Okay, so things fell apart there for a bit. To get back on track, and to remind you that I am the worst, here is a picture of me reading Swann’s Way at The Lone Fir.
So as you know, reading is really good for you. Unfortunately, the things with which reading helps you are all things that you need a certain level of in order to do it consistently. I friend sent me a copy of Farewell to an Idea after we had a conversation about the deeply shameful underrating of The Death of Marat, but I’m not in the right state of mind to dig into something like that. On the other hand, if I read some kind of bestseller, it doesn’t hold my attention and the cathexis that reading affords is lost.
After all sorts of fruitless casting about, I came up with a solution so obvious that I’m sort of ashamed that I hadn’t come up with it sooner: Swann’s Way. It’s also a book with which I feel a lot of sympathy these days, which is nice. Of course, reading about sleeping isn’t quite the same as sleeping so there are still some stumbling blocks, but overall it’s a huge improvement in my life.
So about a month-and-a-half ago I finished The Past Regained, the final volume of Remembrance of Things Past. I was going to say something about it, but then I didn’t. Life is always, I suppose, getting in the way of things that are “marvelously about life.” At any rate, while I recall having all kinds of exciting things to say at the time, I suppose I’m now mostly interested in saying that it got good again, which I suppose makes sense, seeing as how it was written at the same time as Swann’s Way, and before it descended into pure sniveling.
The aspects of the book having to do with recollection are much more explicit, which I suppose is the point. Simply laying out the theoretical armature in volume one would have been boring, and not nearly as effective. By the time the curtain is being pulled away from Proust’s ideas about memory and experience he’s already dragged the reader through a narrative that has approximates that sort of experience primarily by being too detail-rich for the reader to hang on to much of it. This kind of enacting what you write is a marvelous skill, even when it’s clear that the filler content could have been a little more varied, if you know what I’m saying.
As noted elsewhere, I went to the beach for a while. It was lovely. C and I periodically discuss moving out to the coast when we’re older, and it’s definitely appealing. Portland sometimes seems like an unhappy medium to me between a dramatic urban environment like New York and a dramatic natural environment like you find along the Pacific here or in the ancestral homeland.
Unsurprisingly, my aspiration to get through The Past Regained in short order trailed off pretty dramatically. I have gotten to the crux of the biscuit (cookie/whatever) as discussed in “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire,” and it’s pretty cool. In another Proust/Benjamin connection that I hadn’t been aware of before, one section of reflection concludes “the task of the writer is the task of the translator.” He also mounts what is, as far as I know, history’s first attack on hipsters, wherein he bitches about people who listen to music primarily to gush about how much they love it in an attempt to appear sensitive and artistic.
I have been doing a lot of writing. Some of this has been your standard hand-on-forehead diary fare, but I’ve also been trying to do a better job of keeping my random thoughts in some kind of repository, mostly so I can see if any of their threads intersect or if I’m going through certain topics at an interval cycle that prevents new instances from building on old ones. I’d say that this latter project is too new to know if it’s effective, but it does seem as if it’s clearing internal clutter, which is always nice.
So after being basically illiterate for months on end I decided to try out Gene Wolfe. The Book of the Long Sun is totally great, and I’m looking forward to reading other work. Like all foo-ologies, there were some problems near the end where keeping up the overall development of the arc required a bit of excess, but man have I ever read a lot worse.
Building on this, I have redoubled my attack on The Past Regained and I’m tentatively hoping to get through it by the end of the month. Best like plans of walruses and antelopes and all that, but you never know. Helping to sustain this optimism is the fact that Paris’s social life carrying on under the searchlights set up against air raids is intrinsically surreal in a way that allows the dreamy-Marcel-voice to invade the real world, which is pretty agreeable.
Work has been incredibly grueling lately, because I’m supposed to be exercising functionality that has problems that fall between people’s object domains. Basically, there’s a systems-level problem deep within code that somebody else is writing, so nobody has a very clear picture of what the hell is going on. For my part, I’ve been turning Amazon EC2 instances on and off a lot which, let me tell you, is pretty satisfying.
Part of the whole turning things on and off process is making sure the EC2 instances is making sure their domain names are all in a line, which is good because the recaptcha phrases at dnspark.net are basically the only thing keeping my head from exploding. Small miracles &c.
Speaking of complaining, I have finally reached the ultimate volume of Proust’s Masterwork and am almost ready to participate in a seaside summarizing contest while on holiday. I picked it up at St. Mark’s Books when I was in NY a couple weeks ago, which I found kind of appropriate, as I have purchased my copies of all but one of the previous volumes there. The Fugitive finished strong, and this one is starting well, so I have high hopes. There’s a lot of explicit discussion of memory here. We’ll see if it’s cool enough to displace the dream-talk of volume 3 as my justification for slogging through the crap parts.