Remembrance Of Things Past 2008 discussion

It's not so boring anymore

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message 1: by Annie (new)

Annie (chewiekablooey) Not quite half way into Swann's Way. It started off very slowly, but the characters are gradually beginning to get more interesting to me. I might just stick with it thru the next book(s).

message 2: by Julie (new)

Julie (julies_27) I am hoping that it takes me under 10 days to do Swann's Way since I'm running out of time.

message 3: by Patrick (new)

Patrick | 35 comments Hi Annie,

I agree with your assessment of Swann's took me four or five tries in the past six years to make it more than 20 pages into Swann's Way. I think that once I got past page 50 it really started to take off for me. But I found similar stretches of Book II and Book III where I just lost interest because of the text.


As one of my goodreads friends told me when i declared that my reading goal for 2008 was to finish proust, after which I next intend to read Tolstoy's War and Peace"


"At least, in "War and Peace", stuff - you know - happens. Nobody takes 100 pages to go to bed.

Give me Balzac any day. Or better yet DeMaupassant. But Lord spare me from hypochondriac, oversensitive wimps who lived out their days in cork-lined rooms, and barely managed a sentence under 3 pages."

I thought that LOL funny. And, well, quite a legitimate criticism of Proust. Here was


Well put, and those criticisms of Proust are quite valid. Some of the sentences and paragraphs are interminably long, and the narrator is absurdly passive and neurotic over the dumbest things.

But for the last 20 years or so I have been reading pretty much nothing but non-fiction books where a lot of stuff happens, and so this is a good change of pace for me. And I am really am enjoying this novel, despite the lack of action. After I finish this I think I'll be done with French authors for awhile, though. Thanks for the Balzac recommendation, though.

Also, having read a short biography of Proust by Edmund White, I agree with you that I don't think I'd like him very much if I ever met him, as he was a pretty wimpy and passive dude, even before he became pretty much an invlaid for the last several years of his life. But he produced a great book that I am enjoying, so he deserves much credit for that. If that's the life he needed to live to produce a book this good, that's his deal, not mine.


This begs the question: why have you decided to read Proust?

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Fluffycat, why are you running out time? Are you reading Swann's Way for a class or reading group that's meeting soon? Just curious.

message 5: by Julie (new)

Julie (julies_27) Diana,

My resolution was to read one book a month until I got done, and the month is 2/3 over. I tried to setup a group in person but haven't had much luck yet.

message 6: by Patrick (new)

Patrick | 35 comments Fluffycat,

I had similar goasl when I started, but I just don't think they will work for this kind of book. there's too much in here...I find that I just need to be in the right frame of mind to read Proust. I'd be surprised if you are able to find anyone else to read it...most people are intimdated by Proust. But Diana and I are here for you!

The author I read who inspired me to read this book kind of recommended that the entire thing be read at about 10 pages a day until you really get into it and want to go faster.

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)


I don't want to put a damper on things for you but I agree with Patrick. I had a goal similar to yours and darn if things didn't bog down almost immediately!

There's a richness to Proust that demands slowing down to almost a crawl while reading (at least for me). I'm lucky to get the 10 pages a day that Patrick mentioned, even when I am reading it. And, also as Patrick said, it requires that I'm in the right frame of mind, so I don't read from it every day (this is why Patrick is done with volume three and I'm still piddling around in volume one ;-)).

So whatever your reasons may be for not getting to your goal, don't despair. You're not alone! :-)

message 8: by Patrick (new)

Patrick | 35 comments Actually, I can't quite maintain that pace either...I did it at first with Swann's Way, but then hit a stretch I liked and read several hundred pages pretty rapidly, putting aside all other reading....then it bogged down for me a bit and I had to set it aside and take a break of a few days before resuming.

The same experience has happened with the other two books as well. During Book 3 (The Guermantes Way), my last break extended to almost three week before I just committed to bulling through it last weekend. For me it's sort of like exercise when I hit those spots where I lose interest...when I resume Proust it's tough going at first, but if I keep with it I usually get back into how he thinks, and I start really enjoying it again.

But this is definitely the most challenging reading I've ever attempted, so there's no point in getting down on ourselves at all about our progress. I think it will be well worth the effort in the end, even if takes a lifetime to read the whole novel.

message 9: by Patrick (new)

Patrick | 35 comments Badinews,

I had to laugh when i read what you said about hating the characters but loving the writing. I'm on board with that!

This narrator is pathetically passive and intimidated by everything. I have commented frequently about this to my friend Diana here. I just finished the Guermantes Way and some of what he does in that boom is just absurd. I can't think even effeminate French people would react the same way he does to some of what happens to him. And I'm astounded at the way his entire family coddles him because of his supposed weakness.

But I'm really not reading for the stroy, and never have been -- what's great here is the Proust throws some incredible insight into one small aspect about human nature that really makes me think. It happens every other page or so, and I like that, even if I initially have an issue with the assertions he's making. And some of the writing and commentary is very witty.

