gall and gumption

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Big Books

I went a bit nuts this evening in the comments to Roy Edroso's blog. He has just finished reading Swann's Way, most profitably I think. I like what he said about it

So I kept going, and found after a while that Proust’s prismatic rendering of events had a purpose. Nabokov explains it all very well, but even without the technical advice a reader can, if he decides to, get comfortable with Proust’s method and lose at least some of his impatience, so that he can walk through each stretched-out moment, and examine each impacted metaphor, and begin to see things Proust’s way.


and I liked the comments that people posted as well. Except this one woman asked if anyone had read Clarissa and then remarked that "it wasn't worth it." So I took exception to that and wrote a long long comment about how great that novel is. I used up the entire comment space actually which is sort of embarrassing. Blame it on my love of the book.

As for Swann's Way, I put in some time on it. I love the beginning but man, do I hate that romance that Swann gets into with that awful woman. But the worst of Proust for me is the feeling I get from reading it that I have not lived my life properly, that I have wasted the sorts of experiences from which he is able to get so much material for reflection. This depresses me. When I read Clarissa or Tristram Shandy I feel that redemption is possible. Perhaps because they are didactic, unlike Proust.

I read Clarissa last spring. And even though I usually let two years go by between readings I am sort of tempted to read it again these days. More and more I like the feeling of being totally immersed in the world of a novel. I'm reading The Golden Bowl now and it's all right. Just too much padding. Alll this significance that leads you at last to some quite small action -- it is he can't stop fussing with his characters' clothes or something. I read line after line of qualifier oh so artfully placed on top of qualifier, it is sort of as if he is doing some weird multilayered weaving of remarks qualifying other remarks. And then when the character does the something that all these preliminaries are preparing us for I've forgotten all of them, which is surely proof that these preliminaries don't do very much at all. I gave up on The Wings of The Dove about two weeks ago. It was impossible.

Update: Removed a couple of annoying typos and added a sentence or two more about Henry James.

Update: Added my favorite bit from the Proust post.

9 Comments:

At 1:48 PM, Blogger roy said...

There's a discussion to be had about what attracts us to, and repels us from, authors whose skill and quality are not at issue. We all hate books that suck, but it is fascinating to see the reasons why James gives you trouble, though you clearly respect him. It is something like literary personality that is engaged, in yourself and in the author.

 
At 2:26 PM, Blogger Kia said...

Yeah, I'd probably start that (very large) discussion with "It's all about the tone," which my old literature and writing teacher Marvin Mudrick called "the presence of the author in the work."

 
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