Proust, Not Competitively but Companionably

Proust In Search of Lost TimeFor the next year I plan to read Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. (Phyllis Rose’s The Year of Reading Proust isn’t enough.)  I’ve read the first two volumes of In Search twice, and then I start over again, since narrative isn’t a big part of it.

I’d like to read it with a group.  Starting with Swann’s Way again, of course.

I decided to check for a group at Goodreads.

First, I couldn’t sign in. I thought I was signed in for life.

“Sorry, we didn’t recognize that email/password combination,” it told me.

Well, even I didn’t quite recognize that password.

“Do you want to sign in with Facebook or Twitter?” it asks.

No, I do not.

I have a Twitter account (@MsMirabileDictu), but I don’t tweet.  It is, however, great for “cyber-stalking”:  NYRB, Gary Shteyngart, Mollie Katzen, my blogger friends, TLS, Ron Charles at the Washington Post, Maud Newton, and who is Andrew Holleran? I follow him, too.

By the way, leave me your Twitter address, and I’ll follow you.  Perhaps I’ll tweet someday.  I have sent four tweets, three by accident.

Anyway I finally signed in at Goodreads with a compromise password. The Proust groups are  moribund.

Same thing at LibraryThing. They have no Proust groups.

Drabble The Pure Gold BAbyHere is why I want to read Proust with a group.  I am in the middle of Margaret Drabble’s new novel, The Pure Gold Baby. and am inspired by her heroine, Jess, who is reading Proust with a friend.

Jess was reading Proust with an incentive.  She was reading him not competitively but companionably, in concert with an old schoolfriend from Broghborough with whom she had kept in touch.  They met rarely, for her friend Vivien lived in Edinburgh, where she was the assistant curator of a gallery, but they had preserved their intimacy through Viven’s occasional London visits and through sending one another postcards and letters….. (The reading group had not yet become a nationwide phenomenon.)  Jess and Vivien had already read their way through Ulysses, encouraging one another onwards by exchanging comments and moments of bewilderment and enlightenment, and now they were doing Proust.  Would they reach the end?  They were not sure.  it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t; nobody was watching them, nobody was marking them, there were no exams to sit, no teachers to impress.

Doesn’t this make you want to read Proust?

I need a Proust pen pal.

Seriously, I love Drabble’s heroines.  In her novel, The Seven Sisters, Candida, the narrator, studies Virgil with an adult ed teacher.  I  thought, I’m a Latinist: why not teach an adult ed class?  And so I taught an adult ed Latin class for two years.  Then we ran out of people.

I teaching Latin, in schoolmarm garb.

Teaching Latin, in schoolmarm garb.

Here is a rather sweet, if blurry, picture of me teaching Latin in the ’90s, in schoolmarm clothes (important for discipline) and big glasses.  Sorry, I don’t have any pictures of my adult ed days.

So who’s going to read Proust with me?  Come on!  One person.

No one wants to?????!!!!!?????Maybe someone who reads French?

Oh, well.

7 thoughts on “Proust, Not Competitively but Companionably

  1. Oh Kat, I would *love* to read Proust with you, but I am *so* hopeless at keeping up with challenges and life is really getting in the way of reading lately. Maybe Proust should be my next goal – I’m still only a third of the way through Karamazov. When are you planning to start?


  2. Karen, I never seem to read along with anyone else, either. I hoped to find a Proust group established online, but I’m not quite sure how to do this. Maybe email a French prof? I decided I should read Proust: we’ll see if I do it.:)


  3. Happy Retirement, Tony!

    I found one face-to-face person to read Proust with, but I still have hopes for online… I know from experience that we won’t be doing much book talk FTF.


  4. I like the idea but admit I’ve read the first volume and part of the second twice and never got further. I could try again :). November gives people time to decide.

    There was a Proust Yahoo group at one time; they were people who had all read the whole book — or seemed to have read it.

    There’s a marvelous movie with Jeremy Irons which adapts one of the later books.


  5. My local book group reads one of the Proust volumes every couple of years. I think we have done the first three. I could join you for the fourth volume, but don’t have the time (or the courage!) to begin at the beginning again.


  6. Ellen, the Yahoo Proust group is moribund. Very discouraging. But if you wanted to read any of it with me, even excerpts, I’d love it. I don’t have a schedule, but if you wanted to read with me, we could make one.

    Nancy, I might not get to Book IV for a while, but eventually. The idea of starting again at the beginning is daunting, but it’s the way I do things.:)


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