After the roaring success of Antigone, Sophocles wrote a prequel, Oedipus Rex, which might even have been better than the first. No-one can rest on thAfter the roaring success of Antigone, Sophocles wrote a prequel, Oedipus Rex, which might even have been better than the first. No-one can rest on that kind of box office success, so he completed the "trilogy" with this middle installment. I thought this sort of crap originated with Hollywood, but it looks like it has a history that dates back thousands of years.
If any play did not need a sequel, it was Oedipus Rex. His life a total wreck, he was blind, exiled and doomed to wander until he suffered a pitiful death, alone. What could be better? Well, certainly not this. Rather than that end, he gets to wallow in self pity for awhile before coming to an end. Lots of stuff happens in this including a pitched battle, and the end of Oedipus himself. But it all happens offstage. Onstage: not much of anything except moaning and complaining, and all of it adding nothing.
And worse, this play reads like either a set-up for Antigone, or a pointless sequel to Oedipus Rex. But it does not stand up well on its own in any way at all. But who knows, perhaps it was a hit. After all, even Jaws 2 grossed $188 million worldwide. And bad as this is, it is better than that....more
I never read any of the assigned reading in English in High School. In 10th grade, we did this book. The teacher gave a test on the book, and I got anI never read any of the assigned reading in English in High School. In 10th grade, we did this book. The teacher gave a test on the book, and I got an A. Unfortunately, the rest of the class did miserably, and the teacher was extremely disappointed. So she decided to give a True/False quiz to test whether people had actually read it. I failed miserably, and she was dumbfounded. When she asked me about this, I told her I never read anything that was assigned because I found it more of a challenge to get an A without doing the reading. She made me promise that I would do the reading in the future, and I did promise.
And now, I can say I have kept that promise. I did all of the reading in the future, just not when it was assigned. For example, I read The Great Gatsby sometime in film school. The Grapes of Wrath after that. And so on... And with this book, I'm pretty sure that I have now completed all of the required reading from high school. I can also say that I would never have done it, if I had picked this one up early on. This is one that easily validates my policy back then.
The book does manage to be both overwrought and trivial at once, which is no small achievement. Everything is supposed to have the weight of portentousness, but for all that, there's very little substance. So, the little merit that this book has depends on the voice of Gene, the narrator. And he's thoroughly unlikeable and fairly unobservant. He pretends to be smart and observant, but he is more likely to project his inner world onto the outside than he is to capture anything interesting about the outside.
On top of all of this, the book is completely gay, but refuses to come out of the closet. This is manifest, from the wrestling, to the Finny's pink shirt, to the endless admiration of Finny's body, to Leper's losing touch by imagining women's heads on men's bodies. I am dumbfounded that Knowles insists that homosexuality has nothing to do with this book. I guess that just proves that authors are not always the best readers of their own work, and that Knowles' lack of self-awareness mirrors Gene's.
In short, a small, not particularly interesting story, with unlkeable characters and a narrator who has a few nice moments but, for the most part, is annoying. I have no idea why this makes for a "classic."
There's almost no drama. The main problem that sets up the play, the plague besetting Thebes, is never resolved. The action either occurred before the play starts, or takes place offstage. The characters are cut-outs, and they feel almost completely alien. And yet this play is compelling. It's simple, powerful, and for all of the alien quality of the characters, there is a core here that cuts to the heart. I can hardly believe that I've made it this far in life without actually reading it, and I'm glad that I did....more
Not as great, or disturbing, as I might have expected. But Lovecraft is great at setting mood, and he has a wonderful knack for the purplest of prose.Not as great, or disturbing, as I might have expected. But Lovecraft is great at setting mood, and he has a wonderful knack for the purplest of prose. In many ways, this story reminded me of Dracula -- the telling of it was so mediated -- a story within a story within another story. And I liked this aspect of it. And I liked that there was some description of this alternate cosmology, but no real attempt at an explanation.
