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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

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In Search of Lost Pleasure

Call me what you will–brave, haughty, whatever. I’m reading Proust. Just an hors d’oeuvre, really. The overture from Swann’s Way, the first of the seven volumes of In Search of Lost Time, translated into English. My introduction to it made me approach with caution. The piece is included in an anthology we’re using as the common reading for first-year students. My friend, who was involved with selecting pieces for the anthology, told me it was the “longest six pages I’ve ever read,” but interesting. So I’ve been full of dread and curiosity, as I might be if inching toward the edge of a bottomless pit.

Among a preponderance of raves I found online, the rare one-star reviews gave me pause, but only for a few seconds. In one, the reviewer offers the annoying cliche that she is in search of the time she lost reading the first volume (ooh, good one). Someone in her life wanted to discuss the book and encouraged her to read it. But she didn’t like it, thought it was too long. Evidently, it really fucking annoys her. Sounds like the same complaint offered by students asked to read any novel in any literature course at any point since time was found.

I’m intrigued (a little) when readers claim that they just want a story and wish all that writing wouldn’t get in the way. Gawd, why’d that Proust guy have to go and make things more complicated than they needed to be? To them, reducing the seven volumes to the size of a brochure would be the ultimate victory. They probably long for those page-turners, equating “quick reads” with effective writing. Effective, yes, if they want to consume books as quickly as possible. So many of us learned to equate reading enjoyment with fast consumption of books. I remember watching my friends gobble books so they could get an award for reading them. They got some kind of adhesive-backed prize for each book, maybe a gold star. Some of them read enough books to chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

My expectations are different. I’ve really enjoyed the six pages of the overture. It’s not because I was able to breeze through them. In fact, I can see how Proust might have made his point a little more concisely. But I understand that going pithy probably isn’t the purpose of this overture, nevertheless the volume or the entire series. The experience of reading it seems to be the point, so kairos takes over chronos. Some books just dare you to read them.

That kind of reading makes me want to write. Puts me in the mood. For the pleasure of writing, reading, then writing some more.


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