by Dennis Abrams
Along with the obvious deepening of Marcel’s despair at not being able to kiss his mother goodnight due to M. Swann’s visit, a despair so deep that he lied to Francoise in order to get her to deliver a note to his mother while she was dining (although without interrupting the “mouth rinsing cups” and the granitas); a note from which Marcel received the curt reply “There is no answer,” I’d like to make a few, brief observations.
1. The scene is also very funny. The attempts by the great-aunts to thank M. Swann for his gift without actually thanking him always makes me laugh.
2. Important themes are introduced: Francoise as representative of a older, more noble France. Linking Marcel and Swann. The anguish of love and loving.
3. And finally, something to watch and be aware of — the shifts from the Marcel “I” and the Narrator “I” Any thoughts on that?
I also wanted to post a piece sent in by a reader. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it inspires you to send me your posts as well.
by Jeanne Badman
As I sit down to begin reading Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time for the third time, I have to admit something to myself. Repetition is an important tool that I use to learn and retain information. I get more out of anything — lesson, class, song, poem, book, movie, joke, meal, you name it — if I can repeat the experience. So I have decided to re-read Proust while I am re-reading Proust.
During my initial attempt at reading Proust, I felt very much “on the outside looking in.” Where was the real meat of the story? What was it all about? When would I get this gigantic inside joke? How can this be humorous? I was very intimidated, and ended up taking it all too seriously. In my efforts to understand the purpose of the story, I was keeping the beauty of each page at a distance.
Starting over for a second try, I began to feel familiarity. The distance was overcome and a sense of welcome was developing. I would laugh out-loud at the strangest times and imagine that I was the only person to have found that particular passage funny. Suddenly, I was in on the joke, or was I? Many times I felt overwhelmed by lengthy passages describing very important events. I frequently lost my sense of placement in the narrative.
Now, with the invitation to start again, I am committing to a plan of reading and re-reading each day. Every 10-15 pages I will re-read what I just read. It will take me about one hour. I expect tremendous return on this investment of time. Today I was with the narrator when he pursued his mother’s goodnight kiss. Tomorrow I will be with him when he tastes the tea and madeleine. This is how I learn, and how I will retain what I learn. In Search of Lost Time is a new world, again.
Bio: Jeanne Badman grew up reading in rural Pennsylvania, at first choosing her own books and later taking recommendations. Now in her 50s, she is happily re-reading many favorite books. She is an artist and educator living in St. Paul, Minnesota with her husband, her two daughters, and a very large cat.
So…let me ask you all about the topic of experience vs. re-experience. Film critic Pauline Kael was notorious for watching a film only once, and trusting her immediate emotional response to guide her review. Others, such as Ms. Badman, feel they gain more from a second and even third viewing or reading. Where do you stand?
And finally — tomorrow’s reading. It includes the first “big” scene, the one that everybody knows — the dipping of the madeleine. So, in whatever edition you’re reading, we’ll start with “I heard my parents’ footsteps as they saw Swann out…” and read through the end of chapter one.
(One final final question for the group. What do you think of our reading pace? Too slow? Too fast? Please let me know what you think about this, as well as anything else regarding the blog.)