Monday, July 10, 2006

Often, but only a little at a time

I came across this passage recently, about Swann's father losing his wife:

He could not be consoled for the death of his wife, but, during the two years he survived her, he would say to my grandfather: "It's odd, I think of my poor wife often, but I can't think of her for long at a time." "Often, but only a little at a time, like poor old Swann," had become one of my grandfather's favorite phrases, which he uttered apropos of the most different sorts of things.

Apropos of a different sort of thing, this phrase strikes me as a good description of how I will most likely read Proust. I'm not sure I can spend hours, or even much more than an hour on it, but I think I will return to it frequently. This is how I've begun, at any rate, by reading Proust a little at a time, 10 pages or so, savoring it, and then moving on to something else, ready before too long to return to it again. How about you?


Blogger Michelle said...

I, too, will most likely read Proust "often, but only a little at a time." It is a difficult work to read, it really lends it self well to savoring. Much like one would savor that madeline soaked in tea.

I have reached that famous passage. I feel that in order to fully appreciate it, I might need to buy a few madelines tomorrow. Starbucks actually sells them. I've been waiting for months to see if Starbucks would somehow link up the madelines they sell w/Proust. It would be quite wild.

I do think that I am able to read more of Proust in a sitting this go around. The first time I tried to read the text I sort of plowed through the first twenty pages waiting for something to "happen." I was completely unprepared for the lack of action, in the sense to which I was accustomed in a novel. I've said it before, but reading Henry James has really prepared me for long stretches of description and introspection.

Or, perhaps I've simply grown older and wiser. ; )

10:09 PM  
Blogger Daniel Poynter said...

What a great idea for a blog, and what an author to choose! I just started reading Proust--I'm sure you'll hear more from my in the future . = )

10:23 PM  
Blogger Stefanie said...

I agree Dorothy, 10 pages or so at a sitting is enough to fill a person up. More than that and it gets to be too much. I find my brain, no matter how much I may be enjoying the book, has a limit.

7:47 AM  
Blogger LK said...

I've made it through about 300 pages of "Swann's Way," and I've done it at about that pace -- 10 pages at a time. To me, it's like being in a dream. When you're in it, each detail seems so relevant and important. But when you've "woken up," (or in this case, stopped reading), it's difficult to recount to anybody the true depth of the experience!

Michelle, I, too, have been wanting to dunk the madeleine. There is a French bakery near my house that sells them. Unfortunately, no lime-blossom tea on hand...English Breakfast doesn't seem to cut it somehow...

12:27 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I will definitely have to read another text while going through "Swann's Way." I am usually very bad at reading more than one book at a time. I feel like Stefanie, though: no matter how much I am loving Proust, I can't take too much in one sitting.

Do you think that Proust realized that the novel would have this effect on readers?

3:30 PM  
Blogger Dark Orpheus said...

A little at a time - that's the only way I can take Proust. Otherwise I find myself losing the thread and going back to re-read the previous passages.

But I admit it can be engaging - like eavesdropping on long stretches of gossip about your neighbours.

9:41 PM  

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