Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Pink Hawthornes- Proust would approve

The pink and white hawthorne's encountered along Swann's way. These are dogwoods? Well, who knew? They are lovely, and Proust described them wonderfully. He described everything wonderfully.
My one discovery: when asked to discuss Proust, a lot of writers instead talk about themselves. Interesting, no? I wonder if it's not because we go to the deepest levels of meaning, with Proust, and like poetry, something deep inside is touched. Au fond, as it were. Lord, I wish I were really proficient in French.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Proust's Way A book review

The second link is to the book, The Proust Project, which I discovered in my own library, and you can buy this book really really cheap on Amazon. The "project" is 28 writer's writing about Proust, or a passage in In Search of Lost Time, but lots of writers write about themselves or something else entirely. Proust seems to have that affect on writers. I don't recall learning very much about Proust from the book. Oh well.

An old but excellent web site which I may have mentioned before is: Waggish Reads Proust. Insightful comments, very literate and scholarly. I used to be literate and scholarly and I don't know what the hell happened. I got into technology and began writing "commercial" fiction and now it's Remembrance of Being Literate and Scholarly Once Upon a Long Time Ago.

Waggish Read Proust:

Snow covers the cold ground here and one longs for lilacs and hawthornes and cherries and asparagus. Long live Swan's garden.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Gilberte Swann and the Hawthorns

My reading has progressed to the part where the Marcel's family takes walks to Swann's Way or the Meseglise Way. He experiences the hawthorns and sees Gilberte, Swann's daughter by Odette. Odette is entertaining Charlus while Swann is away. The description of the hawthorns just blew me away. After I read Proust, my writing seems to me so stale, so ordinary, so lacking in descriptive power that I want to tear my hair and rip my clothes. Well, something like that.

If memory serves, I looked into planting some hawthornes on our property outside of Chicago at one point. Probably when I was reading Proust. We planted lilacs that sulked in the shade for years, refusing to bloom. In Wellesley, we planted a lilac in (mostly) sun on Lilac Circle (one absolutely must have a lilac on Lilac Circle) , and it bloomed all right, but not prodigiously. Ordinary purple flowers, but properly fragrant. I would just love to have vases abloom with lilacs in every room in the spring and have a fragrance that seeps into one's brain. Now we sneak down the street at night and pick a few of the neighbors. I am so bad.

I think the Lilac Circle house was cursed after we left. The new owners (2nd new owners) took down a huge beautiful red maple that only needed trimming. Something about bad Feng Shui. I guess Proust would have understood about that. There was a huge interest in all things from Japan. Is Feng Shui only a Chinese concept? Maybe I can

Always wondering about these things.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007


The seasons continue to define the menu and what comes out of the Combray garden. Proust had a long description of asparagus, but confined his rhapsody to the tips, and I could NEVER figure out whether he was writing about white or green asparagus. Very frustrating. No mention of birds or mammals.

The kitchen maid's screams in labor did not elicit much comment, just that they disturbed the aunt's sleep and Francoise had to fetch the midwife from a neighboring village.

More interesting was the discovery of LeGrandin's snobbery, which did elicit much comment and speculation. I have one friend who is a terrible snob. He likes to hobnob with the captain's of industry and used to say that he could never make love to a woman to whom he had not been properly introduced, which of course would eliminate hookers, barmaids, and the like. If you want to rub elbows with the very rich, buy a great big sailing yacht.

My friend once remarked that he would not "have anything to say" to any of the 35,000 people at the Burning Man Festival. Hmmm. Surely there must be just a few, esp. considering that the captains of Silicon Valley have been known to attend. Technology stock tips and all that. Be careful of blanket condemnations. You will sound like an idiot.

Proust, of course, studied snobbery to the nth degree. And he must have received a "proper" introduction to Odette at the Verdurin's. In this day of instant do-nothing-know-nothing so-called "celebrities" snobbism has no doubt taken some weird turns. Is mine evident? Shame on me.


Friday, February 16, 2007

A Few Loitering Clouds

"A few loitering clouds." Isn't that a great image? Proust has another one of the church bells of St. Hillaire. You don't see them but you feel them clanging. Good stuff.

Just read the passage where in Combray, the family eats the midday meal at 11:00 instead of 12:00 on Saturday because Francois has to go to market afterward. They make a big to do over it. Again, the gentle, almost sly humor. Also about Aunt Leonie.

For the lunch, the mention of the appearance of "endives." A "special flavor of omelette" for Saturday, as well as "an unmerited steak." Don't you just love it? An "unmerited steak." "A nice bit of veal," too, but the unmerited steak shines forth.

I am probably no further than 70 pages into the book, but I have noticed so much on this read, especially the gentle provincial bourgeouis humor, the way the family relates to each other and the servant. Everything is so minutely observed and presented with such fresh eyes and so much creativity. Marcel baby, I love you.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What would Swann Give Odette for Valentine's Day?

Chocolates? Orchids? Other flowers? Jewelry? All of the above? Maybe even a bit of cash. Would she be grateful? Not very. Show her gratitude? Maybe. Somehow, she would manage to wound him. Poor Marcel.

I was very surprised to see Catherine Deneuve playing the mature Odette in the movie, but she seemed right. My image of Odette was always a brunette, a cool brunette.

On vacation, I took Puccini's Ghost to read and not Proust. I actually read Toni Morrison's Beloved, which was fantastic, a truly great novel, an accolade I do not render lightly.

Maybe tonight I will get back to Swann's Way. The weather here is ugly. It would be nice to read about the garden and the hawthorns.

Odette (the other one)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Marcel Proust.
Perhaps not a handsome man, but he has a certain je ne sais pas. This is a painting of him, not a photograph. He looks very natty, doesn't he? Solemn, but with a hint of a smile or a gleam in his eye. My current reading is the first time I've seen the humor except in the Verdurin's dining room which is practically farce.

He certainly looks the man about town, the boulevardier, the flaneur. Why do the French have all the good words, like louche?

English is good, too. We have brood and founder, both of which have multiple interesting definitions. The English have Stonehenge.

But I digress.

I will be traveling, anon, and so this will be the last post for ten days or so.

Wish me bon voyage.