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.