Hiasson and The Warlord's Son. I did not drag my Proust book onto the commuter train, because it is a TOME and I hate to schlepp heavy bags around. From time to time I wondered what Proust would make of all this, with thoughts back toward the Dreyfus case, which the one I'm interested in does not resemble except insofar as the possibility of an injustice being done. The other thing is the beautiful new courthouse with its siting on the Boston waterfront across the Fort Point Channel from the jazzy skyline of Boston. Beantown has a certain "je ne sais quoi" with it's glitzy new buildings and modern architecture. The gold and glass gleams and glitters across the water, with boats of all variety passing two and fro and an old derelict falling into the harbor resaurant adding local funk and color. Time past, time present and time future.

In the meantime, the legal machinery is grinding on, with immigration cases, IRS cases and I don't know what all happening behind the doors of the 24 court rooms. What would Proust think?

Here are some links I've found lately. Some are about Proust, others are mere mentions, but I thought the blog interesting enough in its own right to include. I have to confess this whole blogging business giving the reader the ability to dip into a slice of life (tranche de vie) of the blogger is so interesting.

Odette is trekking via ocean liner up the inside passage of Alaska soon, also without the great TOME, but she will be consider all things Proust and report back. Soon.

Interest literary blogs:


Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Proust Ball

In the New York Times today, a long obituary for Baron Guy de Rothschild, who must be one of the last of a breed. At the urging of his second wife, he restored the ancestral home, the Chateau de Ferrieres. Then in 1971, according to the Times, 800 guests were invited to the Proust Ball, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Proust's birth.

Guests "followed' the Guermantes way' through the chateau grounds to dine at tables with Proustian names like Swann, Odette, Charlus and Saint-Loup." I wonder if any of the foods from Proust were served. On this occasion, they might have dished out the dreaded pineapple-truffle salad.

In the meantime, Rothschild presented the Chateau to the University of Paris. La di la. Sounds like great fun, doesn't it? Can you imagine such a party here to fete the birth of a famous artist? I thought not, but isn't it pretty to think so?

I am deep, deep into a civil trial in the beautiful new Federal Court House here in Boston. Totally absorbed. I'm thinking maybe I should have been a lawyer, something that never crossed my mind before this week. Like a second Proust Ball, it won't happen.


Odette, not she of the party

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

In Search of Blogging Proust

Here are some more Proust blogs of note:

Monica looks at Proust via some quotations from the great work:

Tilu has her own take on Marcel: mostly in French

Yet more about Proust and a missing Proust blogger. Could be most anyone. Me? You?

My posts have been scattershot because I have been attending a civil trial in Boston at the new Federal Courthouse, a beautiful building overlooking the harbor with a cafeteria worthy of Francois if you get my drift. Definitely superior cafeteria food. One never has to wait for an elevator either. The plaintif and the defendant are people/businesses I know well, so this is absolutely riviting, although apparently not for the juror who fell asleep this morning. Mon Dieu!

There is plenty of controversy and drama, and although this is a civil trial, passions run high. And it's a classic big (mean) guy against the little guy. It has to be costing the big guy more in legal fees than he can expect to collect, if indeed, he collects anything, about which there is already some doubt in my mind. Hubris. Pure and simple hubris.

Your homework, should you decide to do any. Find a passage in Proust exhibiting hubris. Hint. Think toward the end of the book.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Yet Another Blogger Reading Proust

It's more than a movement! It's a great swelling up, a cascade of readers and bloggers all searching for lost time. Here's another one:

I'm currently about 500 pages into the book. It's good bedtime reading because it isn't violent or so stimulating it will keep you awake. Interesting, compelling, but not a page turner. The Sopranos, it is not. I had another restless Sunday night after the last Sopranos. The violence was muted, well, mostly, but the threat of violence--that what a good writer creates, the threat of violence. Who's the guy in the USA cap? Is the guy in the john going to come out shooting?

A man with a gun comes through the door. The solution to every mystery writing/thriller problem. Have a man with a gun come throught he door. Or the threat of one. When the story lags or you don't know what to write next.

Of course, Proust's life is lived in the mind, the sensitive neurasthenic mind, where nobody ever comes throught he door with a gun, except maybe on some deep inscruable metaphoric level.

You read it here first. The new word, the word seen everywhere, maybe even replacing "icon," and won't that be a relief, is "hubris." Hubris.



Sunday, June 10, 2007

Food For Thought

Monet's Table, The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet is a picture cum recipe book with glorious photographs of the Monet household and gardens at Giverny. Life lived large in a picture book setting most mortals came only dream about. The recipes are simple, and you just know that their deliciousness came from the purest, freshest ingredients. Take for example, Leek and Potatoe Soup. Butter, leeks, salt and potatoes. And water.

I'll wager the butter from rich and fresh from the dairy, the leeks and potatoes from the garden, and the water chlorine-free. Apparently Monet was a tyrant about harvesting veggies at the time of optimum ripeness.

The cookbook calls for lettuce in many of the soup recipes, but I do not see one single salad recipe, or even any cold dishes. Nary a one. Hmmm. The text mentions salads of "chicory laced with garlic and croutons or dandelions with strips of fat bacon or purslane.." Monet insisted upon so much pepper in his salad that two salads were prepared. Likewise, asparagus--he liked it almost raw, and the rest of the household preferred cooked. The garden must have been full of herbs. They also ate salad of lamb's lettuce. Salad was so simple one needs no recipe.

There is certainly no recipe for the decidedly weird pineapple and truffle salad that Marcel's parents served to M. de Norpois; however, Cold Beef a la Mode, which made Francois shine, and Homard a l'americaine, served Chez Swann are both to be found.

Note: one of these days I have to figure out how to key French accents, the grave, etc. kind, not the vocal ones.

Maybe Monet didn't like cold foods. I knew Germans who believed cold beverages caused stomach cancer. Did Monet harbor similar superstitions? A homemade banana ice cream was served at Christmas only. Refrigeration would have been a problem most of the year. No Zero-Kings in Swann's or Monet's kitchens.

Swann had a large garden near Combray. Is Swann the gentleman farmer the same man as Swann of the jockey club, but a different Swann that the husband of Odette and the disgraced habitue of the Verdurin's parties? Swann of the split personality. One interesting thing about great literature is that the reader can think about the various characters for a long time, pondering their foibles and personalities, whereas, if you read the latest thriller, a week later you can barely remember the plot much less the characters. Except for LeCarre and Alan Furst. And Lee Child's Jack Reacher. One recalls Reacher when the plot has long fled one's mind.

So called Literary Fiction is heavy on character, light on plot. If the characters are absorbing and well defined, one doesn't need a lot of plotting, as they can carry the book. Although I would argue that Madame Bovary, War and Peace and even Remembrance of Things Past do have plots. Secondary to the characters, but what is a plot but the story?

Yikes, I don't want to be accused of lit blogging, ex-computer programmer that I am. I only wondered if Monet's Table might shed light of Proust's Table, and to some degree it does.

For an interesting take on personality in Proust go to this link:

Odette, who was a very bad girl and had bacon, eggs, fried potatoes, french bread and one tiny tomato for breakfast.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Funny Feeling of Deja Vu

This this week I read the same passage in Proust and thought about it. The father gives permission and the son is taken aback. Are all sons prodigal?

Reminds me of an old old joke: Who regretted it most when the prodigal son returned home?
The fatted calf.

Meeting friends for lunch, then getting ready for a dinner party chez Odette. Nothing fancy. Steaks on the grill, Hasselback potatoes, salad and my own invention of a dessert which involves Pillsbury piecrust from the dairy case and fresh fruit and a little sugar. Sometimes the best food is the simplest. Not pineapple and truffles. Sheeesh!

As ever,


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Proust as Couturier

So. . . last night I was keying along, almost finished with the newest Proust post, and I bopped out to check something and when I tried to bop back in, the whole post was gone. O.K. I should write the posts in Word and copy them to the blog. That way the prose can be polished within a gnat’s bristle, so to speak. But I don’t. So it’s gone.

What I wanted to discuss was Marcel’s extreme interest in Odette’s clothing, honing in on details only a couturier would notice. Now, I remember where I lost the post. I wanted to look up and see what a “wrapper” actually was. Just to find out if memory was serving me right. This is what I finally found on the web, compliments of Google images.

Odette liked to express herself through her garments: a little modern, a little old fashioned, a little coy, a little louche, a little this, a little that. And the narrator noticed. Someone in a Proust blog remarked that Marcel appeared to be much more interested in Mme. Swann than in Gilberte, and that is true. The lure of the older more experienced woman, and in the case of Odette, much more experienced.

Here are some Proust-related blogs and articles I’ve perused lately, and you should, too.

Odette, the one in jeans and a sweatshirt