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