125

09 July 2003

Good news from the recovery front: yesterday I confessed to my physical therapist that I hadn’t worn the brace much for the past week. He sighed and scolded, but when Kevin had me walk around the office to observe my gait, he seemed impressed.

Apparently I’m only able to get by without my brace because my quad has recovered strength relatively quickly; I’ve been faithful about doing my exercises. I’m still at high risk for re-injury, and it’d be better if I wore my brace, especially during situations in which I have little control of my environment (around children, in crowds, etc.), but Kevin seems to think that, for the most part, I’ll do fine without it.

Kevin also introduced me to several new exercises yesterday which, when combined with the batch of new exercises he introduced last Thursday, means that I have an almost entirely new regimen compared to a week ago. Awesome! Unless one has been through this, one cannot realize how tedious the same exercises become when repeated day-in and day-out.

When we measured my range of motion at the beginning of the session, I was able to obtain 125 degrees of flexion without assistance. Rock on!


I started to read Swann’s Way yesterday. Perhaps not co-incidentally I managed to take in 125 pages.

I love it.

I love Proust’s long, convoluted sentences and paragraphs, his introspective nature, his obsession with details. I love his philosophy, his perception, his ability to capture the inner life and to put it into print.

Some favorite bits:

  • “The fault I find with our journalism is that it forces us to take an interest in some fresh triviality or other every day, whereas only three or four books in a lifetime give us anything that is of real importance.” Proust argues, in a pre-MTV world, that journalism leads to short attention spans, glosses over stories, attempts to pare the complex to just a few sentences. His method, obviously, is the reverse: he sometimes focuses on mere seconds, devoting eight pages to the moments during which one awakes, for example.
  • “Perhaps the immobility of the things that surround us is forced upon them by our conviction that they are themselves, and not anything else, and by the immobility of our conceptions of them.” How zen is that? This is similar to the social personality passage about which I raved previously.
  • “I became at once a man, and did what all we grown men do when face to face with suffering and injustice: I preferred not to see them.”
  • “The wall of the staircase, up which I had watched the light of his candle gradually climb, was long ago demolished. And in myself, too, many things have perished which, I imagined, would last for ever, and new structures have arisen, giving birth to new sorrows and new joys which in those days I could not have foreseen, just as now the old are difficult of comprehension.”
  • Young Marcel is fascinated by the theater, though he’s never seen a performance. He’s obsessed with the actors and actresses, and, with his friends, he rates them and ranks them according to their greatness. (A kindred spirit!)
  • “[I stood] still on that spot, before that steeple, for hours on end, motionless, trying to remember, feeling deep within myself a tract of soil reclaimed from the waters of Lethe slowly drying until the buildings rise on it again.”
  • There’s a portion of the novel—Proust’s thesis, really—which is very similar to my favorite segment from Amelie.

There are many other wonderful bits; I’ve marked up my book with heavy underlining, and I’ve scribbled notes throughout the margins.

I had started to worry that few people were going to complete Swann’s Way in time for book group, had become defensive because of the aspersions cast upon the book by my fellow readers, but now that I’ve actually begun to read it, I no longer care what the others think; if they are unable to appreciate the Swann’s Way, or are unwilling to even try to read it, it is their loss and not mine.

Perhaps, though, I could offer the other book group members some advice. First, remember that much of this is meant to be—and is— funny. It’s not all serious. Secondly, as I told Aimee, it helps to worry less about “getting” every little detail, helps to be unconcerned with the plot and the characters; one is better served by plowing headlong through the text, allowing oneself to be surrounded by Proust’s words, overwhelmed by mood and atmosphere.

From the introduction to the edition I’m reading (emphasis mine):

One of the publishers to whom Swann’s Way was submitted sent it back with the words: “I cannot understand why a gentleman would employ thirty pages to describe how he turns and returns on his bed before going to sleep.” Since that time many would-be readers have doubtless laid the volume down with a similar reflection but the loss has been theirs alone. Proust knew with uncommon exactness what it was he was about; he has a purpose in everything that he does, and even what appear to be digressions of inordinate length actually occupy a carefully proportioned and predetermined place in a structure whose architecture can only be understood when one stands off and regards it as a whole. The first rule for reading him is, therefore, complete submission…

Yes, this is a book I love. I’ve already decided that I will continue, read the second volume, Within a Budding Grove.

I wonder: what authors move others to this level of passion? What books inspire this degree of adoration in my friends? Is it common to find a writer whose internal monlogue so resembles one’s own?

Comments

On 09 July 2003 (09:35 AM),
Rich said:

From the Irony Department:

i love the fact that you believe that proust thinks the way you do, you discuss how proust advocates that “journalism leads to short attention spans, glosses over stories, attempts to pare the complex to just a few sentences,” and then one of the links on the side of your page is to “USA Today.” classic stuff.

i went to a lecture several years ago where the topic of media came up, and the moderator had a deep aversion to the USA Today. to this day, i remember a quote about those who read it: “If your idea of a newspaper is the USA Today, you’re not even trying.” it was such an elitist smackdown that i felt offended, yet i know he was right. that doesn’t stop me from buying it and reading it over lunch twice a week, but i rationalize it by saying i only read the Sports section, for which it is a good paper.

which reminds me of another quote from a journalism class i attended in college. a professor said that it was “America’s dirty little secret” that the very large majority of newspaper sales in this country, outside of the Sunday paper, are driven by the Sports section. for proof of this, he said that when you see a newspaper lying around in some public place (a mall food court, or on a bus, or a fast food place, etc.), odds are that when you pick it up and look through it, the Sports section is missing. what would Proust say about that?

