Thursday, November 22, 2012

M. Proust's Library

New Proust book alert!  M. Proust's Library by Anka Muhlstein, Other Press, 141 pages, $19.95 

Joseph Epstein has a long, knowledgeable review of the book in the November 17-18 (2012) Wall Street Journal. 

Epstein mentions, what many of us know, that "no one should read Marcel Proust's 'In Search of Lost Time' for the first time."  This is a clever way of saying that the second reading is much more meaningful (you know the characters and the scope of the book) and are ready to get the deeper meaning of Proust, the humor, the art, music and yes, the books Proust mentions.  

We would be cultured and well-educated if we read all the classics that Proust read.  I do encourage you to find the review and better yet, to buy this book, as it looks like an excellent addition to anyone's Proust library. 

I am still dipping into Proust from time to time, but other required reading and  life, have conspired to slow this process down.  The long winter, I tell myself, will be perfect for some Proust reading. 

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers.  Off to get the turkey stuffed and into the oven.


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Marquise de Saint-Euverte’s Musical Soirée

It was a brilliant decision for A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in Literature by Suzette Field  to pick this party, with the fun poked at invitees and servants alike, and with the social jockeying and snobbery as evident as the men's monocles and the ladies outrageous hair ornamentation.

This is one of Proust’s shorter (and therefore better) parties.  The writing also contains quantities  Proust's snarky humor.  The narrator outdoes himself with his witty, exacerbating descriptions of the guests and the music, so many of which are imminently quotable.

 Of one of the many footmen and grooms who attend the guests, Proust singles out the hair of one of them. “. . . that a head of hair, by the glossy undulation and beaklike points of its curls, or in the overlaying of the florid triple diadem of its brushed tresses, can suggest at once a bunch of seaweed, a brood of fledgling doves, a bed of hyacinths and a serpent’s writhing back. “

Of a guest, Proust writes, “M. de Palancy, who with his huge carp’s head and goggling eyes moved slowly up and down the stream of festive gatherings, unlocking his great mandibles at every moment as though in search of his orientation, had the air of carrying about upon his person only an accidental and perhaps purely symbolical fragment of the glass wall of his aquarium…”
 Quoted from Swann’s Way, “Swan in Love” translated by Scott Moncrieff.

One bows to the master.

Good Reads Review of Suzette Field's Party Book

A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in LiteratureA Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in Literature by Suzette Field
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful fun-to-read book. The forty parties discussed are a sweep of literature from the Bible to Stephen King. You can be glad you weren't invited to some of these parties--they're a real horror show, such as The Masque of the Red Death, Belshazzer's Feast, The Anubis Orgy, but they'll all such fun to read about, like a snarky society column.

Some thing "curious" about "A Curious Invitation" is that there's very little mention of what food was served at many of these parties. The importance of drink outweighs details about the food. I've noticed that many, not all, writers are drinkers, not eaters, so this isn't surprising.

You don't have to be an English or World Lit. major to delight in this book. You're in some very interesting company all the way from Trimalchio to Joyce and sometimes being a mouse spying from the woodwork is the very best vantage point.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties In Literature

An intriguing book has flown into my radar.  Suzette Field's A Curious Invitation . . .  arrived right before we left for Los Angeles on a research trip for my own work in process novel.  Significant Other grabbed it and read it the entire  time we were away, and I am just now getting to it. 

Of course the first chapter in A Curious Invitation that  I read was about Proust's account of the Marquise de Saint-Euverte's Musical  Soiree in Swann's Way.  If you have read this blog at all, you know I frequently get bogged down in Proust's parties, but his writing about the Marquises's party is absolutely sprightly, with spot on characterizations and comments about the guests.   Oh the snobbery!  The jockeying for social position!  The servants!  The music! 

And guess what "little phrase" Swann hears just as he is itching to get out of there and head back home to find out news of Odette?  Vinteiul's little phrase, of course. 

The Curious Invitation's description of the party is also spot on. And this soiree is not as long as many of the parties in Proust, perhaps because Swann is so impatient to leave.  I love these books (both Proust and  A Curious Invitation) and you will hear more about them when I get my own dinner party out of the way this evening (no live music and very little snobbery).  There is also a book signing tomorrow at the Boston Book Festival.  I will be in the Sister's In Crime booth signing World of Mirrors.

Then it's back to Proust's party where we will dig the dirt, as it were, and on to some more "marvelous parties" in A Curious Invitation.  Reading about the various parties brought back a few I remember.  Seventh Floor Adolphus in Dallas before the Cotton bowl, and some high school blasts in McCarthy's basement.  When did I grow so mature and even . . staid?  Great party, by the way, at Santa Anita race track in the Turf Club Saturday afternoon.  The "dress code" brings out the best. A very lively crowd, friendly, too.

