Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cold Beef, Spiced with Carrots en Gelee

It's been a long famine in Proust with dinner party after dinner party and no mention of food. Then Swann didn't get invited to dinner anymore, and there was really a dearth of food.

Finally, in Within a Budding Grove (Madame Swann at Home), the narrator's family is entertaining M. de Norpois and Francois has made a fantastic meal.
"The cold beef, spieced with carrots, made its appearance, couched by the Michelangelo of our kitchen upon enormous crystals of jelly, like transparent blocks of quartz."

How's that for an image? Later comes a pineapple and truffle salad which doesn't sound too appetizing to me. Did something get lost in translation? M. de Norpois did not appear to be enthusiastic either.

Later, the narrator ate lobster Americaine and chocolate cake at the Swann's table.

Interesting that Odette (the other one) used numerous English words and phrases. Christmas, not Noel, and any number of expressions. Must have been the big fad then. Something I missed on the first readings.

The social climbing and gossip begin to grate on one, at least on this one. Such snobbery. No one is blameless.



Saturday, May 26, 2007

Memorial Day

If I was fortunate enough to be in Paris this weekend, I'd visit Pere Lachaise and Proust's grave. Instead, in Foxborough, we visit all the old "burying grounds." The grave of any soldier, from the Revolutionary war to the present, has a fresh American flag on it. Very touching, in the old, old graveyards.

Here are the links to some recent Proust blogs of note. I am still amazed how we are all reading Proust together.






Friday, May 25, 2007

Swann's Way-- the End

Somehow I thought Swann's Way ended with Swann out of love, but it ends with the narrator contemplating the Bois de Boulogne, irretrievably changed as is Marcel. They take a huge leap forward in time.

"The reality that I had known no longer existed." Must be the shortest sentence in Proust.

Two wonderful bird images in the last pages. ". . . while we began our game upon the lawn, scattering the pigeons, whose beautiful, iridescent bodies (shaped like hearts and, surely the lilacs of the feathered kingdom) took refuge as in so many sanctuaries, one on the great basin of sone, on which its beak, as it disappeared below the rim, conferred the part, assigned the purpose of offering to the bird in abundance the fruit or grain at which it appeared to be pecking, another on the head of the statue, which it seemed to crown with of those works the monotony of the stone. . ."

In an earlier passage he remarks, "Presently, one after another, like shyly hopping sparrows, her friends arrived, black against the snow."

Shyly hopping sparrows. Two great bird images.

Now onto Within A Budding Grove.

A Demain.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Marcel is not Proust

Another blog with some thoughtful commentary. I finally finished Swann's Way, which ended, shall we say, modestly. Kind of peters out with Swann no longer in love with Odette, or so he thinks. Well, we don't need a big bang-up ending with explosions and emoting .


I must confess I liked the scenes set at Combray better than Swann's endless mooning about Odette. All he would have needed to do was cut the money off and she would have been back at the speed of light. Which he knew. One wanted to give him a couple of slaps alongside the head. His friends were sending anonymous letters detailing her transgressions. The scenes where he questioned her and she confessed to various misdeeds were good. He was such a bloody fool. Love is blind.

Onward to Albertine and Gilberte, and the very naughty Charlus.

Proust and Kerouac

Proust and Kerouac? Marcel and Jack? Now that's an unholy combination. Think about it.


More Proust bloggers brought to you by


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Proust and Impressionism

Impressionist paintings always make me think of Proust, and I saw a whole gallery of Monets this weekend, as well as some at MOMA in NYC. Toulouse Lautrec brings up images of Proust as well. One can almost hear the little phrase of Vinteiul echoing around the gilt frames. The writing seems impressionistic, too, don't you think? Certainly the realism of, say, Zola is absent. As a writer, I'm interested in what doesn't say, as well as what he does. The choice of details is, of course, crucial.

I'm almost finished reading about Swann and Odette. Onward to Les Jeunes Filles.

Sometimes, it seems like the whole world is reading and blogging Proust these days. I think it's a movement. Who would have thought?



Thursday, May 17, 2007

Marcel Marcel

Today's blog find:


I'm going to NYC for an alumni college on Saturday and some R & R. Not Venice or Marcel's seaside holiday, but with its own enchantments. A visit to MOMA, my first, is in the cards.

Rain predicted, and a cool front has moved into the Northeast. Good for the garden. No hawthornes in sight, but I have an orange rhododendrum ready to bloom. Just planted two years ago and it has 13 big flower buds this year. I may swoon. White asparagus season is here and I recall how young Marcel went on and on about the delicate coloration. Proust hovers over everything.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Is there enough time to search for lost time?

Ah, that is the question. Reading Proust seems to be on everyone's list and there is a now or never sense of getting through the whole novel. Not an easy task. I'm glad I've done it once, and practically twice and here we go on thrice. So I'm not really desperate. Yet.


I've happened upon some really cool blogs since I started my Google Journal through mentions of Proust. Who knew? There's a whole world of Proust and people reading him in the blogosphere. When I began, I felt that I was reading in the wilderness, as Foxborough seemed, but now I realize that we Proust readers are legion. I wonder, if fact, if there is a Proust revival. Methinks he never needed one. Yet, I wonder if I know anyone at all except myself who has actually read him. Maybe a friend who majored in French. I'll ask her.

We have no hawthornes abloom, but we have a great color explosion in New England right now, and one wants to walk the Guermantes Way. Wonder if their famous wit is anywhere evident. :)


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Blogging about blogging Proust

Here is a blog with more information on the Proust questionnaire that is making the rounds of the blogosphere and the web.


Currently, I seem to be blogging about blogging Proust instead of blogging Proust, if you get the drift, and of course Proust readers and even would-be readers are not intellectual vaccums and will get the drift.

Something that I have noticed lately, very lately in fact. Artists of like minds always form groups or coteries. Nothing new there. Artists (and now I am thinking of Edward Hopper and Modernisme) portray extreme alienation in their work. One thinks the artist must be alienated from society to paint such explicit loneliness, yet the artist has his set of friends and compadres who think as he does and they must have rather jolly unalienated (is there such a word?) times together in the bars and the studios. Som quatre gats. A contradiction? I'm giving this some thought as I am to Swann, who also seems to experience alienation as he goes about his love and social life.

Food for thought. Blueberry waffles for breakfast on this Mother's Day. A special treat. I notice that Proust is very reticent about what is served at the Vinteiul dinner partys. Very focused and interior. Comme il faut.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Swann's Way: A Quick Read? I don't think so.

I found a blogger who thinks he might finish Swann's Way over a quick vacation?


Maybe a speed reader?

I am still doing the good slog since winter, and ain't through yet. I stop and read other stuff, too.

How about you?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Marcel Proust, Anti-Internet Geek

A fellow blogger has an interesting take on Proust, who never had his hard drive crash on a Sunday evening.


Odette, who is attempting to put her e-life back together.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Yet Another!


A whole blog of people reading and discussing Proust. The second I've found. It's more than a movement. It's a cult!

Odette - the other one.

The Whole World is Blogging Proust

This is so cool. It's a movement. A non-violent revolution, like singing Alice's Restaurant. Everyone is blogging Proust. Here's another one.


And yet another potential Proust blogger: http://annarubanova.blogspot.com/2007/05/i-was-gonna-finally-consider-possibly.html

Let's all tell her to get cracking. Open the book and read. And write. Zowie!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Lift an elbow with Proust at the Pub

From an Australian newspaper article. What would Marcel have to say about being discussed in an Aussie pub? With Homer, yet. I think he would be all right with it. Sorta.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Writing Down the Tubes

Posted to the wrong blog. This was for my writing blog, Suck It Up. Oh well, maybe Marcel would understand about the writing angst and the snobbery. Actually, it's not even snobbery, it's the icy New England soul which never warms up. Brrrrrr!

So. . . a few more queries to send out, concentrating on World of Mirrors, since foreign settings seem to be pretty hot and due to Lives Of Others, maybe agents know who the Stasi are, and so on. Last feedback is that no one likes my character. I made her kind of in your face and not a shrinking violet. She's made some mistakes but she's trying to get on the right track. I dunno, I dunno. I have my new synopsis and we'll see what happens, if anything. I have an ace in the hole (I think), which I will play after 100, count 'em, 100 rejections. Quite a ways to go.

After a visist to the Norfolk County Jail, I found out that Festival Madness had a few errors in the jail visit scene, so I corrected those. Nothing beats research and the horse's mouth. Nothing.