On 09 July 2003 (09:54 AM),
J.D. said:

Rich, it’s even worse: I only read the headlines at the USA Today site. How’s that for the antithesis of Proust? :)

Of course I attempt to rationalize this by explaining that I read Harper’s, etc., and that I listen to NPR, and from these sources get longer, extended news coverage, and that USA Today is just a stopgap measure.

The truth is: I don’t pay much attention to news except in the broadest sense. I admire Pam’s intentional ignorance of current events, but am unable to allow myself to join her completely. So, I get my news from the USA Today web site headlines!

(It’s almost worse than news sometimes.)

On 09 July 2003 (11:13 AM),
Dana said:

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then
I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
— Walt Whitman

A smattering of media outlets I peruse:

On 09 July 2003 (11:35 AM),
J.D. said:

Nice quote, Dana! :)

In siutations such as these (in which I aspire to a certain height but fall short), I console myself by responding:

  1. You do the same thing.”
  2. “Just because it’s my ideal, doesn’t mean I’m able to live it.”
  3. “At least I’m not a hypocrite.” (i.e. claiming to be something which I am not — mostly I aspire to certain states rather than claiming to obtain them)
  4. And, my favorite: “I am complex.”

Actually, I think it’s a good thing to hold ideals to which they aspire but which they never attain. A striving for excellence is a good thing.

On 09 July 2003 (12:38 PM),
Rich said:

striving for excellence is a great thing, agreed. the problem comes when you stop actively striving and simply contemplate/dream of that ideal (as Perry Farrell said in “Jane Says” — “Jane says ‘I’m going away to spain when i get my money saved, I’m gonna start tomorrow'”).

the other problem comes when you are striving for someone else’s ideal. if i strived to stop reading the USA Today because some talking head told me that it’s non-intellectual and instead buy the Wall Street Journal simply to show off, and yet was really unhappy missing some pie chart about how many football fields it would take to get from the earth to the moon, i should just admit what i like and damn those who disagree.

On 09 July 2003 (01:07 PM),
Tammy said:

Ok this is going to sound very simplistic to most of you but I’m ready to make a confession. My favorite author of all time is L.M.Montgomery. I see all you intellectuals scaratching your heads and wondering who she is! Ok I’ll tell you. She is the author of the Anne of Green Gables series.
She is also the author of such books as “The Golden Girl”, “Kilmeny of the Orchard” and Tales of Avonlea”. You talk about a book that is all marked up it’s my copy of the first two books of Anne of Green Gables. Now if you only know the story through the movies then you really don’t know the story. Annes most profound thoughts are left in the book. In Montgomerys character, Anne Shirley, I find a person so similar to myself and my outlook on life that it’s rather frightening. I love and adore her writings. So there. I’ve confessed. It’s like Rich says above,“…I should just admit what i like and d*** those who disagree.”

On 09 July 2003 (01:19 PM),
J.D. said:

My favorite author of all time is L.M. Montgomery.

This is nothing to be ashamed of; I think most of us are familiar with Anne of Green Gables.

I’ve never read any of Montgomery’s books, but at least once a year I watch the film versions of Green Gables and Avonlea with Kris. They’re great fun.

The second paragraph alone is enough to make me want to read the Anne of Green Gables:

There are plenty of people in Avonlea and out of it, who can attend closely to their neighbor’s business by dint of neglecting their own; but Mrs. Rachel Lynde was one of those capable creatures who can manage their own concerns and those of other folks into the bargain. She was a notable housewife; her work was always done and well done; she “ran” the Sewing Circle, helped run the Sunday-school, and was the strongest prop of the Church Aid Society and Foreign Missions Auxiliary. Yet with all this Mrs. Rachel found abundant time to sit for hours at her kitchen window, knitting “cotton warp” quilts–she had knitted sixteen of them, as Avonlea housekeepers were wont to tell in awed voices–and keeping a sharp eye on the main road that crossed the hollow and wound up the steep red hill beyond. Since Avonlea occupied a little triangular peninsula jutting out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence with water on two sides of it, anybody who went out of it or into it had to pass over that hill road and so run the unseen gauntlet of Mrs. Rachel’s all-seeing eye.

Don’t be ashamed, Tammy!

On 09 July 2003 (01:45 PM),
Tammy said:

Ahhhh! Just reading that excerpt makes me want to pull out my books and read them again! Um um um!!!

On 09 July 2003 (03:15 PM),
Tiffany said:

I am a fan of Anne also. I am just about always reading one of the series (since I read more then one book at a time). Anne is a cherished friend.

On 09 July 2003 (06:49 PM),
Tammy said:

Then, as Anne would say, we must be “kindred spirits”!

Previous post:

Next post: