By Dennis Abrams
Before we begin our journey In Search of Lost Time, I thought I’d take the opportunity to tell you a bit about myself, and why I love the work of Marcel Proust.
I write for a living: restaurant reviews, children’s books (biographies aimed at seventh to ninth grade readers) and other occasional pieces. But mainly what I do is read.
I’ve been reading for nearly as long as I can remember. Fiction, non-fiction, I read it all. My bookshelves are crammed with more books then any one person could possibly need. Not that that stops me from buying more books. I like having the widest possible assortment of books to choose from, with the perfect pick waiting no matter my mood or literary disposition.
But as a reader, looking back at a lifetime of reading, what seems to have mattered most to me in my selections is the author’s voice. There is little that links the authors that have mattered the most to me at various stages of my life–Charles Dickens, Graham Greene, Norman Mailer, M.F.K. Fisher, Pauline Kael, and Joan Didion–except a singular voice, one that sounds like no one else’s, one that seems to be speaking directly to me. Proust is no exception.
I made my first journey in search of lost time just about ten years ago. For years, I had lugged the old two-volume Random House hardcover version around with me from college to apartment to apartment, books that I remember buying at a library sale in front of the Paw Paw Public Library when I was nowhere old enough to read Proust, but old enough to know that I should and would read him at some time in my life.
Finally, I decided that the time had come: I was not going to turn forty without having read In Search of Lost Time. I was enchanted. I was enthralled. Proust’s voice seemed to me to be one I’d been waiting to hear all my life. After completing the books, I nearly turned around to dive right back into them again. But I waited, knowing that were lots of other books to read, and that when the time was right, I’d know.
Well, I’m turning fifty in January, and the time is now. I want to hear what Proust has to tell me, I want to enter his world again, I want him to show me new ways of seeing my world, and, most of all, I want to hear and respond to the siren-call of his voice again. Critic Michael Dirda wrote that “To those who respond to his sinuous prose – and many people don’t – there is no more powerful hypnotic drug in all literature.” I hope that you, like me, are ready to fall under Proust’s spell.