Monday, January 29, 2007

ISYGF, Chpt. 2: This charming man.

I know what you’re all thinking: Screw Proust, did she go roller-skating on Thursday again? The answer, my friends, is that yes, I did, and I only fell down once, so good for me. Then on Friday night I went bowling for a friend’s birthday party. Saturday, I followed the natural progression of such a weekend to its inevitable conclusion, i.e.: roller-skating, bowling, Smiths cover band.

You know, I never really got into the Smiths. I mean, I can sing along to “How Soon is Now,” and I like it all right, but their music never really spoke to me the way it did to so many of my peers. In high school, I was too Top 40 to appreciate them; then, someone introduced me to punk rock, and I’d truly found my musical medium. My adolescent anger could not fit comfortably within Mo’s elegant phrasing; it played best with the amp turned up to 11. I always felt like Morrissey was sneering at my confusion and pain, whereas the Ramones were right there in the mess with me, ready to blow shit up. Or, to put it another way: The pinky was not the finger I felt the need to raise during my teens and early twenties.

So I wouldn’t normally have gone to this show, but my friends were all going to be there and, you know, I had that natural progression to maintain. The band was really very good—the lead singer was the spitting aural image of Mo, and I have to respect anyone who’s willing to commit to the haircut, glasses, and Byronian shirtsleeves that go with the persona. The crowd was completely into it, too, which always helps. Given all this, it was almost as if I was being reintroduced to the Smiths all over again, and this time I loved what I heard. Admittedly, it probably helps that that scream-till-you’re-hoarse adolescent rage is all (well, mostly) burned out at this point, and leaving the club on my own no longer makes me want to die, so whoever’s pain it is that Morrissey might be mocking, it isn’t mine. Plus, you have to admit that those pop hooks are catchy as hell.

It was during “Every Day is Like Sunday” (which triggered thoughts of Balbec, the yet-unseen seaside resort that figures so heavily in Proust’s work so far) that it occurred to me that the Smiths were the band equivalent of Marcel Proust: erudite, mannered, ruthlessly bitchy, and possessed of a cultlike following that made it difficult to take them seriously. (Not-so-coincidentally, little Stevie M. also holed himself up alone to do much of his writing, with just his mum for company.) But here I was, enjoying the snotty British bejeezus out of them, and if I could learn to love the Smiths on the second go round, maybe there was hope for me and Marcel, too.

I’d been getting pretty discouraged with Young Girls, because it seemed to have become bogged down in satirizing what were then current politics. For all I know, this stuff could be a laugh a minute, but since the sum of my knowledge of French politics consists of a general impression that someone is always on strike there, I’m not getting the jokes. But thanks to the magic of a fake Morrissey, I decided to give the old French bastard another shot.

Well, readers (I’m being optimistic with that plural, aren’t I?), I’m happy to say that miracles really do happen, and good faith really can be rewarded. I opened up the book when I got home (and when I look back on my life, I hope the fact that I once sat in bed reading Proust at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night does not figure prominently in the highlight reel) and was not more than a couple pages into it, when Marcel, in a seemingly reciprocal gesture of goodwill, gave me something I thought he would never deign to give: a precise age.

Oh, not the age of Marcel himself—no, that would be asking too much. But M. de Norpois refers to Gilberte as a young woman of “14 or 15.” Now, by the math I worked out before, that puts young Marcel at 20, if not older. But I’m feeling so charitable toward Morri—er, Proust, that I’m willing to use math a la Marcel and guess that his fictional alter ego is, like, somewhere between 16 and 18. Which would fit the context of the story so far.

So I’m feeling more optimistic about my project now, and am actually looking forward to settling in for a good read sometime soon. You know, if I can squeeze one in between my next series of horseshoes, Yahtzee, and punk-rock jello wrestling.


Anonymous Mr_Blog said...

Have you considered naming a roller derby team with a Proust theme? Possibilities:

- Remembrance of Whiplashes Past

- Get Out of Swann's Way

- In the Shadow of Young Grrls in Baltimore


10:19 AM  
Blogger shutupproust said...

Oh, man, in my DREAMS. Or an all-literary-themed rollerderby league. Get Out of Swann's Way could face off against Pain and Prejudice; the winner would take on--it really needs no changing--A Farewell to Arms (whose fight chant would be, "It tolls for THEE, bitches!").

Once again, I prove myself to be the dorkiest dork who ever dorked.

11:16 AM  

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