Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I found Proust on Flickr!

Three ways of reading Proust
What would Marcel, the narrator think of e-books and the Kindle?  

My novel of technology and desire, The Shadow Warriors, just came out on the Kindle for $2.99.  Below is the link.  The novel is framed by an "Info War" that is disrupting life world wide after malicious software agents penetrate computer systems.  My sleuth is a computer security sleuth, and she bites off more than she can chew, romance-wise as well as with some scary new technology.  

Here are some excerpts from reviews of the trade paperback and a link to the Amazon Kindle website.  This book marries technology, story-telling, international travel, even food.  What's not to like? 

All of the characters are believable and richly crafted, and the plot is something you might find in an Ian Fleming novel: taking us to foreign cities and cultures, rich with language and cuisine that are reflected delightfully within the prose.”  Odyssey Reviews

“A techno-thriller for men AND women.”  Al Past, Reviewer

I found the description of computer sleuthing and the development of soft-ware weapons that would bring the cyber universe to its knees hit the right balance between technology and a rip-roaring good story.”  Scott Kimmich, Reviewer

“. . . I could believe in each of the characters and their interrelationships and also because Copek's Raymond Chandlerish repartee is witty without being wearing.”  Lowell Thing, WhatIs

This is an excellent fast-paced cyberthriller, full of deceptions and high-tech intrigue.”  Kestrel

End of BSP, i.e. blatant self-promotion, and back to Proust and the Guermantes and the Verdurins and Cottard and all of our French friends.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Recipe for Madeleines

I found my madeleine molds, so there is no longer an excuse not to make them.  The molds are so petite, and the cookies will be extremely delicate.  Hope my cooking skills are up to the task.  The spirit of Proust will guide me.  I think this is an old recipe from the Sunday New York Times, possibly under Craig Claiborne's reign.

4 eggs at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

1.  Grease well and flour pans for for dozen madelines.  If only have as many pans are avilable, cut the recipe in half and make the second batch after the first is completed.  This is because the butter, on standing, settles and causes a heavy rough bottom layer.  Place racks near the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

2.  Beat the eggs with the salt, adding sugar gradually until the mixture is pale and very thick.  The mixture drops from the beaters to form a rope that gradually disappears.  Add vanilla. 

3.  Sift about one-quarter of the flour at a time over egg mixture.  Fold it in until no more flour show. 

4.  Add the butter, about a tablespoon at a time and fold it in as quickly as possible.  Fill the prepared pans about three-quarters full, place in oven immediately and bake until brown, about 10 minutes.

Yield:  About four dozen. 

Somewhat intimidating, no?  We shall see what happens. 

Reading Proust On Trains

I am still plowing through the Verdurin's dinner party at Raspelier, the country place high on the bluffs overlooking the Atlantic not too far from Balbec.  So far I've gleaned the menu partially consists of a) bouillabaise,  b) a fish and c) a strawberry concoction for dessert.  Mme. Verdurin is as always, vain and cunning and cruel as is her mate.  They haven't changed much since they savaged Swann.  

A comic moment was when the hostess mentioned Elstir's wife-to-be was a common "streetwalker" and Elstir, the painter, fell out of favor.  Odette, of course, was a courtesan whose favor they shamelessly curried at the expense of poor Swann.   Ah, the irony. 

We are reading and blogging Proust in Foxborough, and here is a gentleman who reads Proust on trains, maybe even in Arkansas, a state not normally on my radar, and  one I do not associate with Proust. 
Take a look for yourself.  Reading Proust on Trains  

I see the blogger has used the same photo of Proust that I have.  Hmmmm.  Must put Proust and blogging on the back burner for some Christmas cookies.  More anon


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blogging Proust for the Holidays

I've been reading Proust before bedtime, and somehow, now we are at an endless dinner party at the Verdurin's rented house  in the neighborhood of Balbec, at least close enough for a short train ride (with complications).  The Verdurin's decorating is critiqued.  A fish is served for dinner.  The food is seldom mentioned.  I guess that is because the conversation is so scintillating or that everyone is jockeying for social position and might as well be eating cardboard.

Except that these people are FRENCH!   Can you believe it?  I would so love to know what is served?  Of course Mrs. V. doesn't cook it herself, mais non!  Charlus is there and Cottard and the part of the "little clan" that summers in Balbec or environs.  It is amazing sometimes, that Proust can write so freakin' many words and yet neither the house nor characters are not offered much physical description.  Everything is in the head.  Not how we write today.  No talking heads allowed.  Nope.  None. 

A couple of blogs have caught my eye and you might want to check them out.  And I haven't forgotten my promise to publish the Madeline recipe.  Bear with me.

I am looking forward to progress in Sodom and Gomorrah and then on to the rest of the books, because the last one is the best but one has to "earn" it by reading the whole work.  



Saturday, December 11, 2010

Proust and Long Sentences

One of the reasons reading Proust is such a challenge is the length of his sentences, and no quotes and paragraphs that go on for pages.  Not easy for today's reader.  You just have to get into the groove as this blogger points out so well. 

Proust's Sentences

It's the time of year (and a cold winter already in Europe and New England) when Proust's bundling up in scarves and overcoats seems positively sane.  

Stay warm!  


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Review of Proust's Overcoat

You might consider giving Proust's Overcoat to your literate friends for a holiday present.  Here is a review to ponder. 

Proust's Overcoat

By the way, this is the season to whip up a batch of Madelines.  I'll post the recipe soon.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Who Wrote Vinteuil' s Sonata?

Interesting blog on the oft-researched Sonata with the "petite phrase,"  the love song for Swann and Odette. 

Who Wrote Vinteuil's Sonata

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Shadow Warriors

I am pleased to announced that my novel of technology and desire, The Shadow Warriors, will soon be available on the Kindle.  In time for Christmas, I hope.  Information Warfare is just as relevant in 2010 as it was in the 90's when I began writing the book. 

Proust's Religion

Proust and Religion  

Imagery yes, dogma no.

A blogger posts about religion and Proust.  Well, Proust did like churches.  I  thought of Proust today in the supermarket when I saw the pineapple all slice or chunked and ready for salads.  Proust was fond of a pineapple salad with weird ingredients.

I would so have loved it if he ever mentioned the food served at some of the soirees, but he never breathes a word.  They could have been eating Chinese take-out.  But of course, they weren't. Damn.  Inquiring minds want to know.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Reading Practically Everyone in Dedham

The weekend of the New England Crimebake in Dedham, MA, a conference for crime writers (and readers). Good this year with Charlaine Harris, Dennis Lehane, Catherine Hall Page, Julia Spencer-Fleming and other great New England Crime Writers.  And editors and agents, too.  Such fun to hang out at the bar and talk writing, shoes, robot vacuum cleaners, writing, New York, the Yankees, the Red Sox, various presses, writing, and well, yanno. . . . 

I pitched my latest almost complete oeuvre, which I had to go back and fix after the main character killed the bad guy.  Man, that changes everything.   

I realized that every manuscript I've ever written has a journey as big part of the story. The current novel is a road trip, racing up and down the Eastern seaboard and then off to Chicago and finally Reno and the Black Rock Dessert.  In Festival Madness, it as the trip to Burning Man.  In Promiscuous Mode, the character traveled to Wisconsin.  In World of Mirrors, the trip was to East Germany.  In the Shadow Warriors the characters congregated at a German university after bogeying through Singapore and Hong Kong.  

I just returned from San Francisco.  Who said every novel is either a journey or a quest?  Or both.  Think of On the Road.  Think of Canterbury Tales. 

An editor said the most boring beginning is to find the character setting out on a journey.  I dunno.  Sounds good to me. 

Marcel went to Balbec and to Venice.  And to visit Aunt Leonie.  I think Proust was a homebody, especially in his later years.  Finally he locked himself into his lonely room and wrote.   That is what I need to do to finish this book.  Why does it take so long? 