As for the story itself, I would have liked more story. That may just be that I've grown stupider over the years and more modern in my sensibility. I'm not quite at the point where I need another pointless battle in each chapter, but sometimes I think I might not be that far off. By these modern standards, this narrative is slow, distant, and a little dull. But lets face it, this is a story about what's under the surface, and on its own terms it's quite cool....more
I've read several of these Newberry honored books now, and they make me wonder about the committee. The picture I get of the voters are of a bunch ofI've read several of these Newberry honored books now, and they make me wonder about the committee. The picture I get of the voters are of a bunch of middle aged white folk who think of books as a kind of castor oil. Not good tasting, but it's medicine and it's good for you whether you like it or not.
This one checks off all the boxes. The writing is graceful and beautiful, but stilted. There are a couple of events, but no story here. Story is something kids might like, so we can't have any of that. There are some pointless literary quirks that would be good to point out in a classroom setting, but are basically annoyances. Here, the main one is the lack of names for the characters. That would be OK, except the main character has younger brothers and sisters, and the writer lacks the skill to give any of the siblings a recognizable identity. And then there's the ever present nod to important, edifying issues: here it's the mistreatment of poor blacks in the deep south in the post Plessy v Ferguson era. (That's the 1899 case that said that separate but equal was OK, and was finally overruled by Brown v Board of Education in 1955.)
It's a miracle to me that The Graveyard Book won the Newberry award. I guess it means that the voters are not perfect in choosing books that will bore young readers and put them off of reading. But they are definitely close to perfect in that regard. And its true, much of the stuff that kids want to read on their own is drek. But there are also many good books out there that are also enjoyable, and if kids find good books that they like to read, who knows, maybe they would read more. But my guess is that that won't happen so long as everyone seems to agree that these Newberry books are what kids "should" be reading.
This one goes straight to the top of my pantheon of movies that are better than the books they are based upon. More so than The Godfather, Jaws, evenThis one goes straight to the top of my pantheon of movies that are better than the books they are based upon. More so than The Godfather, Jaws, even The Graduate and Dr. Strangelove. First, the movie created some drama, where the book simply plods along from one episode to another. This comes from introducing the Wicked Witch of the West very early on, and making her the central antagonist. I was shocked that in the book she is hardly even a major player - just someone else that gets destroyed in Dorothy's rampage of slaughter.
Then there is the frame device in the movie that is simply absent from the book. There's a suggestion that Kansas is grey and Oz is colorful. But there's no introduction of the main players as Kansas characters, and there's nothing to wrap things up as a dream sequence. The book is OK as it is, but the framing in the movie is wonderful. I've only seen it once in the theatre, and I was already an adult when I did. Even so, the shift from black and white to Technicolor is absolutely stunning and brilliant. I can only imagine how it struck people back in the thirties, when this was probably the first color movie they had ever seen. And Technicolor blows away any color process that has come since. It's just way to expensive and technically demanding to make it practical. Otherwise, color movies would be much more impressive.
And then there's the language. The movie is full of inspired silliness: "We hear he is a wiz of a wiz if ever a wiz there was!" I thought at least that sort of thing would come from the book. But no. For the most part, the language is simply flat - more Kansas than Oz. If it weren't for the movie, I probably would have liked the book a little better. But let's face it, if it weren't for the movie, I never would have read the book at all. (And I somehow managed to avoid it for over 50 years, at that.)...more
Of course James disowned this book. I don't think there was a single conversation in it where the characters circled around a subject with vagaries, nOf course James disowned this book. I don't think there was a single conversation in it where the characters circled around a subject with vagaries, never coming to the point. They didn't finish each others sentences, pretending to know exactly what the other was going to say, when neither of them were actually saying anything. There wasn't a single moral monster in sight. And the words "hang fire" appeared only once in the book. But for all these failings, I thought this book was quite good.