Even if the blasted hurricane comes up the East Coast, we'll have the 40 Greatest Parties, Proust and an assemblage of hurricane lanterns and lamps to read by. 

More anon,


Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Would Proust Have Won?

The McArthur genius grants have just been awarded, and two novelists were selected.  Junot Diaz and Dinaw Mengestu Win $500,000 Genius Grants.

Do you think Proust would have  qualified?  I do.  With his great work, he did something no one has done before or since.  The characters, the settings, the stories, the words, his subtle humor.  Think about it.  Proust was truly a genius.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Proust as Voyeur: Forbidden Places

A new book is out about  "the love hotels of Paris between the 19th and 20th centuries."  Marcel Proust frequented the Hotel  du Saumon to gather material for his book, setting scenes there.  My take is that Proust's interest was not entirely literary.  Well, so it goes.  This is the link to the Forbidden Places. 

A honky-tonk for men????   I thought honky-tonks were for loud music.  Isn't  "Honky Tonk"  a cool word.  Where do you suppose it originated? Apparently know one is sure.  It's been around since the 1890's and was first seen in print in 1920.  I do believe I will use it in my novel-in-progress.

This book, Nicole Canet's, not mine, is called an "erotic thriller." Sounds like something Toulouse Lautrec might have devised.  Canet is a painter and artist.   BTW, the book isn't on Amazon.  Sorry about that.  




Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Writers and Ideas

To ignore Proust for a post, tomorrow I'll be a guest blogger on Sheila Boneham's great writing blog. The topic is how a writer can run with an idea and the example I'm using is my recently published novel, World of Mirrors. Stop by and join the ever-fascinating topic of writers and ideas.

Two photos from the island of Ruegen where the novel is set.  These photos each led to an important scene in the novel. 

Statue in front of the Badehaus im Goor
Rugen Thatched Roof Cottage

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Proust's Favorite Resort Hotel

Trouville and the surf lapping against the beach, ladies with long skirts and parasols, and girls riding bikes.  Ohhh!  It's Albertine and Andrea and the little band.  Proust vacationed here, and they even have his room restored.  Sounds spiffy.  I wonder if you get the same table every day and your own bottle of wine and water.

Proust's Fave Hotel

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Portraits of Proust's characters

Resemblance: The Portraits

After so little Proust news lately, I have  a blockbuster web site for you.  How did I ever miss this one.  Paintings of how the artist imagined Proust's many characters.  You can play the game and try to guess who is who.  Some of them are easy to guess.  This is really amazing.  I'm so pleased to share with you. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Proust's Cork-Lined Room

A blogger with lovely photos of Paris' 9th arrondissement has also posted a photo of Proust's cork-lined room now reassembled in the Museum Carnavalet.

Do take a look.  The Paris photos are great and make you want to jump on the next flight to Charles DeGaulle. 

Proust's Bedroom, Photos of Paris on Ann Webster's Blog  

Scroll to the bottom for the photo of Proust's room. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Proust Vacationed in Normandy

Proust spent summers in Normandy in a town he called "Balbec" but he really stayed in Trouville or Cabourg.  Like many writers, Proust kept the names of big cities like Paris or Venice in his novel, but he changed the names of smaller towns like Cabourg to imagined names.  The same with Combray.  The imagined places become as real to us as Proust's Paris.  Here is a lovely picture of Cabourg, and you can almost see Proust strolling on the boardwalk before luncheon is served in the dining room. I don't see the young ladies on their bicycles, do you?  Proust loved them all.  Such a lovely image.

The Beach at Cabourg

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Proust Plays Air Guitar on a Tennis Racquet

I honestly don't know if this is a real or a doctored photo, but it's a riot. Marcel Proust playing air guitar on a tennis raquet

We know Proust had a good sense of humor, so why wouldn't he act a little goofy in the presence of friends?  Sometimes he seems to be this great god-like master of fiction, but he was all too human.  This is a great example.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

David and Goliath

The small, quiet suburban town of Foxborough has successfully fought Robert Kraft and Steve Wynn (two Goliashs) and scuttled the planned megacasino across from the stadium.  This behemoth would have ruined our peaceful town in so many ugly ways, and the voters turned out en masse to voice their opposition.

I felt proud that I had blogged, posted on the website, held a placard and made telephone calls.  Not much, but every person contributed in some way to the defeat of the casino.

I was so happy when I heard the news.  Citizens can still be an effective voice in a democracy.   As the late great Mayor Daley  (the original one) used to say, "The people have spoken." 