The Other Odette

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Proust Interview

Every month Vanity Fair asks a celebrity a series of questions known as the Proust Interview.  The questions are general and can be answered (perhaps differently) at various stages of life.  Here is a link:  to the web site

Imagine my surprise during Bouchercon, the mega-mystery writing and fan convention recently in San Francisco, when best-seller Lee Child was asked questions from the Proust Questionnaire during an interview.  His answers were flip and irreverent and it is galling that I can't find anything relating to the SUBSTANCE of the interview on the web.  There are a gazillion posts about Bouchercon and Lee Child, who threw a Reacher Creature Party on Friday.  But zilch, nada, nothing about the interview.  Rats!  

I was too jet-lagged and wine-soaked to go to the party.  In fact the entire convention passed in a kind of blur.  But San Francisco is a lovely town and we strafed through the City Lights Bookstore, a clean, well-lighted place that Proust would have loved.  We also attended a San Francisco noir event, at which I was even more jet-lagged.  I need to think seriously about arriving en site one day earlier than planned to catch up on sleep.  Eschew wine.  Take brisk walks.  Whatever. 

The most fruitful day was the first where Elizabeth Lyons gave a writing/editing session, and I learned so much.  I was also taking an online class on writing The First Five Pages of the novel.  And we had company and had to do a major house cleaning and other stuff and now I wonder how I stayed awake at all.  

We arrived during the week of San Francisco's "summer," of  beautiful sunny weather.  Stayed not at the convention hotel but at Land's End, on the other side of town, a long but cheap bus ride down Geary Street.  The Seal Rock Inn is situated at a scenic point and has the fame of Hunter Thompson having written one of his book's there.  We like it because of the location, the fact that you get a large suite with a fridge, and free Wi-Fi.  And the bus.  And the restaurant that serves big breakfasts reasonably.  And the funk.  The Grand Hotel at Balbec, it ain't. 

I am reading Proust again, and the Verdurin's party is almost as long as the Guermantes, but more interesting with Cottard, Charlus, the Verdurins, the couple you love to hate, and a cast of many.  Proust is a big change from Janet Evanovich and Jacqueline Winspear, two writers I read on my Kindle during the long flights.  A Kindle is wonderful to load up a bunch of books to go.  No heavy piles of paper, just the little device with it's recharging cord, of course.  

If I ever find out more about Lee Child's answers to the Proust questionnaire, I'll  post.  In the meantime, I'm still catching up on my sleep.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Proust's Overcoat

I have been at a writing conference in San Francisco and was able to pay a visit to the City Lights Bookstore, a place I have craved to see since I was a freshman in college and was introduced to the poetry of Ferlinghetti and some of the "Beat" writers.  I even became a lifetime member of a short-lived coffee house called "The Outside."  

City Lights lived up to my expectations--how often does THAT happen?  My significant other, my son and I all bought books.  Guess what one of my selections was?  Proust's Overcoat.  Written by Italian journalist and writer Lorenza Foschini and translated by Eric Karpeles of Paintings In Proust authorship,

I read Proust's Overcoat on the long flight home, and found it enchanting.  It is the story of one man's obsession with Proust and his effort to salvage Proust's writing and possessions after his death.    Obsession can be a good thing.   

Some nights I do read a few pages of Cities of the Plain and am enjoying it.  The Verdurin's dinner parties are somehow livelier than the Guermantes, don't you think?  And the little band of girls continues to  intrigue us as the narrator spends another summer at Balbec. 

Do pick up a copy of Proust's Overcoat.  Unlike his masterpiece, this book is 128 pages, some of them photos.  You won't still be reading it six months from now.  Hmmm.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing? 


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Back to Balbec

Reading Proust again!  We are in The Cities of the Plain, and the narrator and Albertine are hanging out at the seashore, at first before the high season, and now during  high season.  The Verdurins have rented a house along the coast with a fab view of the ocean.  A train is taking "The Little Clan" to the Verdurin's Wednesday dinner party.  

