Swann’s Way, Way Long


Tonight is an exciting night for me. You see, it’s book club night, and we’ve been reading Swann’s Way by Proust — it is taking us one month to read the first half, and next month is the second half. Then we will be done with Swann’s Way, which is one seventh (yes, one seventh) of Remembrance of Things Past.

So why am I excited? Because I am hoping that tonight I get some insight as to why I am spending so much of my life slogging through this thing. Don’t get me wrong, after the initial inertia of the first thirty pages or so, I started to find little gems here and there. And certainly he is a highly descriptive writer. But concise, he ain’t.

For example, at one point, his main character (the narrator) speaks of a time in the past when he saw the church spires, and feels the need to describe the spires in great detail. Fine. But then he describes the spires as the carriage he is in approaches the spires. Then he describes the spires as he arrives at them. Then he describes the spires as he passes them, and again as they disappear behind him.

I get it, he is inspired by the spires. You would think that page upon page of depiction would have sated his need to convey his love of the spires, but no: he tells us that not only is he impressed by the towers as he remembers them, but his past self was so awed the he wrote about them at the time – and we are treated to the long winded description by his past self.

Really, are spires all that?

I understand that Proust was the muse for Virginia Woolf, and I get that now. I mean, after reading Mrs. Dalloway, I wasn’t just afraid of Woolf, I was ready to go over to George and Martha’s place and help them kill off their imaginary child.

So the hope is that tonight, my book club partners that get the heady stuff – Jack and Vicki – can lend some of their insight and help me learn to love Proust. After all, I still have one-half of the one-seventh to read before next month’s meeting!

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

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