Tuesday, February 13, 2007

ISYGF, Chapter 4: Dirty Frenchman!

Wow, Proust continues to surprise me. For instance, I never would have imagined he would prove to be efficient. And yet, in just two pages, he's managed to provide me with just as many WTFs:

Page 66: Dude, did he just say he liked the smell of a public toilet? I think he did. I really think he did. Dude.

Page 67: Erm, Marcel, I don't know how to break this to you, but yeah, your little girlfriend in the park could probably tell you had an erection if you were, y'know, rubbing it up against her. I mean, unless I should be feeling a lot more sorry for you than I have been so far, or French Victorian-era clothing was made of, like, industrial-grade bubble wrap, yeah, that's the sort of thing a girl notices. Trust me. (Bonus points, though, for a new euphemism: "shed my pleasure." Classy, no? The Pleasure Shedders are going to be my next band, I think.)

I would also like to point out that he spends approximately twice as much space on the public toilets as he does on the tussle that gets him to the shedding point. Which may qualify as a third WTF. Clearly I have underestimated my adversary.

Monday, February 05, 2007

ISYGF: Interlude

I'm still plugging away at the Proust in between bouts of roller skating and loading music onto my new iPod Nano (which I love and am going to marry and have tiny little Proust-and-Replacements-obsessed babies with), but I felt the need to relate the following episode as a warning to anyone who might consider taking up a similar project:

Friday night, I was meeting some friends for a movie, and I decided to get there a little early to get soup at this great soup counter that I love so much that, well, I guess I'm not marrying it, but I do plan to have a longstanding affair with it behind my iPod's back. I hate eating alone, so I brought a book for company. The book. And as I plunked it down on the counter and settled onto a stool, I had one of those horrible out-of-body experiences where you can see exactly how you look to the outside world, and this is what I saw: A small woman with her hair back in a sensible ponytail, wearing those ultra-librarianish glasses and a T-shirt that reads "Good Grammar Costs Nothing,"* reading Proust. Yeah, I know: Even I felt like beating me up for my lunch money.

I still had time to kill after my soup, so I ran to the clothing store across the street, intent on finding and purchasing the sluttiest thing they had. And if the fashion industry didn't believe all women were seven feet tall, that red dress with the deep V-cut would have been mine.

At any rate, don't let this happen to you. If you find yourself alone at a soup counter, please, this is exactly what God made Vanity Fair for. And I'm not talking about the Thackeray.

*Special to Overheardgirl: This moment in no way diminishes my love for this T-shirt, which brings me joy every time I wear it. Thank you again!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

ISYGF, Chapter 3: OMG, that’s sooooo Norpois!

Okay, so near as I can tell, the first 50 pages of Young Girls is mostly devoted to what an asshole M. de Norpois is. Which has been a little hard for me to fathom. I mean, I get that I’m supposed to find him contemptible, not fit to spill a drink on, but he just… as supervillains go, he’s a little lame. In fact, that’s M. de Norpois in a nutshell: a little lame. Not super lame. Not awful. Not completely stupid. I mean, he’s traveled, he’s worked in diplomacy, he’s great at remembering people’s names (which, if that’s his evil superpower, then I am impressed, because I swear I need to be introduced to someone five times before it starts to stick, and it’s always so awkward with the “So nice to meet you!” and the “Um, yeah, that’s what you said at the last party” and the… but I digress.), and yes, he’s kind of a blowhard, but that’s hardly a capital offense—if it were, you’d never have to worry about finding an empty barstool again in your life.

But that’s not really his main crime. No, if you read on, you realize that poor Norpy (...too far?) has done something much more heinous: He disses Marcel’s writing. Right. How’s that song go? Something like, “One day, when I’m a famous writer, I’m going to write about everyone who was ever mean to me and then they’ll be sorry!” A very popular tune among memoirists. Oh, Marcel, I thought better of you, dude. Please, please be bigger than this. Because I have 500 more pages to go here, and if it’s all about how no one ever recognized you as the Most Awesomest Genius Artist Person Ever, then it’s going to be a looooooooong five clicks, kna’mean? Please, rise above it, I’m begging you.

But while we’re wallowing, I do have to point out one wonderfully bitchy passage that made me kind of want to buy my favorite impenetrable French author a chartreuse:

“But forewarned, as we know, is forearmed, and he just kicked the insults aside,” [M. de Norpois] said, with even greater force, and a glare that made us stop eating for a moment. “As a fine old Arabian proverb puts it: ‘The dogs bark, the caravan moves on.’” M. de Norpois paused, watching us to see what effect this quotation would have on us. It had a great effect: his proverb was well known to us. All worthy men had been using it that year instead of “Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind,” which was in need of a rest, not being a hardy annual like “To labor and seek for no reward.”

Okay, that’s just a little bit of all right, is what that is. Overabuse of “exotic” proverbs—now there’s an evil I can understand. And it’s one that continues to this day. My own pet peeve is the “interesting times” one. You know, “There’s an ancient Chinese curse: ‘May you live in interesting times.’ And the people of [insert country/province/family of note] are cursed indeed…” I swear on the soul of Mencken, I do not know how many times I’ve seen lazy writers start out news stories or columns with that chestnut, intoning it with stentorian solemnity as if it hadn’t been similarly intoned fifty bajillion skillion times before. Seriously, go ahead and google that puppy; you’ll see what I mean. Chinese curse. Interesting times. That shit’s Norpois, is what it is.

In my own work, I’ve taken to red-penning it as “cliché” and allowing its use only in shorthand versions—i.e., “…it was certainly very interesting, in the Chinese-curse sense of the word.” People argue with me about it sometimes, but someone has to guard the gates and the fools put this bitch in charge.

Again, I digress. But it did strike me as another fun game (and if I’m ever going to make it to the end of this thing, I’m going to need all the fun and games I can get): What sage proverbs or observations can you think of that have been overused to the point of triteness? What’s Norpois in your book? Go ahead, you can tell me. Marcel would.