One of the casualties of this project has been my time for reading. A few weeks ago, I started “Swann’s Way,” the first book of Marcel Proust’s monumental novel/memoir, “In Search of Lost Time.” I had managed to make it through the first chapter when I started thinking about/constructing the trellises. Proust is not what is now colloquially called an “easy read.” It is dense, chocked full of literary references and comprised of complex, multi-part sentences that I can imagine Barack Obama would construct in answer to a Fox News reporter’s questions, leaving the reporter dazed and confused.
I started reading Proust not because I’ve always wanted to read Proust or because I thought that I should read Proust (although I find myself more and more thinking about all the books I think I should have read in order to be a somewhat literate person… all of Shakespeare, not just the popular plays; more of the Greeks; get through Ulysses, after three or four starts; Tolstoy, Dostoyevski; the Koran, etc), but because I read a review of a book entitled “Paintings in Proust” by Eric Karpeles. Karpeles managed to track down all the references to art in seven novels and get permission to reproduce them. It is an amazing book, with each image accompanied by the fragment of text from the novel in which the painting is reference and a commentary on the progress of the novel. Alas, I haven’t had time to read that book either.
Well, the trellises will be installed in about a week and I’ll be able to get back to Proust and a book about the WPA that I started in February; “New Art City” about New York in the era of de Koonig, Pollock, Kline, and Hoffman; and, the American avant garde in the 1920s called “Strange Bedfellows.” I always have several books going at the same time, it seems.
I’ve always been a bit intimidated by Proust. I saw this video awhile back interviewing really widely read older people, professors and such, asking them “What have you never read?” Like 3 of them said Proust.
Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are not actually hard to read though. I think that if you force yourself to read through the first 25 pages of any Russian novel, you will be hooked. Not at all dense. Same with most of the other classic greek plays/epics. Joyce…haha, not so much!
The thought of trying to read the seven books that make up the novel is just a very daunting task, but I’ve found the little I’ve read to be very rewarding and will stick with it. I haven’t read the Russians because I’ve been afraid they would be difficult; just never made the time to do it. Thanks for the encouragement. Enjoy your blog.