It's basically a reworking of Pygmailon. The main character adopts an orphaned twelve year old girl and resolves to turn her into his wife. James tells the story simply and directly. The characters are interesting and fully developed. The book moves along at a brisk pace, and the ending is both charming and believable....more
This book pales in comparison to The Three Musketeers only because Mordaunt is a much less interesting villain than his mother, Milady. Again, it woulThis book pales in comparison to The Three Musketeers only because Mordaunt is a much less interesting villain than his mother, Milady. Again, it would not be too difficult to twist this story so that Mordaunt becomes no villain at all. His goal is simply to avenge the murder of his mother. To that end he stabs a man who was already dying, he kills another of the murderers on a field of battle, and he tries to blow up the remaining four. In his mind, he's simply trying to get for himself the justice that the world denies him. That's not much different than what the Musketeers did to Milady at the end of the first book. But even with this moral ambiguity, Mordaunt is neither as interesting, nor as fun as Milady.
I loved the treatment of royalty in this book. The Musketeers are fierce royalists. Athos and Aramis have learned to distinguish the office of royalty from the person wields the power. Porthos is too thick to really get the distinction. And D'Artagnan is learning. His main teachers are Anne and Mazarin, the new prime minister since the death of Richelieu. After his brilliant service twenty years before, D'Artagnan has been largely ignored, and remains a lieutenant in the service of the Queen. She has shown no appreciation at all either for his extraordinary service to her, or for his remarkable loyalty and abilities.
During this book, there is an uprising in Paris which threatens the lives of Anne, Mazarin, and the young King Louis XIV. At their pleading, and their promises never to forget such a service, D'Artagnan uses tremendous audacity to save the three of them, and to deliver them all to safety outside of Paris. Without reward, he is then sent to England to deliver a message to Cromwell. That is the extent of his orders, and he delivers the message. Then, he goes outside the scope of his mission (but without actually violating any orders), and tries unsuccessfully to save the life of King Charles. When he returns to France, his service to Anne is of course completely forgotten, and he's thrown in prison with the intention of letting him rot there forever. Such is the gratitude and loyalty of actual monarchs.
The amazing thing is that the Musketeers all remain fierce royalists in spite of all the evidence. They are convinced that the only problem with the system is that the wrong ministers are advising the monarchs. Also, from what we see in the book, it looks like the only alternatives available is the despotism of people like Cromwell, or those even worse. Thus, even though everything ends up pretty happily for our four heroes, I found this to be surprisingly bleak in its outlook. But even so, Dumas has a knack of being exciting and fun even when bleak. I'm looking forward to the third installment of these books, but its a monster, and will probably take me quite some time....more
I'm surprised that no-one has done a reworking of this book with Milady and Richelieu as the heros, and the Musketeers as the villains. It wouldn't taI'm surprised that no-one has done a reworking of this book with Milady and Richelieu as the heros, and the Musketeers as the villains. It wouldn't take much of a twist at all. With the exception of one event, the former are no more villainous than the latter. That is, unless, you take Dumas' word for it. In that case, Milady is pure evil, and the tale is one fit perfectly for kids. Fortunately, the story he tells is richer than the gloss the narrator sometimes tries to put on it.
Let's look at the characters:
Richelieu is the first minister of France, and Louis XIII most trusted advisor. There is currently a Protestant uprising in France, and Richelieu is charged with quelling it. Louis is not that interested in managing tedious things (like his country), so this responsibility falls with Richelieu. Now, Anne of Austria is queen. But she's also a member of the family of France's primary enemy, and she is in love with the Duke of Buckingham, a direct enemy of England who would gave aid to the French insurrectionists.
Richelieu's actions in the book are directed at exposing Anne and Buckingham, which directly supports French interests. Thus, the affair of the diamond studs was actually a matter of state. Richelieu was simply trying to show the King what was really going on, and what could jeopardize his interests as King. Mme. Boncieaux, the Musketeers, and the Queen, are all acting in only there personal interests, and against the interest of France. What the do is probably treasonous. (Certainly Anne's affair with Buckingham was treason. The efforts to thwart the cardinal exposing her treason border on treason, but were probably enough).
Despite all this, Richelieu's one wish throughout the book concerning D'Artagnan is that he would want to make him his own man. The King does nothing for D'Artagnan. The Queen gives him a ring, but never even finds out who her hero is. Even de Treville only gets him an appointment in the King's guard. But Richelieu becomes his main benefactor. First, his order makes D'Artagnan a Musketeer, granting his fondest wish. And later, showing grace and humor in defeat, Richelieu gives him a commission as Lieutenant in the Musketeers (which is apparently a big deal, since twenty years later he still holds the same rank).
And yet, Richelieu is the evil mastermind of this book?
Now, let's take our heros, the Musketeers.
Porthos is a bit of an oaf. As for his honor, when he's wounded in a duel, he lies about it and says he twisted his knee. He lies about his mistress. His great ambition in life is to marry the wife of a lawyer so he can get her money. While wounded, he holes up in a room in an inn, refuses to pay and nearly brings the innkeeper to ruin, while threatening to kill anyone who tries to move him or interfere with his convalescence.
Aramis is a bit better. He merely lies about his love interest. The main complaint I can make about him is his willingness at the beginning of the book to kill D'Artagnan over the dropped handkerchief. In this instance, it's Aramis' lies about the handkerchief that bring on the appointment for the first duel.
Athos is the heart and soul of nobility. And yet, when he learned that his wife had been branded, he simply hung her by the neck and left her for dead. When he tells his true name to another man before dueling, he also tells him that its too bad, because now he will have to kill him, and then does. (I may be wrong, but I think this may be the only person who actually dies in a duel in this book, so it is kind of a big deal.) And on another occasion, Athos also takes over an inn and nearly ruins it, drinking and eating almost all of its provisions without a thought of paying for any of it, and accusing the innkeeper of having wronged him solely because the innkeeper had been mislead by agents of the government.
And D'Artagnan: the main issue I have with D'Artagnan is his love life. He loves Mme. Bonciaux. She's married to his landlord (whom he never pays, and from whom he steals a fortune). He also loves, at times, Milady. And very quickly, he also professes undying love for her maid, Kitty. He uses Kitty to spy on Milady. He then rapes Milady (unless you think having sex with someone while pretending to be someone else is consensual). He does this within the hearing of Kitty, his other love. And he also takes a valuable ring from MiLady under false pretenses.
These are our heros? Well yes, they are amazing hero' and extremely fun to read. But they are rough, thoughtless, terrible to women (excepting maybe Aramis), and probably treasonous on at least two occaisons.
Now let's turn to Milady, who is the great villain of the book. She was a poor girl who got put into a convent. As a nun, she got involved with a priest. The two had already taken vows, so they needed to escape. The priest stole the sacristy and was caught. He got branded and served time for his crime, but escaped. His brother was the executioner of the branding. The brother tracked down Milady, and on his own, branded her as well. The priest ended up killing himself, and of course the brother blamed Milady for the whole thing. Every wrong can be traced to the wiles of a woman, right?
Milady, despite her many handicaps, then raises herself to a position where she manages to allure Athos. When he finds out, however, that she had been branded (falsely, by the way), he hangs her and leaves her for dead. Somehow, she escapes. This is one resourceful woman.
After that, and the timeline is not too clear, she raises herself yet again, this time even higher and becomes the wife of Lord de Winter, and an agent for Richelieu. OK, there's something shaky about marrying an Englishman and being a French spy, but its a totally cool thing, and makes for a great background for a book in which she would be the heroine. Lord de Winter dies, and this is also supposed to be one of her crimes, but its a crime for which there is no evidence at all.
In the affair with the diamond studs, she merely does her duty and serves France. The abduction of Mme Bonciaux was a harsh measure by Richelieu's secret police, but not anything especially villainous or out of the ordinary, especially when you consider that Constance clearly puts her duty and devotion to Anne above her duty to France.
