Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Unrequited Love

Now that the RIP Challenge is done and I don't have to worry about finishing The Fourth Bear before it's due back at the library, I've picked up Proust again. The problem with Proust, if one could call it a problem, is that he makes it hard to pay attention to the words on the page. Time and time again I start reading and within five minutes or so he's got me thinking about my own past and experiences. Then I realize my eyes have traveled over two pages but my brain didn't follow, it's still back on page 200. So back I go where I manage to read one paragraph before it happens all over again. I don't mind, I enjoy it even, but I wonder how anyone can read Proust in anything less than a few years. At least at the rate I'm going that's how long it's looking to take.

Last night he got me on fulfillment, or rather the impossibility of. First he warmed up by lightly mentioning how we can never be happy because once the thing we had previously determined would make us happy finally arrives on the doorstep, we've changed and it is no longer what we want. He mentions this in a few almost throw away sentences then we're back to the story and the narrator musing, in a very Swann-like manner, about his love for Gilberte, Swann's daughter, and how he is working to cure himself of it.

Then three pages later we return to the impossibility of fulfillment:
As well, in the time it takes for the other's heart to change, our own heart will be changing too; and when the fulfillment desired comes within our reach, we will desire it no longer.
He goes on for long sentences then explaining and elaborating, drawing it out in a beautifully sad way. And it took me reading it over and over several times to be able to see all he was saying because with each sentence I'd stop and think, "Is that true?" And I can't stop thinking about it.

The happiness and fulfillment Proust is talking about is all centered around love. Gilberte likes the narrator and he likes her but she doesn't like him enough. His love for her grows as her pleasure in him wanes and he dreams of finding ways to make her come to her senses and love him back. But he knows that if she ever did decide to love him he would have spent so much time trying to get over loving her that he would not ever be able to be happily fulfilled by Gilberte's love. It's all very sad and cruel. Proust captures the heartbreak and unfairness of it so perfectly. What an exquisite experience this is turning out to be.

Cross-posted at So Many Books

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Sportswriter

Proust and sports?? Can there be a connection? Let me explain.

I completed the first section of "In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower" some weeks ago and planned to write a piece about the humour and character found there...but I got sidetracked by a visit to London of Richard Ford. I collect signed copies of books and managed to get a copy of the third part of his Frank Bascombe books. As you may all appreciate this encourasged me to re-read the first two volumes again...and what did I discover at the beginning of Chapter 2 of "The Sportswriter"?

All we really want is to get to the point where the past can explain nothing about us and we can get on with our life............. Most pasts, let's face it, aren't very dramatic subjects, and should be just uninteresting enough to release you the instant you're ready (though it's true that when we get to that moment we are often scared to death, feel naked as snakes and have nothing to say ).

My own history I think of as a postcard with changing scenes on one side but no particular or memorable messages on the back........ The stamp of our parents on us and of the past in general is, to my mind, overworked, since at some point we are whole and by ourselves upon the earth, and there is nothing that can change that for better or worse, and so we might as well think about something more promising.

What then happens is that Frank Boscombe spends the rest of the book revisiting his recent past!!! Ford also, to my mind, uses some of the rambling techniques of Proust to get into the mind of his main character and to explore his past.

It is interesdting to note that while Proust was never a sportsman he did enjoy fast cars, he did complete a number of route marches during his military service and his father wrote one of the first physical exercise books.