Friday, August 11, 2006

SW, Chapter 6: The fortune-cookie game

I am so close to finishing this bad boy, but I have at least a couple more tirades left in me, and I want to try to get them out before I reach that magical Page 444. And I think the time has finally come to let cher Marcel speak for himself. Because he does it so eloquently. And yet…

Okay, take this bit from “Place Names: The Name”:

A moment later, the balcony was as pale and reflective as a pool at dawn, and a thousand reflections of its ironwork lattice had alighted on it. A breath of wind dispersed them, the stone had darkened again, but, as though tamed, they returned; it began imperceptibly to whiten again and, in one of those continuous crescendos like those which, in music, at the end of an overture, carry a single note to the highest fortissimo by making it pass rapidly through all the intermediary degrees, I saw it reach that fixed, unalterable gold of fine days, against which the cutout shadow of the elaborate support of the balustrade stood out in black like a whimsical vegetation, with a delicacy in the delineation of its slightest details that seemed to betray a painstaking consciousness, an artistic satisfaction, and with such sharp relief, such velvet in the restfulness of its dark and happy masses that in truth those broad and leafy reflections resting on that lake of sun seemed to know they were pledges of calm and happiness.

Now, there are some lovely images here. “Reflective as a pool at dawn.” “That fixed, unalterable gold of fine days.” The idea of strengthening sunlight being like a long trilling crescendo up the scale. “Such velvet in the restfulness of its dark and happy masses.” But… well, let’s just get this out of the way now: That second sentence? Is 150 words long! I’ve seen paragraphs shorter than that. Hell, I’ve seen book reviews shorter than that. He couldn’t figure out somewhere to stick a period? Because it leaves the reader breathless--no, not breathless, that’s too poetic a term. It leaves the reader wheezing, red-faced, hands on his or her knees. “Oh no, Marcel, you keep going,” the reader gasps between painful inhalations of much-needed oxygen. “I’ll catch up.”

And so Marcel keeps going. Because he does not care. And this is one of my major problems with the guy: He does not seem to give a rat’s ass about his readers. He is writing purely for his own pleasure, and if you want logic or explanation or sentences that don’t require you to juggle seven different images during their interminable length, well, tough titties. He has a new style, see? And it is marvelous and challenging and it will blow your motherlovin’ mind.

To a degree, I find this admirable. There is something so—forgive the repetition, but “pure” is the word that keeps coming to mind. To be so blissfully free from the yoke of that ever-present Reader who haunts most writers--why, it’s almost Buddha-like. But… I am that reader. And speaking as that reader, I wish the dude had thought a little bit more about my needs. I have to say, the more I read Proust, the better an image I get of what he would be like in bed, and it is not a flattering picture. Because you know he’d be all, “Hey hey cherie, I am going to try zees new technique on you, and you are going to love eet!” And you’d be all, “Um, okay, but… hey! Hey, what the hell! No, really, Marcel, what the hell?” And he’d be all, “Eet gets you hot, mais non?” And you’d kind of shrug and wonder when your turn to pick the ride was going to come. Which would be never.

[Okay, and total aside, but this is a game with endless possibilities. Quick: Name three writers you’d want to sleep with, and three you never would. Like, I bet you Hemingway was a terrible lay. Forget the whole physical side effects of alcoholism, you just know he’d make you tell him what a stud he was the entire time, and then he’d fall asleep as soon as he was done. Plus: “Papa.” Eeeeeewwww! As for whom I’d like to sleep with… well, I guess Anais Nin is kind of a “duh” choice. Hmmm… y’know, I’m going to say… Dickens. And not just for the obvious jokes. Dickens was a guy who had seen some real craziness, probably picked up a trick or two (no pun intended), but someone with a genuine curiosity about people, a fondness for their complexity, their strengths as well as their weaknesses. He might not be a hottie, and he might not be Mr. Seventy-Five Positions, but he’d notice details about you. He’d pay attention to your reactions. Plus, anyone who can get that excited about food has a decent chance of having a broad sensual streak. So: Dickens. I mean, a Dickens who’s heard of modern hygiene and dentistry, but, yeah: Dickens. I’d hit that. Et tu?]

You could argue that constantly writing to an unknown reader makes writers a little more timid, a little too conformist. But I would argue that it also makes you a little more thoughtful. Maybe you might say, “Hmm, now that I think about it, how could a surface produce reflections in weak sunlight and shadows in strong sunlight? How can I talk about sharp relief and the softness of velvet in the same image? My Invisible Reader is gonna ream me for this.” Maybe writing for the Reader makes you work a little harder, think things through a little more clearly, wank off a little less. Because when you have someone else in bed with you, you want them to enjoy the experience at least as much as you do.



Blogger shutupproust said...

WhiskeyPoptart said:

Now that I've read this, I'm going to have to sober up a bit before I can formulate an appropriate response. But I totally think Keats would be the sort to make you mix tapes and leave flowers under your wiper blades. Probably far too emo for us now, but what they hey? He was only 25 when he died, fer crying out loud.

Shutupproust said:

Wow. I'm trying to imagine doing anything romantic with a 25-year-old, and my brain just can't handle the concept. They seem so young now! (And yeah, Keats would TOTALLY be emo if he were alive today! With the little glasses, and the cardigan...)

6:28 AM  
Blogger shutupproust said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:30 AM  
Blogger shutupproust said...

Jazzometer said:

Well, most of us only walk; a bunch of us jog, fewer still go on real runs, and even fewer run marathons. Proust runs marathons.

The cruel truth of the matter is, you need Proust and he doesn't need you. That's why you're reading him in the first place. I think you should move onto Beckett's prose after this -- did you see the New Yorker piece on him?

It includes this:

Watt considers the range of possibilities in a given situation and tries to determine what, if anything, duty requires of him. Beckett’s third-person narrator flaunts the same indiscriminate facticity. Thus Watt’s surmise on the activities of Mr. Knott:

"Here he moved, to and fro, from the door to the window, from the window to the door; from the window to the door, from the door to the window; from the fire to the bed, from the bed to the fire; from the bed to the fire, from the fire to the bed; from the door to the fire, from the fire to the door . . . "

Think Beckett can’t go on? He can go on. In this case, for another thirty lines.

You and Proust need to hug it out, I think.

Georges Sand (have you seen the Delacroix painting?), Colette, and Aphra Behn.

Shutupproust said:

Heh. I was thinking I'd try Ulysses after this, but Beckett sounds like a good choice, too! Of course, by then I will be 89 years old and stark raving mad, but... blogging will still be cool then, right? (Uh, was it ever?)

6:32 AM  

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