Thursday, November 22, 2007

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.


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