I have to confess in all my Proust readings I do not recall the Verdurins renting a summer house in the Balbec neighborhood.  I'm really enjoying this part of the book, now that YET ANOTHER endless reception has come and gone. The Guermantes have become bores.  I'm sure the Verdurin's party will be much more interesting.  Mme. Verdurin is a real piece of work, a wonderful character, which is to say a character that is not very nice.  The milk of human kindness does not run in her veins.  I am hoping for some conflict and some fireworks and maybe someone will be expelled from The Little Clan.  

It was a long slow slog through The Guermante's Way to this point.  Albertine flirted like crazy with St. Loup.  I couldn't have liked it more.

The Other Odette, licking her chops at the thought of scandal, disgrace and some more hanky-panky.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Romancing the Past

Does back to school make you nostalgic?  Proust readers may identify with this columnist's take on nostalgia and the past.

Romancing the Past

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New Proust Blogger!

Seems like summer belongs to Beach Books and not to the heavy tomes of Proust, although I am reading away in Cities of the Plain.

Here is a Proust blogger with a lot of great historical information.  Interesting how two out of the three who inspired the Guermantes women did not like Proust.  More Marcel!

Do take a look at this informative blog: 

Who's Who in Proust

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Still Reading Proust

I pick up The Cities of the Plain sometimes before bedtime and read a few pages.  The narrator is back in Balbec, and Albertine blows hot an cold and lots of stuff about the "liftboy."  I'm waiting for an evening with the Verdurins to unfold soon. 

Another Proust reader comments in his blog:

"Still reading Proust"  is a state of being.  The summer passes apace, with trips, house guests, gardening, bird watching and lots of meals on the grill.   
It's amazing to think that Proust and his friends never knew the delights of a meal cooked over charcoal, nor did a lot of people until The Thrill of the Grill hit us.  I knew someone who used a hibatchi and grilled steaks and teriyaki meat sticks many, many moons ago.  My parents cooked trout in a cast iron skillet over a campfire, trout they had caught just hours before.  I never expect to taste trout like that again, but if I did, surely there would be the Proustian experience of Sweetwater Lake and the funky cabins and the wood rat who worried so that my Dad (the tenderest of tender hearts) would harm her and her babies.  He took the wood out of the box and left the critters be. 

The trout was dipped in a mixture of cornmeal and flour and probably friend in bacon fat, maybe Crisco.  How far away those days of my childhood are. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Apple Trees in the Countryside around Balbec in Spring

I read the most beautiful passage two nights ago.  Proust is back in Balbec wanting to get together with Albertine.  He grandmother has died and he mourns her.  It is not summer, but spring, and the sea and the landscape are very different than during the high season of summer. 
From The Cities of the Plain

Describing the lush blossoms on the apple trees.   ". . . these apple-trees were there in the heart of the country, like peasants, upon one of the highroads of France.  Then the rays of the sun gave place suddenly to those of the rain; they streaked the whole horizon, caught the line of apple-trees in their grey net.  But they continued to hold aloft their beauty, pink and blooming, in the wind that had turned icy beneath the drench rain; it was a day in spring. 

I loved this breathtaking passage of trees and weather and comparing the trees to the peasants, the sudden rainstorm and the prosaic ending:  it was a day in spring. 

Ah, Proust!  You put us all to shame. 

The second photo is taken at Giverney.  

The Other Odette 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Montblanc Proust Pen

Rats!  Just when I thought I had the perfect (parfait) Father's Day gift.  No price.  Does that tell you something?

Proust Pen

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Reading Proust for Fun

Amazing how many readers are blogging Proust.  It almost beats Cat Blog Friday.  

 Here is another blogger.

