Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Last night I read the Overture, getting more excited with each page I turned. The writing is even lovelier than I remembered. Proust's Overture to his more-than-a-million-word work functions in the same way as does an overture to an opera or a musical; it introduces the style and dominant themes that will be developed throughout the piece.

Some of these themes (as I see them) are:

the simplest pleasures may be the most intense;
the senses are a truer guide through memory than is the mind;
there are significant attractions and perils related to indulging passions, especially those forbidden by societal norms;
objectivity is impossible as we examine ourselves and others;
navigating 19th-century social class structure was an 'extreme' sport best left to daredevils;
and even the most obsessive attention to detail will not lead us to true knowledge of someone or something.

Proust's imagery is unsurpassed: "I would lay my cheeks gently against the comfortable cheeks of my pillow, as plump and blooming as the cheeks of babyhood." The narrator's grandmother removes stakes from the rose tree, "as a mother might run her hand through her boy's hair after the barber has smoothed it down, to make it look naturally wavy." And of course, the famous madeleine passage, which gives our blog its title. Gorgeous!

Grammatical aside: if Christian gets fiesty at all during summer school this year, I may well set him to diagramming some of Proust's sentences, in all of their spiraling subordinate clause glory.

Co-authors, please feel free to post (as opposed to commenting on my posts) whenever you feel so inspired. I won't comment again on my reading until everyone has her book in hand and is ready to go. In the mean time, I'll scout out some peripheral Prousty goodies (edible and non- ) for us all.

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