01022013: With Proust and Flynn

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Currently reading: Notes on Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust, translated from the French by Lydia Davis; and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

I began reading both books right before the year ended—on top of promises to myself that I’d finally wrap up Rowan Moore [architecture] and Richard Dawkins [science]. Those promises fulfilled, I then leapt to Hornby [nerdiness], mostly because I couldn’t help it. Proust and Flynn—the latter I bought on the 31st because I was afraid I’d get bored during a lonesome late lunch—moldered in my overnight bag until I skedaddled back home to the Fortress.

Rest assured, I duly chastised myself: You are doing your shoulders no amount of good, Sasha. You can at least read something and make the pain worth it, please. We all have ways of motivating ourselves; my terrible posture happens to be among the most effective.

*

Some facts: I’m reading the Proust because I have always wanted to, and I joined the #Proust2013 collective read for this purpose. Also: I needed a group read to encourage/shame me into sticking to it. I have always wanted to read this Proust because it’s [almost legendarily] translated by Lydia Davis [hushed tones from the internet, here]—Davis whom I’ve always considered a far better translator than writer. I am daunted by Proust because he is Proust; I will most likely stop with this Proust because Lydia Davis doesn’t translate the rest of the books in the series—and Davis is my security blanket in this whole mess. Proust is an undertaking for me, with my thirsty little heart.

Again, motivations—and, also: Excuses. [Sometimes I get this glimmer of a realization that I am a cowardly, if lazy, reader at heart—but I bat it away, because I do not like that one bit.]

*

[From the notebook, dated today:] Have read nine pages of the novel itself—after impatiently sitting through the translator’s introduction and the preface to the series. Nine pages, and our narrator is only just waking up. But oh-so-marvelously. Amazing, the detail that goes into that liminal spaces between sleep and wakefulness, its many permutations. And of course that in-between is sensuous—of course it is. Nine pages, and Proust has spent all that examining how one wakes up, how the body betrays, how the mind contrives. And there’s more of this to come.

Sometimes, as Eve was born from one of Adam’s ribs, a woman was born during my sleep from a cramped position of my thigh. Formed from the pleasure I was on the point of enjoying, she, I imagined, was the one offering it to me. My body, which felt in hers my own warmth, would try to find itself inside her, I would wake up. The rest of humanity seemed very remote compared to this woman I had left scarcely a few moments before; my cheek was still warm from her kiss, my body aching from the weight of hers. If, as sometimes happens, she had the features of a woman I had known in life, I would devote myself entirely to this end: to finding her again, like those who go off on a journey to see a longed-for city with their own eyes and imagine that one can enjoy in reality the charm of a dream. Little by little, the memory of her would fade, I had forgotten the girl of my dream.

Oh, it’s enchanting. What have I gotten myself into?

*

I picked up Gone Girl—after studiously ignoring it, as I don’t read mysteries and thrillers and domestic suspense or whatever this animal is—because Greg Zimmerman wrote, “When I finished this book it felt like my brain had curled up in a ball, mewling, like a kicked puppy. But in a good way, if that’s possible.” And that sounded like something I wanted to happen to me. So far, I’ve found Amy completely understandable and cringingly relatable. And if I could crush Nick between my bitter-girl, impatient-at-people-who-fuck-things-up-for-themselves-whether-they-mean-to-or-not, thinned lips—hot damn, I would. Yes, it’s all good.

*

A reading strategy forming—or perhaps one I’ve always had, but now only realized: At least two books to read at any given moment. One to carry with me, to sit with me through train rides and my occasional wandering before heading back to the Fortress; another, more hefty tome, to come home to. Again: Posture must be considered.

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9 comments

  1. Excellent post. You have so much in store for you in GONE GIRL. And I will be reading SWANN’S WAY this year too. May your posture be ever in your favor.

    1. Thanks, Jessica. I’ve gone slow with Proust since then–and no improvement on the posture department, but we’re trying.

  2. Oh, Swann’s Way, very nice. I’ve been meaning to read it for years but never got around to it (other than a few pages for a comparative lit and a couple chapter in French for a French class). It’s on my Classics Club list though, so I’ll definitely be getting to it (in English). And I hope you like Gone Girl, though I think it would be hard not to!

    I generally have two books going at any given time too (when I actually have time to read that is) and it works out well, though the second one is usually an audiobook.

    1. If it hadn’t been for the group read, I think this book would’ve remained unread in my shelves forever. And good to know I’m not the only nut who imbibes more than one book at any given time–then again, I should’ve known that’s what readers are good at, haha.

  3. Lydia Davis! A friend gave me a copy of her collected stories. I’m putting it on my reading list this year along with Swann’s Way (I’m reading Proust this year with a friend who promised stay with me all the way). I haven’t tried Davis yet, and I’ll find out soon if I will like her as a short story writer or as a translator.

    1. Do enjoy the Davis–although my tip is to take the stories very slowly, as they tend to blurb and seem repetitive if you take them in gulps. [Random memory: I bought her Collected Stories with my very first paycheck, haha.]

  4. Heh, you don’t have the energy for The House of Mirth, and I come on here and you’re reading Proust? I am a little bit in awe. I don’t think I’m quite ready to try Proust, although the Lydia Davis translation looks tempting.

    Btw, I am curious (and this is totally random, I realise that), have you ever read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall? I read it in 2012 and had to think of you, because of your love for Jane Eyre. It’s not that it’s like Jane Eyre, it’s just that I admired it very much.

    1. Haha, Proust is exactly why I’m certain I won’t have energy for Wharton! And, yes, I’ve read Wildfell and though I could easily tell you now that I love it, apparently, it was more complicated back when I’d just closed the book. It was a brave book, and a compelling one–and I do know, at least, that I love Anne’s work more than I do Emily’s, haha.

  5. […] the halfway-point of the book, I was—I told you all how much I’m liking Amy. To quote, “completely understandable and cringingly relatable.” Nick, on the other hand, though I never […]

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