Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Note Taking

I am beginning my reading of Swann's Way this evening. I'll be using he Lydia Davis translation and I, like Stefanie, found her introduction to be excellent. Indeed, I think that the introduction gave me the confidence I need to get through the text this time around. Interestingly enough, I think that having just finished a Henry James novel also helped me prepare for Proust. Both men like long, meandering sentences. I am excited to begin this endeavor!

I do have a question for my fellow Proust readers, though: how do you plan (if, indeed, you do) to take notes? I am not a big fan of writing in the margins of the text, although sometimes it is the most convenient way to jot down thoughts, etc. I do have a little Moleskine notebook that I could use as well, but fishing for the notebook could be inconvenient if I am, say, reading the book on the subway, etc.

Which brings me to another question: WHERE do you plan on reading your Proust? Do you think that the book would be best enjoyed and understood if you set aside a certain place and time each day to read it? I am thinking this might be my best approach. I discovered in my last several attempts at reading Proust that the text requires my full concentration and devotion. Who knows, maybe this time the sentences will seem to flow better and I'll not be able to put Proust down!

I am very interested in the logistics/mechanics of your reading of Proust. How do you plan to "make yourself comfortable" for the experience, so to speak?

13 Comments:

Blogger Dorothy W. said...

I'll be reading Proust in the same way I've read other books I plan to blog on: by underlining and marking passages in the margins and using post-it notes. I don't like to write in the margins, but I will mark passages and generally I'll remember why I thought they were important. Post-it notes are for passages I'm likely to quote from. Sometimes, also, I'll type notes in my laptop if there's an idea I want to write about and I'm afraid I'll forget it; I've got a document specifically for notes on the blog. I guess that's the equivalent of your moleskin.

As for where I read: upstairs in my study. I've got this comfortable black chair with a foot rest, and it sits right next to my bookshelf with my 18C books, which somehow get me in a thinking mood. I do most of my reading and writing here, although occasionally I will read in the living room or out on the deck. But in my study I concentrate much better.

Good question!

7:41 AM  
Blogger Stefanie said...

I use Levenger page points to mark passages, thin littl metal pointers that don't hurt the page. If I need to write something I always have scratch paper at hand for a note. If I find myself becoming highly engaged with the book I might break down and actually write in it.

I love reading in bed and plan to read as much of Proust in bed that I can. After all, he wrote it while in bed ;)

7:59 AM  
Blogger Transient Me said...

I wish I was sufficiently disciplined to take notes! Instead, I sort of slip through all the pages, soaking up the words and metaphors and language like some sort of mindless blotter. Which makes it really hard to go back and find quotes and passages that need rereading. Expect many 'There was this great part, somewhere between pages 75 and 200, where Proust said this really cool thing...' and other such super precise commentry ;)

As for where I read: I inherited my eldest brother's massive crimson couch which is perfect for all forms of reading. I can sit squished right up by the lamp at the end, all attentive and Sunday School like, or sprawl out, legs extended and crossed, head sinking into the voluminous cushions as I pretend to read but really prepare for a quick nap. Versatile! I usually alternate from one position to another during an extended read.

8:23 AM  
Blogger sfp said...

I'm an intrepid underliner and I've been known to dog-ear without a smidge of remorse.

I intend to read Proust curled up on the leather sofa in the living room.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Its so fascinating to me that we each have our own little reading rituals. Its also pretty cool!

I will most likely jot notes in the margin of the text. Its easiest for me. When I am not able to jot things down, you can look some of the same "super precise commentary" to which transient me referred!

I will try to read Proust in bed as much as possible, mainly because that is where I feel most comfortable. I also have a nice chair in the living room that sits near the windows. Its darn comfy.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Dark Orpheus said...

Hi, just dropping by - hope I'm not too intrusive.

I'm anal, so I use Post-It notes stuck to pages of the book.

Only in extreme circumstances do I underline and comment in the book itself - in pencil.

Reading of Proust will probably be in my bedroom, with door closed, surrounded by bookshelves.

11:46 PM  
Blogger Stefanie said...

No intrusion at all Dark Orpheus. You are welcom to add your voice :)

1:28 PM  
Blogger Quillhill said...

As I noted before, I bought a volume for the specific purpose of marking up while reading, and that is what I have begun to do, underline and jot notes in pencil.

The thing that ties in to the precise commentary idea is that this is a massive piece of fiction, and when we are reading the first few pages of Swann's Way, how do we know what will come into play in Time Recaptured when Proust gathers all his themes together and makes it one? So do you mark anything you think might be a theme, or do you realize four hundred pages later that something you vaguely remember from Volume One was more important than you expected, but hidden among all those words you can't seem to find it again?

I prefer to read in bed, when it's quiet, and so I usually finish almost one entire page before falling asleep--not because I'm bored, but because I'm exhausted. I love the writing, and marvel at the architecture of the sentences.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Transient Me said...

Since Proust wrote most (if not all?) of the book while lying in bed, I think it fitting that it be read in such manner. To Michelle and Quillhill goes the Poetically Apt award!

And Quillhill, you're absolutely correct - in fact, what I learnt was that Proust wrote most of Swann's Way and then went directly to Time Recaptured, working on the themes before filling out the story in the middle.

So it would indeed by wise (sagacious even!) to take notes and such, but I find that Proust writes so fluidly that I become engrossed and forget the pencil held loosely in my other hand or shoved behind my ear. It almost seems a shame to stop, to interrupt the flow of the narrative to jot something down, or underline or what have you. I think I'm part purist, and part plain lazy, so I hope you are assiduous in taking notes for later on!

2:52 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

I was wondering if I could join your discussion? A check of my blog will reveal that I had planned on making July Marcel Proust Month.

I'm reading the C.K. Scott translation. It's a boxed set, and it's going by the title "Remembrance of Things Past", not "In Search of Lost Time". Is that okay?

And I hate to inform people of this dirty secret, but I write in my books (and there is nothing I love more than getting a used book full of notes). They are my books, after all.

4:34 PM  
Blogger sfp said...

Oh, good!An honest-to-goodness pirate will be reading along with us.

Welcome, Adam!

7:23 PM  
Blogger Stefanie said...

Good point about the note taking Quillhill. It will definitely be tricky. But with so many of us reading, someone is bound to be able to find a reference others of us have missed. At least that's what I'm hoping!

8:19 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I'm all about marking up my books-- I consider my marginalia and notations to be a gift for future generations :)

After I'm done, really great passages might go into my commonplace book(s)...

10:59 AM  

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