Monday, September 22, 2008

More on the elusive Albertine

Here's another blogger commenting on Albertine. It must be her week.

I'm wondering if she's the Proustian equivalent of "what do women want?" What does Albertine want? She seems always to be "the other," mysterious and elusive.

On the other hand, maybe she wanted to remain a girl in a beach town, riding bicycles with her friends and flirting with the tourist boys. Maybe she did not want the responsibility of finding a suitable husband and taking on married life. Who was Albertine?

Read this blog for more thoughts:
and may we congratulator the writer for completing four volumes?

I am limping through volume III.

Odette, the other one

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Onscreen Scientist Summarizes Proust

Finally a most worthy post apropos Proust from "Onscreen Scientist," who has completed a second reading of Proust in French, and has also completed the work in English.

My hat is off to him, for several reasons. He is a physicist and a software writer. In another lifetime, I wrote software for a living, and with a few exceptions, this was not a literary crowd. I cannot think of any of my software colleagues who would have read Proust and my conjecture is that few of them would have even known who he was. Perhaps the scientist writes AI software or something besides grinding out business transactions ad nauseum ad infinitum.

I have known a few literary physics majors, most of the professors. I think physics teaches a certain curiosity about the world--well all science should do that except maybe creationism, which is of course not science but pseudo-science like astrology and phrenology and Madame Sostirus, cardreader and fortuneteller. I know people who actually believe this stuff.

But back to Proust. Onscreen Scientist offers a great summation of the book--a bit longer than those in the All England Summarize Proust Contest, and I think he is dead on about Albertine. One just cannot ever quite get a handle on her. She remains, for me, too, a tabula rasa.

Currently, I am wallowing in Mme. Villeparisis' endless party, and in two days I leave for Northern Nevada, a wonderful place for reading Proust but I only travel there with softcovers I can leave behind, and of course, that would not be Proust.

So click ye forth and read Onscreen Scientist's Proust post, and then hie ye to Proust himself, the great one. I was an the New England Independent Booksellers Association Trade Show yesterday and scooped up a wonderful bunch of books.

When people say they don't read, I feel an awful sympathy. How could you not read?

After all, Onscreen Scientists reads the master in French. Zowie!

Odette, the other one

Monday, September 15, 2008

Better Than Any Ambien

Yesterday was an early to rise day, and we watched "Mad Men," and finally at 11:30 I climbed into bed. Tried to read a little more of the endless reception in The Guermantes Way. Before I was through a page, yea, even a paragraph (we know M.P. can write ultra-long paragraphs) I had the sensation of eyes closing, page unread, and into dreamland it was.

Not the first time this has happened. Will I ever finish The Guermantes Way?

One blogger has issues with The Prisoner, which I know as The Captive. If confessions are in order, I admit that I always found this one of the more tedious volumes of the novel. Tedious the max.

On starting Proust’s Prisoner:

Here is another blogger's response:
Thoughts from Proust, AKA a “Frenchman.”

I am going to survive Mme. Villeparisis party eventually. I think.

Odette, who showed up at the reception and spoke to Marcel who was rather tongue-tied.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Conflict Moves Life, Not Just the Plot

To catch up, read my prior post about conflict in writing and how important it is.

Someone in my writing group mentioned that we spend our lives trying to avoid conflict, and attempting to live a serene existence, and then as writers we really set the pot to boiling, and how different is the way we (most of us) want to live versus what we must put down on paper.

Of course, in the literary world there are notable exceptions such as Hemingway and Mailer and Fitzgerald and Hunter Thompson. Hmmm. These are all men. Maybe it is women who want the quieter life, like Virginia Wolfe and Emily Dickenson. I wonder if this would make a good topic for a Ph. D. thesis.

If so, take it forth, because I won't be writing any theses.

More of the party at Mme. Villeparisis: I'm beginning to think this whole volume about the Guermantes takes place there. The very conflicted Charlus appears at this party. We'll see much more of him later.

Here's a blogger with good intentions who hasn't quite made it that far into the novel yet. The mention of Proust's translator, Lydia Davis, caught my eye. The blogger doesn't like her book, and mentioned some male authors, and that got me going on the contemplative life versus the life of action.

In another blog, I'm forever telling readers to go forth into the world and look around. That's not the same thing as being engagé, the existential idea of being engaged in life. Are there any existentialists left? I never see any mention, but perhaps I read the wrong periodicals. Perhaps they still haunt left bank cafes.

What amazes me is that the scene at the party goes on for hundreds of pages. And that's also how novel ends, at another party, years later.

If you write, you understand how difficult it is to juggle party scenes, because the intermingling of many people is hard to convey, and it's easy to confuse the reader and botch up the scene. Three or four way conversations become impossible with attribution and focus. Proust does an excellent job--of conveying the party, not of botching the scene. My admiration for Proust increases the longer I write. What a master!

If you are a trifle Proust-challenged, and who isn't, here is a cool web site that can be your character guide. Who's Who in Proust. How cool is that?

Odette, the other one

Friday, September 05, 2008

I Just Love a Good Proust Pun

Look what the web brought me this morning:

The chickens have come home to Proust!

Last night I continued reading (this is taking the entire summer) Mme. Villeparisis' party.
Robert St. Loup en Bray's mother has appeared, and the hostess has warned the Duchesse of Guermantes that Swann's wife Odette, shunned by the Dutchess, will make an appearance. Block has disgraced himself and tout le monde talks of the Dreyfuss affair. Odette has become an anti-Dreyfussard. (Sorry if I mangled the spelling.)

In my attempt to write, I have learned that conflict moves the plot. It moves Proust's masterpiece, slowly, lentement, so be sure, but conflict there is. Between the boy, the mother and the father in the opening pages. Internal conflict. Conflict with the servants, Tante Leonie, Swann and Odette, the narrator and Gilberte. And so on. Did someone mention Albertine?

Conflict rules, but cripes, this reception is sooooo long. Not boring, really, but I can only read a few pages before bedtime. Can't wait until Odette show up.


Odette, the other one

Monday, September 01, 2008

Total Proust

How did I miss this Proust blog? Because it's a few years old, no doubt, but with Proust, unlike politics or popular culture old is good.

There are some old but good writings about Proust in the following books:

Axel's Castle by Edmund Wilson
Studies in Human Time by Georges Poulet

No idea if they are in print or re-issued. My copies are as old as the hills. Undoubtedly there are more modern takes, but I left literature and entered technology, and therein lies a tale.