Following that, she simply gets defeated, insulted, and abused by D'Artagnan. He pretends to be her lover under cover of dark, rapes her, takes her ring. And then he forces himself on her again, in a bargain, in his true self. When he reveals that the two lovers are one, she gets more than a little miffed and vows revenge. Being a woman, she can't challenge him to a duel and kill him honorably, so she tries other ways to exact vengeance.
In one of the most remarkable parts of the book, she's given a commission to assassinate Buckingham to shorten the siege at La Rochelle. Taken prisoner by her brother-in-law, in five days time using only her brains and her voice, she turns her jailer inside out and converts him into her worshipper, and also convinces him that his greatest desire in life is to kill the Duke, which he does. So with everything stacked against her, she accomplishes her mission and manages to escape. This is an amazingly smart and resourceful woman.
So, take away the vengeance that she finally does exact on D'Artagnan, by poisoning Constance, and almost everything about Lady de Winter is both admirable and badass. (She even carries around a cyanide pill before they had cyanide pills, and keeps it in her ring.) She's a woman and can't run someone through with a sword because she feels insulted, so she uses the gifts that she has brilliantly, and she's no more selfish in the use of her gifts than anyone else in the book. Yes, she's the true villain of this book. But she's also the strongest, most interesting character and the one that made it most worth reading for me.
And I wonder if that's one of the great ironies of the book. Dumas keeps telling everyone to watch out for her because she's evil but totally seductive. And I've come out seduced....more
The surprising thing to me was that there aren't any likable characters in this book. Richard Shelton, the hero, is a bit of a dolt. On top of his lacThe surprising thing to me was that there aren't any likable characters in this book. Richard Shelton, the hero, is a bit of a dolt. On top of his lack of cleverness, he does several vile things, including murder and piracy. He's loyal and courageous, and by the end he acknowledges and tries to make up for some of his faults. But he is not the dashing, swashbuckling hero, played inevitably by Errol Flynn or Gene Kelly in the musical version.
Richard, however, is likeable compared to either the company he keeps or to his "betters." His guardian is a horrible character, and paints a giant stain on the medieval idea of nobility. Then, along the way, Richard becomes a favorite of Richard Crookback who is, if anything, even worse than his guardian. And his companions through most of the book are theives and cutthroats, bound together to get revenge against Richard's guardian.
Take these despicable people, throw them into the midst of the War of the Roses, add in a beautiful maiden disguised as a boy, a forced marriage, a few pitched battles, heros disguised as monks, piracy and a shipwreck -- all this adds up to a very fun, tightly paced story. The fake medieval dialogue marred things a bit, but overall I quite enjoyed this....more
I can hardly believe I did not read this book as a kid, and really all I knew of Kipling are a few poems and quotations, and his reputation (which mayI can hardly believe I did not read this book as a kid, and really all I knew of Kipling are a few poems and quotations, and his reputation (which may very well be undeserved) for being an obnoxious imperialist. I'm going to have to scold my parents the next time I see them. How could this not have been in my kids library?
Frankly the stories here are a mixed bag, but the best of them are quite wonderful. I especially liked the opening story, the tale of Mowgli being kidnapped by the Bander Log, The White Seal, and Rikki Tiki Tavi. Any one of these would be enough to boost up an otherwise OK collection. With these four, I think the book is very good indeed.
I came to this book through Gaiman's Graveyard Book, and I think its quite fun to compare the two and to see how cleverly Gaiman transformed these stories, refreshed them, and used them sometimes to fairly altered purposes. The Bander Log, for example, are the ghouls in the Graveyard Book. But in The Jungle Book, its pretty clear that Kipling is making fun of democracy. The Bander Log are fond of saying that they know they are right because they all agree with each other. Gaiman has the ghouls be equally self important, but because they give themselves important titles, in contrast to Bod, who is Nobody. He's making fun of aristocracy. For these comparisons alone, I might go ahead and read the second jungle book.
I really enjoyed almost all of the poems, which frame each story. They convey such a pure joy for language itself.
