Tuesday, May 08, 2007

ISYGF, Chapter 7: Eyes on the road, Marcel! Eyes on the motherfucking road!

Gah! He's at it again! I swear, every time I let my guard down, even if it's just for a split second, he figures out a way to slip in another little bombe guaranfrickinteed to make my spleen twist. On page 81, he's talking about his eponymous main character's being introduced into the world of Mme. Swann (formerly Odette "La Boum Boum" de Crecy) and he describes her tone as she speaks to him as being "reminiscent of the mincing tyranny of Mme. Verdurin."

Okay, now here's the deal: Mme. Verdurin figured prominently in the "Swann in Love" section of Swann's Way. But. "Swann in Love" was, essentially, an aside to the story, a departure from the first-person narrative of the rest of the book and told from the perspective of a much older Marcel, who had learned all of Swann's sad tale (boy meets skank, boy becomes skank's bitch, boy loses skank, and then mysteriously marries skank after the longest gestation period in the history of humankind) at some point long past the point where the narrative had last left off. Mme. Verdurin hasn't appeared at all Young Girls so far.

What I'm saying is that our hero Marcel has yet to meet Mme. Verdurin. He has no knowledge of her whatsoever. And this sentence--this entire passage--is told from young Marcel's perspective. So how the fuck can he find Mme. Swann's tone of voice to be "reminiscent" of someone he's never met?

I mean, jaysus! It wouldn't have been that hard to keep the narrative continuity going; all he had to do was insert a little something like, "...in tones I would later recognize as the mincing tyranny of Mme. Verdurin." (And, okay, let's take a breather for just a moment to give our boy props for "mincing tyranny." That's pretty sweet, I have to admit.) And it's not like Proust isn't capable of doing this, when he bothers to remember. When he first introduces the name of Albertine, he remembers linear chronology enough to make note of the fact that Marcel would come to find that name significant, but hasn't yet. Of course, being Proust, he has to pour about a gallon of foreshadowing over the whole thing--seriously, if the technology had been available for him to have the word Albertine flare up into tiny little flames as you read it, I'm sure he would have dropped the francs to make it happen. (Yes, I realize that makes it sound like the technology to make print burst into flames currently does exist, but I've looked that sentence over three times now, and grammatically, it holds together. But wouldn't it be cool? Letters of fire? I tell you what, as soon as they get the technology up and running, I am so printing my resume in that shit. I mean, yeah, a little impractical, what with the possibility of burning your enclosed clips, not to mention your potential employer's hands, but dude: Your resume's on fire! Hell yes!)

And before anyone (also: business cards!)... ahem. And before anyone rushes to defend Proust all "he's got a new form and linear logic isn't his bag etc etc," I would like to remind everyone of one important fact: This book is about two things... time and memory. So if there's one thing Proust might want to pay attention to keeping straight in his opus, it's... do you see where I'm going with this?

I won't write you a ticket this time, M. Proust. But you've been warned.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

ISYGF, Chapter 6: Freaky Fridays across the Channel

Okay, I'm going back and skimming over the last 100 pages, to remind myself of the keen observations I had meant to make about what goes on within them, because God forbid you miss one scintillating insight. And one thing that I keep stumbling over is the way Proust describes the French attitude toward the English. It's not contemptuous at all—or, rather, I think Proust may be contemptuous of their lack of contempt, but really, what, other than himself, is Proust not contemptuous of? (Trees, I guess. Trees and flowers. And asparagus. Boy really has a thing for asparagus.)

But back to the Brits. It's crazy. Whenever a character is getting super-pretentious, they start peppering their sentences with English words. They go to English tea rooms to show their exquisite taste. In other words, they use English language and culture the same way pretentious English-speaking fucks use French language and culture. This started in the first book, but I'm noticing it more and more in the second one, maybe because this one deals so much with the Swanns, who are the major perpetrators of this gauche move. (See? That's what they do, except with English. C'est drolle, mais non?)

At first, it was just an interesting sub-theme to me. But on page 77, things got seriously weird—like, Hunter S. levels of weird. Because he's talking about the stationery Gilberte uses to send him invites to tea, and he writes, “One of them was embossed with a blue poodle over a humorous English motto ending with an exclamation point.”

Dude. For real? Because I can understand the whole busting out the foreign phrases to show how refined you are, no matter what your own native tongue is, because pretentiousness is even more of an international language than love is. But associating the English with poodles? Are the French all high? Or is this really the way it is there? And if so, what other stereotypes take the trip through the looking glass? Do the French show off by mastering the intricacies of (ulp) English cooking? Do they eagerly flip through magazines to discover the latest in English fashions? Do Frenchwomen spend wistful hours in their boudoirs longing for the passionate embrace of an English lover? God, I hope not. Because, if that last is true, I may be forced to find myself doing something I never thought I'd have to do—namely, feeling sorry for the French. (Pow! England, you just got served! That'll teach you to tax us without representation.)

And in case you were wondering: No, no one on either side of the Channel tries to be cool by busting out their German.