Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Jane Smiley's, Salon : Reading "In Search of Lost Time"

Reading "In Search of Lost Time"
Jane Smiley,, August 28, 2005
You will spend 70 days in a row with this man, and you will be charmed and offended and amazed and sometimes bored, but you will be lucky.

It is important that you go about your business while you pursue your reading project. You have to take M. with you on planes and trains and into hotels and to the dentist's office and into your child's piano lesson. "In Search of Lost Time" will not have its full effect if you sequester it. It must diffuse into your life, color every place you go and every scene you look at with its own tints. When you lift your eyes to glance into your own backyard, you want to do so with the sight of Albertine in your mind, quiet in her own chamber, forbidden to awaken M. too early in the morning; or the sight of M.'s friend, Saint-loup, stepping athletically over the backs of banquettes in a mirrored restaurant in Paris, making his way to M., who is sitting eating his supper; or the sight of Madame de Guermantes in one of her elegant turn-of-the-century Fortuny costumes and her red shoes. You want to listen to M.'s quiet voice in your head even while the news is on or while the dog is barking at the arrival of the UPS man. Seventy days in a row to spend with one narrative sensibility is a long time, but after you are finished, it will seem as though you were with him for years and are with him still.

Mmmmm... was wondering about that. As it happens this is impossible when reading it off the screen (anyone flaneured a wifi laptop owner reading Proust on a park bench or railway station recently?). True, nothing but the cost of printer ink to stop me printing out the requiste number of pages for the next outing.

I was was of the opposite view: read it in one place and stick to that place. If Proust mostly wrote it in one room, then we might find it better, or find ourselves compelled by what we read, to read it in one.

I read it in a corner of one room which contain the PC. So far that works well. There is the consolation of the 'contemplation window' right next to it, which means it only takes the swivel of a chair and a short step to be standing looking out at a line of trees and a field beyond, sufficent perceptual input but mostly an familiar, unchanging scene except for the occasional bird flutter, to allow the brain to mull over the pleasure of what one has just read, to try to grasp what was meant or to attempt to quell its irritation at the prolixity, or to start rearranging his sentances.


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