Sunday, August 23, 2009

New England Reads Proust

An alert reader sent information about a Proust reading group at the Boston Athenaeum (private library) and a group of women in Connecticut have formed their own Proust-reading group. This rocks! Is it a movement?

I took Volume II off the shelf. It looks mouse-chewed and terribly worn, and I notice there's a price of $2.00 on the inside cover. Obviously from college days. Scott Montcrieff translation and hard cover. Avanti!

The other Odette

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Respite from Proust

Having finished (enfin) The Guermantes Way, I'm taking a break and finishing some other books languishing on my nightstand. One is Three Trapped Tigers, a cool book about Havana in the 50's right before Castro came to power. I'm almost through A Bright and Guilty Place, a non-fictional account of Los Angeles in the late 20's and early 30's. Corruption to the max.
Very interesting. I'm in the middle of Elmore Leonard's book of short stories, When the Women Come Out to Dance. Isn't that a great title.? Great stories, too. Anyone for baked possum?
I just finished Red Leaves, by Thomas Cook, a novel that will break your heart. I recall a few years ago when the novel was up for an Edgar Award.

Summer is the time for reading, although none of these books could be considered "beach reads." My novel is process now has 65,000 words and starts to look like a real book. I've been at it for a year. Had I been dedicated, I would have finished, but I'm also trying to find agents/publishers for three other novels, so that takes a toll of "free time," as well as all my writing groups and organizations.

It's a full life, Charlie. Who said that? No idea.

Let us imagine Marcel on the beach at Balbec, or in the dining room with his grandmother, or in town with the young girls in flower, or maybe even in Elstir's studio. Long ago, I recall resort hotels like the one in Balbec. One's bottle of wine and bottle of water on the table from previous meals, even one's napkin. Personally, I like a fresh napkin rather often. The same waiter, and pretty soon he knows one's likes and dislikes. Has that way of life vanished? I rather think so.

Everything very proper and even stylized. Last Year at Marienbad and all that jazz. We saw Mr Hulot's Holiday, which ages so well and had that same seaside flavor. I liked it ever so much, even the umpteenth time.



Wednesday, August 12, 2009

At Long Last, Fini

I did it! Last night during the rain delay of the Red Sox game against Detroit, I finished The Guermantes Way, finally arriving at the scene where a dying Swann appears and the Guermantes pooh-pooh his problems and fixate on their evening plans. The Duchess, Oriane, runs back inside for the red shoes that will match her dress. The Duc, Basin, is such an upper class twit, and the entire scene is priceless, even worth the endless slog of hundreds of pages through the boring parties and receptions and upper class snobbery.
Proust really knows how to end a scene. I loved it. Now onward to the second volume. I have an ancient (ancien) copy in two volumes. It took me forever to get through the Guermantes. I wavered. I procrastinated. I read two pages per week. I became a Proust slacker. No more.
Of course, posting to the blog has been difficult with so little progress through the great novel.
August 11 is the great turnaround. Enfin!
Delirious with accomplishment,

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Proust would approve

I am so close to the end of the Guermantes book, that I can almost taste it, smell it, definitely feel it. This week for sure I will finish. So long a slog. I could have walked across Spain in the time it has taken to read it. In the summer. Taking two seasons.

Speaking of smelled it, here is the story of a blogger who lost and regained her sense of smell. And the first smell that came back was . . . . but I'll let her tell her Proustian tale of smell regained. Thanks to an alert reader for the link

Thanks to one of my readers for the alert.

We were in Nantucket this week, an island I have visited since my youngest was in diapers. The island has changed and not changed, but the sunlight, the fog, the sweet smell of privet will always remind me where I am. The ferry coming back encountered "ocean swells," but not rough enough for a "Nantucket sleight ride." Google this phrase. It is Melvillian.

It's not at all like Balbec, but there are girls on bicycles and girls walking and money in the air and old boarding houses and restaurants and even artists who have been there since God was a boy. I think that in the old days, Proust would have felt at home there. No grand hotels, but a few classy resorts. Not a European experience, and not even an American experience, but the quintessential New England experience.

The other Odette