Finally, I should say that I've never seen the Disney cartoon (or if I did, I don't remember it at all), and I count that as a blessing. Apart from the Graveyard Book, I came to this with almost no expectation at all (aside from the bad stuff I've heard about Rudyard)....more
The book seems totally in service of its propaganda, and the story and characters suffer greatly as a result. The characters seem paper thin, and theyThe book seems totally in service of its propaganda, and the story and characters suffer greatly as a result. The characters seem paper thin, and they don't develop. Aslan is about as thin and transparent as a character can get, and what he does happens without the slighest bit of drama or suspense. Worse, the White Witch is boorish and stupid. The four kids have about three character traits between them, which means at least one of them is lacking any characteristics at all, but I couldn't hardly tell you which one.
I thought this book had promise when Lucy and Edmund had both separately visited Narnia. I liked the uncertainty that developed over Lucy's account of her visit. Then there was the professor's reason why the kids should believe her. Use logic! There are only three possibilities: 1) she's lying, 2) she's mad, or 3) she's telling the truth. We know she doesn't lie. And she obviously isn't mad. Therefore, she must be telling the truth. But are those the only possibilities? And, in light of the story she's telling, how obvious is it that she is not mad, at least to some degree. The interesting thing is that the Professor's argument mirror's exactly Lewis' argument for believing Jesus' account of himself in the gospels. It's silly in this book, and probably even sillier in Mere Christianity. Yet, a smart man like Lewis was thoroughly entranced by this argument.
Once all four kids go to Narnia together, the book became both oppressive and dull. I could not bring myself to care for anyone at all, and if I had any sympathies, they would probably lie with the White Witch, who at least tried to do something. But as I said before, she was just too stupid to take seriously....more
When I graduated high school, way back in 77, this book had not yet appeared on the radar. I didn't become aware of it, or of Hinton, until Francis CoWhen I graduated high school, way back in 77, this book had not yet appeared on the radar. I didn't become aware of it, or of Hinton, until Francis Coppola made the movie and the better (in my opinion) Rumblefish. So, for me, this book has always reeked a bit of the brat pack, and I hesitated to read it as a result. I shouldn't have.
There are some really good characters in here. I especially like the way Hinton drew Johnny, Dally, Two-Bit and Soda. In some ways, I don't really buy Ponyboy's character, and I think he comes off as a bit too feminine. I didn't know that Hinton is a woman, but to an extent I think that comes through with Ponyboy, and in some of his descriptions of things like Darry's rippling muscles.
The social tensions are clear, and they strike me as being true. When I was a little kid, we had "hoods" who lived at the end of our block. Some of them were legitimate greasers, but mostly they were just tough kids who bullied others, fought a bunch, and did some petty crimes (or had the reputation for it). They were also a doomed family. One of the kids got hit by a train while trying to make the crossing, driving drunk. His younger brother also said from time to time that he thought he would die young. He had the habit of walking home by the train tracks, on top of the wood that gave some protection to third rail. Sure enough, one night he slipped and electrocuted himself. I always suspected that this was a bit of a deliberate accident. These guys would have fit in perfectly in this book.
By the time I got to high school, there weren't greasers or hoods anymore. Instead, we had jocks, heads and brains. But the dynamic was pretty much the same, but perhaps less overtly violent. And its pretty clear that similar dividing lines persist. The funny thing is that before this book, I don't think there was much literature that took this stuff at face value, and I think it's fascinating that a 15 year old girl could pretty much single handedly create this genre. Sure, at times I got the feeling that there was as much West Side Story as there was realism in this book, but in the end I thought it was very impressive....more
I was surprised at how unbalanced this book was. In form, it comes across as a character study, but the characters for the most part lack depth. That'I was surprised at how unbalanced this book was. In form, it comes across as a character study, but the characters for the most part lack depth. That's especially so with the father, who seems to be nothing more than a personification of avarice. Eugenie has her moments, but they are few. The remaining characters are even thinner than the father.