No matter what, I'm determined to read all the way through. Hopefully I'll finish it this year.

message 10: by Patrick (last edited Jan 20, 2008 10:22AM) (new)

Patrick | 35 comments bad1news, you captured exactly why I'm reading these books, and in your second paragraph you said it better than I have ever expressed it. I really feel like I'm going to get some insight into myself and into humanity by at least trying to read these books and to think about what proust is saying here.

That's not usually what I want from a book - I'm a big history/biography/non-fiction guy, and have had near zero interest in France until now, but this just seems like the right time in my life to try this book right now.

I'm amazed that you can knock out a couple of hundred pages in a sitting. I did that once, just to finish Guermantes Way, because I'd put it off for weeks and I allocated a morning just to get through it and move on.

Usually when I'm in my Proust "groove", I shoot for reading five to ten pages at various times of the day, and if I get into a smoothly flowing passage I'll go for about 20 pages at one sitting. But, just as you describe, if I push much farther than that I get worn out mentally, and usually need to take a long break away from Proust for a few days (which sometimes becomes weeks).

And after I finish any of these books, I try to stay off Proust for at least two to three weeks before picking up the next volume, just to get the anticipation going again.

But I'm very interested in hearing what works for other readers. Thanks for sharing your experience.

message 11: by Julie (new)

Julie (julies_27) I guess the book a month might be ambitious, but I'm nothing if not tenacious. There has been only one book that has bested me, Moby Dick, and I'm going to get back into that one one of these days. I know, kind of ironic that Moby Dick is "my" white whale as well.

message 12: by Patrick (last edited Jan 20, 2008 01:58PM) (new)

Patrick | 35 comments Fluffycat, I must commend you for starting such a great group. I think our ranks will be small but the quality of the contributions here will very good.

There aren't many of us who will publicly proclaim that we intend to read all of Proust!

Thanks for giving us a Goodreads forum to talk about ROTP.

message 13: by Patrick (new)

Patrick | 35 comments Well, I think that publicly proclaiming that one intends or has started reading ROTP at all is a pretty gutsy thing to do (unless the person you're proclaiming to has no idead who Proust is, and that's probably the case for most Americans).

I like Fluffycat's calling this group ROTP 2008 - I think a year time frame is a reachable goal, but planning for one a month is a good goal to start with. I'm glad she intoduced the group in January.

As for flogging, pshaw to that I say! The only persons who should have the right to do that would be those who can prove that they have already finished Proust - a scarce number of readers, I'd think!

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Heh, makes you wonder how many people claim to have "read Proust" but have dabbled at best. It's a cinch very few people would be able to call them on it. At least when we're done, whenever that may be, we can hold up out heads proudly and say, honestly, "I've read Proust.... ALL of him." :-)

BTW, everyone is making excellent points, imho.

message 15: by Annie (new)

Annie (chewiekablooey) Hi Patrick,

You ask "This begs the question: why have you decided to read Proust?" To be frank, I was cornered into it when dear Fluffycat sent me a copy of Swann's Way for Christmas 2007. (Thanks, Santa Kitteh!) So my commitment to reading the rest of the series is conditional...though, as I stated above, Swann's Way is improving. But honestly, for a while there, I was thinking that this was worse than trying to get thru Trollope.

message 16: by Annie (last edited Jan 21, 2008 02:16PM) (new)

Annie (chewiekablooey) Bad1news,

According to Wikipedia, Anthony Trollope was "one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era." To me, he's the guy who often has trouble titling his lengthy novels, choosing such gems as "Did He Steal It?" or "Can You Forgive Her?" You may have heard of the one titled "The Way We Live Now" which was dramatized and aired on PBS a few years ago starring that guy who plays Inspector Hercule Poirot. Anyway, my only experience with Trollope is when I read the aforementioned "Can You Forgive Her" which is the first in his "Palliser" series. I did not like the book because I despised all but one of the main characters. And though I don't mind lengthy novels if the characters are absorbing, this one was about 800 pages of infuriating indecisiveness on the part of the vapid protagonist, Alice Vavasor.

Suffice it to say that I think I will decline on the Trollope reading group, thanks. 8-)

message 17: by [deleted user] (new)


"Did He Steal It?" Seriously? That's a title? One can only hope that he used up all his literary prowess in writing the books to have none left for titles. But judging from your mini-review of CUFH, it doesn't sound like it.

