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

Monday, June 04, 2007

Reading Proust in Foxborough in Not A Lit Blog

Don't you just love it when tempests rise within the teacup? I have to confess that I do. Below are links to some interviews and anti-anti-blog remarks (you may need a scorecard). Makes me wonder if I have a "right" to discuss Proust, since I've been in Information Technology instead of Literature for lo, these many years.

At Book Expo, the Luddites are trembling in their Gucci Loafers again at the idea of free books to download, e-publishing, and all those dastardly things. Many readers, writers and especially publishers are anti-computer. Publishing is a hide-bound business, even if they do count beans a lot nowadays. Meanwhile Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are interviewed together. How cool is that?

Sometimes the Luddites makes me want to slink and skulk and hide in the shrubbery of the Bois de Boulogne. Maybe Mme. Swann will have an assignation or two that I can report on.

Still reading about Marcel and Gilberte and he is sounding an awful lot like Swann in love. Bring on Albertine and the jeunes filles. Were they really jeune filles? Do I have a right to ask?



Sunday, June 03, 2007

Fantastic Proust Insight

I'm currently reading about Marcel & Gilberte and this blogger has (pardon le cliche) hit the nail on the head. Excellent observations.

Why haven't we seen more of shutupproust before? Check it out.

Odette (the other one)

Friday, June 01, 2007

Adieu, Marcelle

Marcelle is leaving the blogosphere, at least temporarily. One less is the grand armee writing about the narrator.