On top of this, the story was also unbalanced. About 80% of the plot occurs in the last 20% of the book. The beginning feels like a very long set-up, and then the pay-off, while stunning in principle, rushes by so fast that I felt a bit cheated. Balzac, from the little I've read, is a master at showing lost illusions, and that's just what he accomplishes here. But he spends, in my opinion, way too much time in building up the state of relative innocence, and then hardly dwells at all on the shattering of that innocence, and the forging of something new, robust, and very interesting.
The language was beautiful. My new Kindle touch screen has very easy access to both a French/French dictionary, and to an OK online translator. With these two things, it becomes possible, and even convenient, for me to start reading in French again. I was surprised a bit by how many words Balzac used that don't seem to make either the translator or the dictionary, but for the most part, I truly enjoyed reading in the original again. Back in College, I told people that I took French largely because I wanted to be able to read in the original. The irony was that I succeeded only in not reading French books at all. It was too hard after a time to read in French, because of the extra book I needed to make it workable. And I refused to read translations. The new Kindle has changed that. I only wish my first choice of book had been a little more satisfying....more
This series definitely counts as the longest reading effort where I have persisted (if sporadically). I first read Proust during the summer of my fresThis series definitely counts as the longest reading effort where I have persisted (if sporadically). I first read Proust during the summer of my freshman year of college, almost 35 years ago. I quickly read the first two books, and then stumbled a bit in the middle of The Guermantes Way but finished all three fairly quickly. I didn't start Cities of the Plain for another three years, and I think it took almost two years to get through it. For some reason, the charm had been wearing off. I didn't pick up the first Albertine book for at least five years after that, and I read it in spurts over the course of another few years. Then maybe ten years passed before picking up this book, and about as long to finish it.
It's not like I read consistently over all those years. I would pick up the book I was on, generally before a trip somewhere, read 20 or 30 pages, and be awestruck at how brilliant it was, and just as dumbfounded at how unengaging I was finding it, despite the brilliance. Then I would get distracted by something less good, but with more forward pull. And that would be fine with me, because I more and more started to feel like this was a book that I could set down for any amount of time, and it would be pretty much the same when I returned. That's partially because the ratio of incidents to meditiations is so low.
During that time, I've probably read Swann in Love three or four times, including in the original. I also have planned on re-reading the second book in the original because I found it so charming the first time. I actually took intensive French in college largely because I wanted to be able to read Proust. And I still like the idea of doing that re-reading, though I doubt it will ever happen.
That brings me to this book, and my problems with it. At the start, I found these books filled with charm, wit, and extraordinarily keen observation. The narrator has a habit of using the second person in his reflections -- of saying what "we" generally do or don't do. And at the start, I was right with him. I identified with him so much, and of course, I have to admit that I was flattered with his use of we. It made me a part of his company, and lets face it, he's much much smarter than I.
But by this book, I found the "we" grating. I look at the narrator mostly in two lights after this book. On the one hand, he seems a hypersensitive whiner with solipsistic tendencies. The world has chafed his sensibilities, and as such he has preferred to withdraw from the world, embrace his solipsism, and to substitute another world, constructed of memories, for the real one. That's the good aspect. On the bad side, I think the narrator is basically a monster, but a monster who is so detached from the world that he manages to do very little harm. What happened to poor Marcel that he can't even begin to conceive of Albertine as human? How did this person evolve out of the narrator I loved in A l'Ombre Des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs?
Even so, the brilliance is there. And I thought the entire book redeemed itself with the final conversations with Gilberte. I was just about on the point of giving up on these books (in much the way I was so exasperated with the Guermantes Way until he came up with one of the best endings in all of literature). Here, the ending didn't come as a shock, as it did in The Guermantes way. Rather, it struck me as being both a bit surprising and perfectly fitting. And there, in the last ten pages, all of the charm returned, and I know even less what to make of the whole thing.
Perhaps in another five years or so I will finish Le Temps Retrouve, and then I can begin the project of rereading I had envisioned for myself over thirty years ago....more