Hmmm, now I'm curious...

message 18: by [deleted user] (new)


I'm happy to report my curiosity has already spent itself. But if our local PBS station should ever show this beast, there is no doubt I'll be at least peeking. It's free and one can reasonably assume there won't be any physical damage while watching. One assumes...

message 19: by Annie (last edited Jan 21, 2008 09:57PM) (new)

Annie (chewiekablooey) Diana & Bad1news,

By all means, please do watch "The Way We Live Now" when it airs again on PBS. After all, it's not based on the book I read, and my opinion of Trollope is based solely on that single work. So it could just be that I was unlucky enough to have read the worst novel in his oeuvre. Besides, PBS dramatizations are generally well-made and usually more entertaining than the novels on which they are based. (Fyi, it also stars Matthew MacFadyen, the fellow who played Darcy opposite Keira Knightley in the latest Pride & Prejudice, for those of you who might care.) So who knows--it could turn out that you guys like the story so much that you rush to your nearest Borders to grab a Trollope work or two! ;-)

message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Well, I'll tell ya, if watching this PBS show means I'm then driven to go out and read Trollope's works, between him and Proust I'll just have to quit my job and read for a living. Gosh, that would be terrible ;-) I just have to figure out who'll pay me!

message 21: by [deleted user] (new)


If I do, I'd be happy to forward your resume and put in a good word for you :-)

message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

I've made a dent in "Swann In Love" and am actually buzzing along at an in creased clip. What a relief!

And this part of the book is incredibly funny. The whole party with the Verdurin's is a hoot. The business about the "faithful" and their gifts, poor M. Verdurin trying to keep up with his wife's laughter, the Doctor's insecurities and rather bizarre way of covering them up, etc. And I now understand why the quote Fluffycat posted about the pianist's aunt was funny. At first I wasn't sure but now reading it in context it is funny, although of all the characters here she strikes me as the least phony. She's simply trying to keep up and probably trying to avoid making her nephew look bad by having an uneducated aunt. But still, the siren call of society ensnares her as well. She could just keep quiet or say very little but instead she feels the need to be a part of this too.

Great stuff!

message 23: by Shan (new)

Shan | 15 comments "Prolific" is the word for Trollope - I don't know how many novels he wrote but there are an awful lot of them. I started one once... On the other hand, Trollope has a granddaughter, Joanna Trollope, who is also an author and much easier on the reader than her grandpa! Maybe after ROTP 08 we should start a Joanna Trollope group :)

Has anyone read How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alan de Botton? That was my original inspiration for trying to read ROTP a couple of years ago. This reading with a group is much better though - I'm so glad you started it.

message 24: by Patrick (new)

Patrick | 35 comments Shan, I am reading that Alain de Botton book right now!

I think it's very funny, and a great book to read while you're in the middle of reading ROTP. I was going to start a thread here about that book once I finish it, maybe this weekend.

That book has some very funny stories about proust's life, his idiosyncracies, his odd writing and research habits, and the inital reactions of publishers, reviewers, and reader to Swann's Way. It addresses almost all of the criticisms I have had, and that I am have seen others bring up here. But he also answer those criticisms in such a way so as to make you believe that your life will be better because you took the time to read Proust.


message 25: by Shan (new)

Shan | 15 comments Patrick, great idea to read de Botton's book at the same time. I am still in the middle of the Swann in Love section and am beginning to feel like I'm drowning. I reached a part where Swann comes up for air and plays the part of "young Swann" the carefree young man with friends and family and interests in art and music and literature instead of Charles Swann obsessed with the odious Odette - I actually put the book down to savor the moment before being sucked down into Swann's madness when (I'm sure) it returns. Maybe de Botton would have the same effect of a breath of fresh air when it all gets to be too much.

Everyone was talking about spoilers a couple of days ago - consensus seemed to be the plot is so slow or nonexistent it can't possibly be spoiled - I did read a spoiler in someone's post that is giving me the strength to go on - apparently Swann is eventually going to wake up and drop Odette.

It's not that I'm not enjoying the ride... although Swann's roller coaster emotions are uncomfortably reminiscent of the state of my own interior monologue, circa 1973.

message 26: by Patrick (new)

Patrick | 35 comments Your last statement captures a big part of why I like this book as well, Shan. The entire novel is very good at describing the various strange emotions, thoughts, and odd things that many people do when they think they are falling in love with someone. I painfully recall some of the crazy thoughts and schemes I used to have in my budding relationships back when I was younger. The entire novel is full of these roller coaster emotions, although in the later book it's nearly always the narrator who is having these experiences.

I think that's the main reason why Larry McMurtry recommends that everyone read the entire book (long story, which I'll share here some other time --- but that's what led me to Proust in the first place).

message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Sorry for the terse post a few days ago--my computer had the vapours possibly due to the proximity of the work under discussion.

Very grateful to have Combray behind me. The only thing that got me through the ridiculous gassing about church spires moving in and out of view that got our narrator so worked up he had to write it down was knowing that there was only a few more pages left in the section. No wonder the coachman didn't want to talk to him.

My inner Freud wants to know if the narrator's father will make any more appearances.

message 28: by [deleted user] (new)


Good one :-) It's wonder the coachman didn't arrange for a little "mishap".

As for Papa showing up again, there's no need. He did enough damage in the first volume to last through the remaining six.

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