I am still plodding through Sodom and Gomorrah, and not at warp speed, either.  Many irons in the fire.  Planted the garden, trying to finish my novel, getting ready for house guests, toastmasters speeches, yada, yada.  I realized the other day how moth eaten my volume looks.  Maybe it's time to invest in a new book. 

Off to watch Treme, the Mardi Gras episode.   I think Marcel would have liked Mardi Gras.  I can just see him, all bundled up, wandering the city of New Orleans, having a drink here and there, and listening to the music, examining the costumes, pondering the meanings, his lips curved in a faint smile.   Later he would write it all down. 


Saturday, May 01, 2010

Proust is now on Facebook

Have stranger things happened?  Proust is now on Facebook.  You can sign on and become a fan.

I've just returned from the Edgar Awards in NYC, given annually to those whose 2010 publications excelled in the mystery/crime writing genre.

 Due to a panel I sat in on, I bought Robert Arellano's nominated book, Havana Lunar.  Read it already.  It was short and ultra compelling, not your everyday mystery, and Arellano has a great take on setting and atmosphere as well as character.  I really loved this book.  Marcel, I think, would approve.  The descriptions are great, and for a whodunnit, it's not all that mired down in the conventions of clues and procedure.  Plays against the genre in many ways.  I love books about Cuba. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reading Proust South of Foxborough

Providence, RI is just a hop, skip and a jump from Foxborough, and I see a new Proust blogger has set up shop there.  Welcome to the wide world of blogging Proust.  I added "Proust in Providence" to the Proust blogs on the home page of this blog. 

I am making modest headway in Cities of the Plain, and falling behind in other reading.  Ten days of house guests--hard to feed house guests, and almost caught up and then a deathbed watch for a good friend.   Wrenching experience. 

Again playing catch up before I trek to New York for an annual writer's meeting, i.e. Edgar's Week, named after E.A. Poe (ho! ho! ho!).  I'm going to the symposium to find out the state of the genre.  Yes.  I confess.  I not a literary writer like Marcel, but a get-no-respect genre writer, mysteries and suspense, don't cha know?   My next novel will be an ordinary one, not crime fiction, which frees me in many respects, but of course I'll keep in mind the good lessons I've learned about conflict and moving the story along.  

Unknown wild flowers blooming in the garden.  Garlic is huge!  Yum.  We had beaucoup pineapples to eat over Easter, but we did not make the weird pineapple salad that Marcel ate.   Tonight I'm cooking shrimp scampi, ratatouille, and an orange-mascarpone-pistachio tart with a mezze platter for appetizers.  Mostly Mediterranean. 

I hope to come to a calmer spot in life soon, where Proust can again be savored.  In the meantime, onward. 

Odette, the other one 

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Reading Proust Again

Ah, some stresses in my life have sent me back into the pages of Proust, because I can always fall asleep while reading him.  Making way thru the endless party of the Princess de Guermantes.  This party is actually more interesting than most of the ones in The Guermantes Way.  Charlus always livens up the page, and St. Loup has just made an appearance and he is an appealing character.  His relationship with Rachel in some ways echoed Swann and Odette, although St. Loup hasn't married her.  Swann is apparently dying, and the reader finds more drama and conflict than in the previous pages.


The other Odette

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Cities of the Plain

This blogger has done such a wonderful summation of the Proust volume that I have been struggling to get "into" that I am all enthused.  Just have to get through one more dull party.  Ole!

Here is the link.  Gosh.  Why can't I summarize my novels thusly?  And isn't that a cool painting of Proust?


Sunday, March 28, 2010

It's Holy Week--time to read about Proust's visit to Tante Leonie

An alert blogger's post reminded me of some of the best passages in Proust, as the narrator and his family visited Tante Leonie for Holy Week.

No hawthorne's blooming in Foxborough yet, but the forsythia is coming and I have garlic plants, put in the ground last fall, that are peeking out of the garden soil, as are the tulips, those the rabbits haven't eaten, jonquils, and (now blooming) crocus.  Spring is so exciting.  I feel my blood rising with the maple sap which apparently rose early and outfoxed everyone.  The spring peeper's broke into their shrill chorus early, too, and the chipmunks came out of hibernation.  Birds pairing off.  Love it! 