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Vinteuil: Beethoven or Saint-Saens?

On April 15th,  Jeremy Eichler had a wonderful article in the classical music section of The Boston Globe, wondering who Proust really had in mind when he talked about Vinteuil's Septet. Pretty heady stuff for the Sunday Globe.  I had always assumed Proust had Saint-Saens Violin Concerto No. 1, Opus 75 in his head.  I thought I had even identified the "petite phrase." 
Maybe not.  Eichler makes a good case for three late Beethoven quartets, 130, 131, and 132.  He heard them performed in the new concert hall at our Isabella Stewart Museum and thought of Vinteuil's Sonata.  As I write I'm listening to Saint-Saens  and I think I hear it now. 

Nonetheless, I'm going to play those Beethoven Quartets and try to determine if they contain the little phrase.  Eichler has written a wonderful synopsis of the Proust/ Vinteiul conundrum and plays musical detective to give us greater insight into music in Proust.

Here is the link: Is Vinteiui's Music Beethoven's Late Quartets?  

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Questions Marcel Proust Would Like to Ask You

So sad that the museum has no Proust letters and that the exhibit has been dismantled and "sent elsewhere."  

 This is a great post, and I salivate to have been on that tour!  Love this blogger's graphics.
 Questions Proust Would Like to Ask You

 I have the Painter biography by the way.  There's an entire shelf on the bookcase devoted to Proust and to James Joyce and T.S. Eliot. 

I read this week that Barak Obama was a big fan of Eliot's The Wasteland.  Me, too!  Also in college.   Well I daresay that he would be dubbed eliter than elitist should he start quoting Eliot.  Yikes!  Does anyone but English majors read that stuff anymore?  Hope so. 

Think I'll read some Proust tonight.  It's a long slog just to get through the magazines and newspapers that come to the house. 

Odette, the autre

Thursday, April 12, 2012

On the Road with Proust

Kristen Stewart on the Road  Proust and  Kerouac are an unlikely pair, maybe even an unholy won, and I don't think      the Beats read Proust.  Well, maybe they did; who am I to say? 

For some  (old) but dishy gossip, with only one small mention of Proust, here is a book you probably don't need to read after you read the review.   Three American Girls in Paris                                                

It must be the silly season with all these frivolous mentions of Proust.   I am sorry to report that my reading of the masterpiece has been halted due to other reading, houseguests, travel, getting a book ready for publication, cooking and entertaining and well, you know . . . stuff.  But  I'm just stalled not bailing.

By the way, the town of Foxborough is beseiged by big, bad wolf Steve Wynn, who wants to build a behemoth casino here.   We would rather read Proust than deal with drunks, hookers,  and pawn shops.  I mean, really.

Odette, somewhat on her high horse. 

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Fabulous Proust Quotes

Marcel Proust is eminently quotable, and here is a blog that assembled a big bouquet of quotes for your enjoyment and even edification.

My Proust reading hours have fallen due to being super busy on those New Year's Resolutions, a new book club, a new novel I've started, and polishing up a newly finished novel. Two dinner parties! Life is a whirlwind chez Odette, and we wish it would slow down a bit. Several writing events, and one coming up in April. Another public reading (eek!) in March.

I'll wander back to Proust soon. He always inspires. Here are the quotes. Quintessence


Saturday, February 04, 2012

Jacqueline Rose's Proust Writings

Guardian Article About Jacqueline Rose's Proust Writings   

Since I've been reading about the sleeping Albertine, I found Rose's remarks interesting, although I have not come to this passage yet.   This is the first time I've come across mention of her novel, Albertine, which is an interesting take on a Proust character (there are so many).  Could keep a story-teller engaged for years.  

Who is your favorite Proust character? 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Technical Stuff

I am in the ugly process of changing a 12 year old (maybe older) email address to something more contemporary. My whole life is linked to that email, and even my blogs. Detaching and reattaching is unbelievably complex. Merging, purging, changing, setting hair on fire. So far I have only locked myself out of two sites.

This is just a test to make sure I can blog with a "new" identity. Proust never had these 21st century problems.
Ye gods.!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Proust Bloggers Active Again

Here are a couple of Proust Blogs of interest this week.  I am using a new version of Blogger and feeling my way in.  Think I might like to return to the old.  Why does everyone fix things that aren't broken?

I am still working my way through Albertine living with the narrator in Paris.  Nothing new has happened.

The blogs, forthwith:  The Strangeness of Words

A Year of Reading Proust

I have been re-reading Proust for far longer than a year.  Over time, sort of like the novel.  Happy New Year to all.