Monday, October 26, 2009

Why is Everybody Reading Proust?

Well, Proust gets a lot of free PR. Proust and the Squid, How Proust Can Change Your Life--Proust's name in the title of a book is not uncommon.

How many undergraduates read Proust these days? That's when/where I learned about the Narrator. My god, I read parts of Jean Santeuil and all sorts of references. Poulet's Studies in Human Time and ??? I wish I still had the list. Wish I still had my paper. Hmmm. Maybe one more trek through the folders of olde college stuffe.

I doubt that anyone in my writing group has read Proust. Suspect a couple of them may not have even heard of him. But of course, unless you are writing long, long sentences, Proust isn't required for writers. These days, those sentences would be out of favor.

Saturday evening at the Boston Festival of Books, I listened to Orhan Pamuk's address, and tried to think when, except for Proust, I read anything the least bit "literary." Couldn't think of anything going back to The Corrections. That novel, while excellent, did not read as "literary"--think big words and long sentences.

Pamuk, whom I have not read, seemed literary. Maybe literariness is a European thing. Literary Americans? Faulkner was literary. Thomas Wolfe. My mind has gone blank. Who else? Ah, Henry James. Definitely James. The Golden Bowl. Very literary. Is literary a function of writing structure or of subject matter. What makes literary?

Proust is definitely "literary." Here is a link again to a new Proust reading group.

And here's a link to an opinion about the cork-lined room. I notice the author does not have this blog in his sights. Oh well, no matter.

When I climb out from under 2009, I'll read Proust again. Practically salivating. Can't wait to get to the last book, The Past Recaptured, the reward for all that hard reading.


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