Happy Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July to those of you who celebrate it; to those of you who don’t — happy Wednesday. It’s pouring rain right now, and it’s been relatively cool all day, unusually so for July. I’ve spent the day reading, napping, riding my bike (a nice easy ride which I probably shouldn’t have taken since I’m still feeling a bit sick, but I told you I’m bad at laying off the exercise …), and I’ll probably spend the evening comforting Muttboy when the locals set off their fire crackers and he gets scared. The 4th of July is not a good holiday for dogs.

I began reading Roger Shattuck’s book Proust’s Way today; I didn’t intend to begin the book until I finished In Search of Lost Time, but it looked so interesting, I couldn’t resist. LK rightly warned me that the book has spoilers, so I’ve been trying to avoid bits that might give away plot events that occur in the last volume — but, as I’ve said before, I don’t think one really reads Proust for the plot.

The book is quite good so far — it’s got suggestions for how to read the novel, which are coming a bit late for me, but which are interesting anyway, as they explain things like the structure of a typical Proustian sentence and how that structure reinforces the sentence’s meaning. The book has a number of cool charts — ones that explain the main characters, the various love interests, the structure of the novel’s action, and the places the action occurs, among other things. It has a section on Proust’s life, but it’s not a biography — mostly it gives an overview of what the novel’s all about and offers interpretations of its meaning and significance.

I’m pleased to be reading something that will help me think about Proust more deeply and will help me pull my experience of reading him together, even though I’m not quite finished. Reading Shattuck’s book sometimes teaches me new things and sometimes reinforces things I’ve already thought about Proust.

I prefer to read about a book after experiencing the book itself, rather than preparing for reading a book first and then picking it up. Sometimes that means I’m bewildered as I read the primary text and don’t get things I might if I’d prepared first. But I prefer to experience something directly first and then to try to make sense of the experience afterwards by doing the critical reading, if I’m going to do any critical reading at all.


Filed under Fiction, Life

6 responses to “Happy Independence Day!

  1. hepzibah

    Happy 4th to you too Dorothy! Though I wished the weather could have been better, and we could have spent more time outside, since we were at my aunt’s pool and the fireworks are cancelled…but I also did a lot of reading (I have decided to put my piece aside for awhile) and had a relaxing day.

    I agree with you– I like to read something on my own first, and then do the research/critical reading afterwards, I guess because I want my own perspective first, and I want to formulate my own ideas about why a book was structured a certain way and so on…


  2. LK

    Happy belated Fourth! It was hot in CA (with no air conditioning, that’s a bit of an issue sometimes!).

    I feel exactly as you do, about reading and experiencing something for myself first, and then trying to get some critical aspects to enrich it. However, with Proust — that is a bit different, isn’t it? There is so much and it’s so complex. (I still can’t picture Proust in that cork-lined room, scritch-scratching away, keeping track of all that he was writing! Maybe he pushpinned his plot lines on the cork???)


  3. I almost always read the the text for myself first then read about it afterwards. But if it’s an author that I find difficult, a bit of context from a good critical commentary beforehand can help me to find an entry point.


  4. Happy Independence Day to you Dorothy! And glad to know the Shattuck is providing some interesting thoughts!


  5. Hepzibah — no fun to have the fireworks canceled! But nice to get some reading done …. LK, You’re right that with Proust maybe a little more advanced reading is in order. Particularly since it’s so long — I wouldn’t want to get too far into the book and miss a lot of stuff. The group blog helped with that, actually, giving me some background without me having to do much critical reading. Kate, I agree with you — a “bit of context” does the trick — not too much, just a little bit of guidance. Litlove, Shattuck has been very good, and I recently mooched that book, A Year of Reading Proust, that you recommended.


  6. I spent the evening comforting my dog too. I always liked fireworks until I got dog. Proust’s Way sounds great. And even if you are learning somethings things that would have been helpful before you started reading, it’s still nice to know them, especially when it comes time for the re-read 😉


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