Had lots of non-writing "stuff" this week. Doing a daily walk or a health club visit. I have noticed that no one at the health club, so called wellness (that word sets my teeth of edge) is very friendly. The staff exhibit what I consider a false heartiness, like someone who has been drilled to speak to you when you come in the door, whether they want to or not, and it's usually or not. Somehow, one can tell.

But that sugary sucking up pales beside the patrons. I don't think I've had more than one or two friendly smiles in 3 years. I've sort of given up smiling in return. Is this because it's the Boston area? Is fitness such a damned serious thing that requires total concentration and grimness? I don't think so. Nobody smiles. Nobody laughs. Sober faces all. God, it's depressing. The trainers seem to be bored out of their minds unless a studly guy gets a gorgeous girl which doesn't happen all that often. I'd find another club but the last one wasn't very congenial either.

When we were in Georgia earlier in the winter, of course everyone spoke and acted friendly (genuinely so) and it's always kind of a culture shock. It takes me a while to be friendly in return after New England's icy demeanor.

Cell phones are in theory banned, and everyone yaks on in the women's dressing room. I can't begin to describe the triteness of the conversations I've overheard. Right up there with those in the grocery store. "I'm standing by the produce."

Enough grumping for one day. Maybe even the week. Smile a bit. Say hello. Like you mean it. What have you got to lose?


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Fool and the Gold Digger

Last night I read deep into the sordid business where the Verdurins drop Swann and co-opt Odette. Swann is so ridiculously in love that he is completely blind to what he needs to do to bring Odette back into the fold, so to speak. Cut the purse strings. He realizes it, but then makes some stupid justifications. If a man ever told himself egregious lies, it is Swann. All the while he is thinking that Odette is fat, stupid, has inexecrable taste in art, theatre and friends.

One wants to slap Swann silly. Reading becomes painful. I'm 250 pages into Swann and hoping the torture will soon be over. Bring on Albertine, Charlus, just about anyone but the lovesick Swann.

Arrrrghhh! Swann in Love? Swann in Denial? Swann Being Stupid? Swann's Song? Swann Clueless.

Odettte (not that one!)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Infamous Proust Questionnaire

The Infamous Proust Questionnaire! Seems to be making the rounds of the Internet.

I found it at: http://www.chick.net/proust/question.html. She was undoubtedly quoting from another source, so I'm not sure where this came from, except maybe Vanity Fair. Vanity Fair. Fair Vanity. So apt. Voila!

In the back pages of Vanity Fair each month, readers find The Proust Questionnaire, a series of questions posed to famous subjects about their lives, thoughts, values and experience.

A regular reference to Proust in such a major publication struck me as remarkable, and it was only until I'd read Andre Maurois's Proust: Portrait of a Genius that I understood what this was all about.

The young Marcel was asked to fill out questionnaires at two social events: one when he was 13, another when he was 20. Proust did not invent this party game; he is simply the most extraordinary person to respond to them. At the birthday party of Antoinette Felix-Faure, the 13-year-old Marcel was asked to answer the following questions in the birthday book, and here's what he said:

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
To be separated from Mama
Where would you like to live?
In the country of the Ideal, or, rather, of my ideal
What is your idea of earthly happiness?
To live in contact with those I love, with the beauties of nature, with a quantity of books and music, and to have, within easy distance, a French theater
To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
To a life deprived of the works of genius
Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?
Those of romance and poetry, those who are the expression of an ideal rather than an imitation of the real
Who are your favorite characters in history?
A mixture of Socrates, Pericles, Mahomet, Pliny the Younger and Augustin Thierry
Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
A woman of genius leading an ordinary life
Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
Those who are more than women without ceasing to be womanly; everything that is tender, poetic, pure and in every way beautiful
Your favorite painter?
Your favorite musician?
The quality you most admire in a man?
Intelligence, moral sense
The quality you most admire in a woman?
Gentleness, naturalness, intelligence
Your favorite virtue?
All virtues that are not limited to a sect: the universal virtues
Your favorite occupation?
Reading, dreaming, and writing verse
Who would you have liked to be?
Since the question does not arise, I prefer not to answer it. All the same, I should very much have liked to be Pliny the Younger.
This questionnaire tells us much about two things, the character of petiit Marcel, and the amusement of the young in the Belle Epoque. We see Marcel as a sweet and dreamy Mama's boy, brainy, aesthetic, a young citizen of the world with much sympathy for the feminine. What he sees in Pliny the Younger, famous only for speaking and writing letters, is hard to grasp.
What is fascinating about this questionnaire is that it was considered so great an amusement to very young people in Proust's time. It is hard to imagine a party of 13-year-olds in these times being quizzed about their favorite virtues, painters or characters of fiction and history. If the questionnaire were not to smack of exam, it would have to ask "what's your favorite TV show?" or "what's your favorite band?"
Seven years after the first questionnaire, Proust was asked, at another social event, to fill out another; the questions are much the same, but the answers somewhat different, indicative of his traits at 20:
Your most marked characteristic?
A craving to be loved, or, to be more precise, to be caressed and spoiled rather than to be admired
The quality you most like in a man?
Feminine charm
The quality you most like in a woman?
A man's virtues, and frankness in friendship
What do you most value in your friends?
Tenderness - provided they possess a physical charm which makes their tenderness worth having
What is your principle defect?
Lack of understanding; weakness of will
What is your favorite occupation?
What is your dream of happiness?
Not, I fear, a very elevated one. I really haven't the courage to say what it is, and if I did I should probably destroy it by the mere fact of putting it into words.
What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
Never to have known my mother or my grandmother
What would you like to be?
Myself - as those whom I admire would like me to be
In what country would you like to live?
One where certain things that I want would be realized - and where feelings of tenderness would always be reciprocated. [Proust's underlining]
What is your favorite color?
Beauty lies not in colors but in thier harmony (oops!)
What is your favorite flower?
Hers - but apart from that, all
What is your favorite bird?
The swallow
Who are your favorite prose writers?
At the moment, Anatole France and Pierre Loti
Who are your favoite poets?
Baudelaire and Alfred de Vigny
Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
Phedre (crossed out) Berenice
Who are your favorite composers?
Beethoven, Wagner, Shuhmann
Who are your favorite painters?
Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt
Who are your heroes in real life?
Monsieur Darlu, Monsieur Boutroux (professors)
Who are your favorite heroines of history?
What are your favorite names?
I only have one at a time
What is it you most dislike?
My own worst qualities
What historical figures do you most despise?
I am not sufficiently educated to say
What event in military history do you most admire?
My own enlistment as a volunteer!
What reform do you most admire?
(no response)
What natural gift would you most like to possess?
Will power and irresistible charm
How would you like to die?
A better man than I am, and much beloved
What is your present state of mind?
Annoyance at having to think about myself in order to answer these questions
To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
Those that I understand
What is your motto?
I prefer not to say, for fear it might bring me bad luck.

The second set of questions and answers give us Proust as a young man, mad for conquest, drawn to love crossing conventional sexual lines, still fixated on Mama. His aesthetic sensibilities have grown more serious (I, however, would not give up Mozart for Schumann, with all his interminable faux endings.)

In these responses are early threads of character found in the narrator of Remembrance.
The Vanity Fair Story...When the editors of Vanity Fair gathered to discuss a regular interview format for coming issues, one staff member suggested creating a "Vanity Fair Questionnaire." The magazine's London editor, Henry Porter, and Editor-in-Chief Graydon Carter, brought up the idea of the Proust Questionnaire, which met with the hearty approval of the numerous Proust afficianados on the staff. Senior Editor Aimee Bell , a fan herself, took on the task of researching and producing this feature, with the assistance of the University of Kansas professor Theodore Johnson, a noted authority on Proust. Since July of 1993, a major celebrity has responded to a version of the questionnaire, found in the back pages of each issue.
I mentioned to Ms. Bell that I had not dared to contact Professor Johnson, or any of the other university Proustians, because my own work was so unacademic. "Why?" she said, "Proust would have liked it."

P Segal

Filet of Sole and Japanese Salad

Finally, last night, a hint of what the diners at the Vintieul's might be eating. Lots of conversation and insights into Mme and M's petty minds, but damn little vision of the table and what's on it, what the guests wear, stage directions, and so forth. Interesting. Not how I would have written it, well, of course not. Maybe it would be interesting to write it in a more modern idiom. Hmmm. Think I'll pass on that. Sole and Japanese Salad. No idea what the Japanese Salad was (Daikon?) but I'll try to find out.

More Proust bloggers. The whole world is blogging Proust, and this is so cool. I feel like part of a movement. Son quatre gats, so to speak.

Here's another nice blog:


I keep seeing something called a Proust quiz that I will report on next. Suspect it has nothing to do with our narrator.