Friday, June 17, 2011

Still with Proust

Today I realized that Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” (Remembrance of Things Past) makes me feel still. I’m still reading volume one, “Swann’s Way” and yesterday passed page 100. This week, I attended my book club at the Central Library. We read Lionel Shriver’s “So Much For That” and I didn’t enjoy it. On the side, I’ve been reading Blaise Pascal’s Pensées (thoughts) and Provincial Letters as well as short stories by Richard Yates.

But Proust seems to settle me and make me pause. Reading him reminds me of sitting at the Nelson, looking at Monet’s Water Lilies triptych. Not a moving picture in the film sense, yet the movement is there if I just open up and see it. Then again, there’s this richness that’s the result of the artists observation and rendering that allows the viewer to examine slowly.

We desire stories with action, pace, and writing that moves along. We’re used to that excitement. We wish to “get to the end of the line” as David Mamet likes to encourage his actors to deliver…

But in Swann’s Way, Proust’s narrator remembers sitting beneath a chestnut tree and reading, thinks about the people at his aunts country home in Combray, simply remembers all of that and allows his mind to pour forth. It’s a stream of consciousness more engaging than in James Joyce’s Ulysses I think. But so far I’m finding that I cannot read too many pages at once…the pages turn slowly, so slowly it feels like stillness.

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