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Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust
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Jan 28, 15

it was amazing
Read from September 04 to October 11, 2012

Now just past his adolescent years, our nameless little narrator friend spends time at the Balbec beach and basks in the ambit of some fine young lasses after chatting with a kindly ambassador and a famous (albeit brutishly dressed and mannered!) writer he admires. The bits with Bergotte, the great writer, were fun -- I love great writers as imagined by great writers (the only others I can think of are Arnheim in Musil's The Man Without Qualities, Vol. 1 and Benno von Archimboldi in Bolaño's 2666). I'm having trouble recapturing all that's covered in this one, particularly early on, since I somehow started it about six weeks ago. Good to see Swann and Odette years later, comparatively settled down, to feel like I'd experienced their most passionate episodes and now know them well, can see the world through their eyes and appreciate changes in character. Little narrator dude alludes to time spent in a brothel, just chatting of course, and in general seems a lot less wispily enthralled by pink hawthorns. Once he travels to the beach, he recognizes young yearning ladies but has a low estimation of his ill self and sort of holds his tail between his legs and talks not of sharing in their yearning but appreciating young ladies for how interesting they might be, something which at first seemed indicative of the author/narrator's sexuality but also nicely setup a change of tune (from bashful whistle to let's get it on) after hundreds of pages. Narrator hangs with some male folks his age, particularly Saint-Loup, who really stands out at first, erect as a silver bishop on the swirly shifting societal chess board, a kind kindred aristocratic kid for Marcel to marvel at and befriend. For the most part, over 730 pages, all that really happens (ie, in terms of a concentrated burst of action) is he tries to mack on a hot little lady who's asked him to come sit by her bedside after pressing on his hand, giving him meaningful looks, and speaking "the language of affection" with him, and so when he leans in to kiss her . . . I won't give it away since it's a relatively pleasurable payoff on page 701. This long second installment seems a little more solid as narrator comes into his own, essentially sides with writing over an ambassadorial career, and then develops his eye for beauty in art, nature, and pale little dark-haired ladies wired to please, all near the sea with its sets of waves as liquidy and luminously lapidary as the prose, as always. A cathedral is associated with rocky cliffs along the sea while talking to a cool painter guy who sees everything's intricacy and serves as role model and ambassador to the girls. Something continually of interest is the lack of Christian religious significance/influence and the suggestion that a sort of mystical artistic perception (all elements of life are embued with beauty!) transform the world into a cathedral. The end's very much about the first stirrings of adolescent eros, whose innocence is underscored by the hysterical tilt-a-whirl romance between Swann and Odette in the "Swann in Love" section of Swann's Way. This one ends with the recognition of his reserve of passion within, sort of how the first one ended with recognition of his reserve of divine love/artistic perception. It's not so much a "five star" book in itself -- some stretches really dragged and others soared -- but the overall project (its themes, characters, settings, execution, insight, and particularly its language of course) is without a doubt at least seven stars. Monumental without being monstrous at all.
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Reading Progress

09/16/2012 page 299
09/19/2012 page 397
53.0% "Young male narrator aware of farm girl yearning, deems ill self unfit for it, desires to "understand their souls," concludes world "more interesting." Hmm. I wonder about this narrator sometimes . . ."
10/06/2012 page 590
78.0% "Gonna try to finish this weekend -- 1200 pages into it, the famous Albertine . . ."
10/11/2012 page 706
94.0% 1 comment

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Kiof Now that´s what I call a review! Great writing, Lee.

message 2: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Kiof wrote: "Now that´s what I call a review! Great writing, Lee."

Thanks, dawg. Just leaving some crumbs to follow once I lose my way home (ie, forget almost everything about the book three months later).

Kiof Si, Si. I use (and abuse) GR in very much the same way.

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