Here is the Great Proust Blog 
and an lovely web site, too.  

The Other Odette

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Proust and Euphemisms

The blogger in the link below takes exception to one of Proust's "euphemisms," but I really liked it because Proust  didn't use whatever the  current euphemism was (and there were probably many).  Instead Proust used something very specific to Swann and Odette, something with meaning to them, and I thought that was an example of his greatness as a writer. 
Has anyone noticed, by the way, that "hiking the Appalachian Trail" has become a NEW euphemism, and that in our times, these new expressions come facing at us before the ink is dry. 

Here is the blog link:

A cattleya is an orchid, (shown above, and look at Google images if you want to see hundreds), and Odette always wore one on her decolletage. 

The other Odette, who doesn't wear flowers but likes to grow them. 

Friday, March 05, 2010

All Things Proust, Both Large and Small

I found a web site that gives Proustian facts in a nutshell.  The brief, most unProustian of answers about the great man.  I am amused.  

Here is the link.

I have been too busy writing and preparing and delivering a Toastmaster's speech to read anything except the daily papers and The New Yorker.  One of these days I'll get caught up. 

Seeing a new play in Boston tonight.  Last night we went to a New England Pen event at Upstairs at the Square.  Harvard Square, of course.  In a moment of Proustian recollection, my Significant Other and I  were discussing how the square had changed since our early years in Boston, and I thought, also, of the changes to Central Square and Kendall Square  (my old stomping grounds).  All three squares would be nearly unrecognizable to anyone coming from the past. 

The past weighs heavily, like the lead x-ray apron. 


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Virginia Woolf Read Proust

In the twenties, that most fertile period in English (and French) literature, Virginia Woolf read Proust.  She probably read him in French.  I cannot imagine reading those endless sentences and paragraphs en Francais, but of course well-educated writers of that time would have little difficulty.  Strangely enough, the beginning of the work reads rather easily in French.  Go figure.

Here is an interesting account of  Virginia's reading.

How Virginia Woolf read Proust  

Monday, February 08, 2010

Difficulties with Reading Proust

The great work is temporarily stalled on my nightstand.  Proust in Pictures has languished since Christmas.  I read the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which scared the bejesus out of me, and started The Girl Who Played With Fire which also seems pretty scarey. 

Too many projects afloat.  Need to give 4 more Toastmaster speeches between now and June.  Just finished a revision class.  Trying to finish my novel.  Need to send out more queries.  We have a huge slide scanning project on the home front.  Big Love, Damages and The Good Wife occupy my TV time, as does the Food Channel.  And I need to learn Word Press.  What would Proust do?  He'd finish his novel.  I don't go out into society much, but of course, the occasional foray is sometimes required.  Winter is progressing much too quickly.  Spring and the call of the garden will soon arrive. 

We had wild turkeys in the yard, necesssitating a trip to PETCO for some cracked corn.  

Here is someone else who is having his own Proust troubles.  A fellow reader, or non-reader.

Nonetheless, I am determined to forge on, if I could only get by the freaking parties until the last party, the best by far. 


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Time Regained

Here is a review of the Proust movie, Time Regained.   I actually saw this movie a few years ago in Harvard Square and thought that they did an excellent job considering how notoriously difficult filming Proust's work must be.

Read on.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Cork-Lined Room

I really like The Cork-Lined Room.  The discussion of Proust is excellent with its use of quotes and detail and yet is something every reader can follow--in other words its not too "academic." 

Small confession:  I used to be in the academic camp and somehow migrated to genre fiction where I'm not really at home either.  A wanderer in the city of narrative.

The link to the post with wonderful reflections on Mme. Verdurin, Odette and Marcel is below:

What a cursor-full! 

I always like to see how an author handles flowers.  

Odette, the other one