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: http://surrealdocuments.blogspot.com/2007/07/man-ray-marcel-proust-on-his-deathbed.html

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: http://involuntarymemory.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_archive.html

I'm listening to a French CD: En Rouge Et Noir - Le Train Des Enfoir├ęs - 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,