Monday, March 21, 2016

Thoughts on Swann in Love, I

I posted the following as a comment on a youtube video a while ago and am re-posting it here. 

Quick initial thoughts on Swann in Love: I’m still at the very beginning of it and it is taking me a while to get used to it – to get into it. In week one you spoke of the “phenomenological swim” when reading Proust and I feel like in these first pages I’m too much above water—and I don’t care for it. I do think this is a “just me” moment. I tend to like books if I like/love the narrator: this is why I like/love the Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre, The Red and the Black. I identify very strongly with the narrator. And that’s what I found myself doing in “Combray”. And now in this section, because it is not so much about him, I feel like we’ve lost him. And at this early stage I’m not as invested in any of the people he is describing.  Swann was more interesting to me when he was visiting the family, than he is right now as he is falling in love with Odette.   But I’m still enjoying it—just not as much as I enjoyed the earlier sections. (Even if some of the descriptions did go on a bit). I have to wonder to what extent the gender/age/outlook on life? play a role in how people respond to this passage. At this stage the “element of caddishness” in Swann – his predatory nature with regards to women—the fact that he –at this point-sees them as things to conquest rather than equals makes him less, not more interesting to me. I wonder how this will all develop.  Have you seen the Jeremy Irons/Ornella Mutimovie directed by Volker Schlöndorff ? (I’m not sure if it’s any good). 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Proust notes, II (Church in Combray) (King Charles, VI, playing cards etc.

It’s interesting that the church seems more habitable when it is empty. The narrator describes rooms by imaging them in great detail when they are empty.  He “sees” them when he is no longer physically in them. They have been internalized in his mind. I suppose when we remember rooms we don’t usually see ourselves in them—we’re behind the camera of our own mind’s eye.
The church passage: seemed to highlight the expansive nature of the narrator’s internal imagination. “their silvery antiquity sparkling with the dust of centuries”
 I liked the references to cards and the game of patience (“planned to beguile Charles VI) in connection with his description of the church windows . (cards=vice vs. being in Church). This caused me to spend too much time on the internets reading about poor mad King Charles VI, who had cards made for him. (but NOT tarot cards as some suggest, but regular playing cards, just as Proust implies). I guess I’m mildly interested in the history of playing cards. (it’s quite complicated).

The church section was also a meditation on history and the way time and people “weigh down” the architecture –how they leave their trace on the building.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

On Reading Proust's In Search of Lost Time, I

I'm re-posting some casual comments I've made as part of a "Proust-read-along" that Neil Griffiths (writer and youtuber) started a couple of weeks ago. Not going to edit them much--just posting as is.

I’m less far along as you Neil and I’m reading the Moncrieff. (the cheapest kindle version for now—will prob order a book copy soon). My kindle tells me I’ve read 1% of all 7 volumes—(woohoo! -only 99% to go!)
I DID kind of fall into it (more than I fell into “Infinite Jest” for example—God knows when or if I’ll ever finish that one).  I love the beginning with the description of him falling asleep – in general I love his descriptions of how his consciousness relates to external spaces (rooms) he is in and time—the fluid movement between past present and future.  And one already senses the senses are very important to him (and very sensual).
I’m fascinated by the point of view—we are inside his head “watching” his observations about the past present future, as well as his own reactions to everything—I’m not sure what the technical term for this form of narration would be—some sort of first person narrative.
Considering how “internal” it is we also get a lot of “external” observations about French social/class relationships and also gender relationships—the oedipal relationship he has to his mother, who for me at least has only come alive as an object of HIS desire-not yet in her own right. I love the back and forth between “society novel” and more-or-less stream of consciousness. Swann’s appearance is mysterious and intriguing. (like the timid peal of the doorbell that announces him).
Gender relationships: the patriarchal household is full of strong women--the elderly female relatives come alive more than for example his father does, e.g. the grandmother who likes to walk outside even when it rains—or the grandaunt(s)? and how they interact with Swann. The servant, with whom the narrator must negotiate carefully to get the note sent to his mother.