Wednesday 29 February 2012

On Reading

2012, A Reader's Eye View

2012 is proving a far less prolific reading year for me than 2011, even more so than I had planned. I knew that reading Proust would severely limit the number of books I read but I have also slowed down considerably in the number of pages read. There are a number of reasons for this. Proust, as his readers will know, demands greater attention than most. Last year I noted how much my reading slowed down while reading The Book of Disquiet and Proust is having a similar effect. Sentences are long and complicated, and the ideas propounded in one are altered by the next in a way that will give the inattentive reader a sense that he has lost his place.

So at this point in the year, after almost two months, I have read one book in it's entirety (The Savage Detectives) and am almost through five of the twelve volumes in my edition of In Remembrance of Things Past. (Half way through The Guermantes Way). At this point last year I had twelve books read, so the difference is pronounced.

Of course this hasn't stopped me buying books and I have added the first two books of David Peace's Red Riding Quartet to my 2012 TBR shelf and am planning to contribute to a Muriel Spark Reading Week. Spark is one of my favourite writers and I hope to read a novel Robinson and a volume of short stories, The Go Away Bird. They are both short.

How I will tackle the other books on my TBR shelf I don't know but I'm hoping that my reading accelerates as the year progresses.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Within a Budding Grove (Second Post)

Within a Budding Grove

In Within a Budding Grove Proust builds on Swann's Way, subtly reworking events and perceptions from different angles. One of the pleasures is recognizing some of the parallels. It was only when rereading two of my posts that one of them struck me, and maybe it can stand as an exemplar.

I've quoted at length from the scene at the party in Swann's Way, which is the big social set piece in this book. Part of this quote was about monocles and he described one as"an accidental and perhaps purely symbolical fragment of the glass wall of his aquarium, a part intended to suggest the whole..."
In the big social set piece in Within a Budding Grove, as I quoted here Proust describes the dining room of the Grand Hotel as becoming, when lit, "an immense and wonderful aquarium." 

Monday 20 February 2012

Iggy Proust

"We must lay aside all hope of going home to sleep in our own bed, once we have made up our mind to penetrate into the pestiferous cavern through which we may have access to the mystery, into one of those vast glass roofed sheds, like that of Saint-Lazare into which I must go to find the train for Balbec, and which extended over the rent bowels of the city one of those bleak and boundless skies, heavy with an accumulation of dramatic menaces, like certain skies painted with an almost Parisian modernity by Mantegna or Veronese, beneath which could be accomplished only some solemn and tremendous act, such as departure by train or the Elevation of the Cross."

From Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust, rendered into English by C Scott Moncrieff.

As an addendum to the last post. I don't think I need to point out the subtext here.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Within a Budding Grove (First Post)

Within a Budding Grove

I'm now finished the first four books of my twelve volume edition of Remembrance of Things Past, more slowly than was my intention but also more quickly at times than it feels like being read. There is a leisurely pace to Proust's sentences and they open up more readily, I find, when read slowly. The long sinuous threads can also get completely lost if you try to read too quickly.

The book is broken into three sections - Madame Swann at Home; Place Names: The Place; and Seascape, with Frieze of Girls. It grows ever more apparent that the major driving force of the novel is an exploration of sexuality, and more particularly, homosexuality. Although professing heterosexuality there are many hints and ellipses that seem to point to a strain of homosexuality in the narrator. His fascination with Gilberte Swann and her mother Odette at times seem simply ruses to penetrate M Swann's household. Proust himself was gay and Marcel, the narrator, is very much based on Marcel, the novelist. He is however, a self professed heterosexual in this novel. The tension between these poles is perhaps the most volatile and interesting element in the novel. It makes one feel somewhat ambiguous about Marcel's attempts to connect directly with his memory - it feels that there is a lie sitting in the heart of his rhapsodies of remembered sensation. But is the book really lying or is it inviting us to read THROUGH the story.

Sunday 5 February 2012

The Discreet Charm of Marcel Proust

À la recherche du la Bourgeoisie

I didn't expect to find a possible inspiration for Buñuel's Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie but Proust can be every bit as scathing as Buñuel in his descriptions of the foibles of the failing aristocracy.

Friday 3 February 2012

The Savage Daughters

King Pelias just before being hacked apart and killed by his daughters.

Further thoughts on The Savage Detectives

Having completed the group read of The Savage Detectives and my earlier response to the book, reading other blogs from the readalong has led me to think further about it and to consider elements that were not mentioned in my earlier blog post.

One of the themes that I found in The Savage Detectives and which I don't recall seeing in any of the other posts was the relationship between fathers and daughters. I had meant to address this in my earlier post but (like a number of other intended expositions) it fell by the wayside.