I wanted to keep a journal of reading some sizeable book that I hadn’t yet read, and ROTP is at the top of the list of books I want to have read. Whether I actually want to read it is debatable, but so far, so good.
Why haven’t you read Proust already?
It bored me. I’ve had it sitting on the shelf for a very long time, but never read more than a few dozen pages somewhere in the early volumes without moving on to something a little punchier.
The authors of fiction that most interest me?-people like Musil, Borges, Beckett, Kafka, Mann, Gogol, Broch, Kleist, Faulkner, Joyce, Woolf, and Lem?-tend towards concentrated expressions of ideas and concepts. Most don’t eschew lengthy physical description, poetic and imagistic lyricism, or comedies/tragedies of manners, but they use them as an end to a unified conception, not as distracting scenery for its own sake.
I saw Proust as focusing too narrowly on the gossip around a bunch of narcissistic French aristocrats who had no sense of perspective. Perhaps I was prejudiced in thinking there was less to be made out of this than out of a bunch of infirm old men carving castles in the air in some remote German sanitorium. I’m older and wiser now, but we’ll see.
What’s the point of the entries?
I’m not trying to organize them particularly well. Having forgotten most of what I ever knew about ROTP, I want to copy down the passages that most grab me and provide some context for why they do.
It’s very much a “first reading” endeavor: there’s plenty of stuff I’ll miss or pass over as unimportant, and I see that as unavoidable given that this is meant to be completed in months, not years.
There’s plenty I’m leaving out as well. I’ll easily ignore thirty pages of a witty party in favor of an abstruse philosophical aside. This is as much a document of what I was looking for in the book as what I got from it. (Which, coincidentally, Proust thinks is the most important thing anyway. How apropos!)
What’s your background?
Too educated to be an autodidact, too much of a dilettante to be a scholar. I don’t do this for a living, and I wouldn’t want to.
What conventions are you using?
“Marcel” signifies the character, “Proust” the author.
Page numbers are from the three-volume gray Vintage Moncrieff/Kilmartin edition, pre-Enright revision.