Happy 4th of July to those of you who celebrate it; to those of you who don’t — happy Wednesday. It’s pouring rain right now, and it’s been relatively cool all day, unusually so for July. I’ve spent the day reading, napping, riding my bike (a nice easy ride which I probably shouldn’t have taken since I’m still feeling a bit sick, but I told you I’m bad at laying off the exercise …), and I’ll probably spend the evening comforting Muttboy when the locals set off their fire crackers and he gets scared. The 4th of July is not a good holiday for dogs.
I began reading Roger Shattuck’s book Proust’s Way today; I didn’t intend to begin the book until I finished In Search of Lost Time, but it looked so interesting, I couldn’t resist. LK rightly warned me that the book has spoilers, so I’ve been trying to avoid bits that might give away plot events that occur in the last volume — but, as I’ve said before, I don’t think one really reads Proust for the plot.
The book is quite good so far — it’s got suggestions for how to read the novel, which are coming a bit late for me, but which are interesting anyway, as they explain things like the structure of a typical Proustian sentence and how that structure reinforces the sentence’s meaning. The book has a number of cool charts — ones that explain the main characters, the various love interests, the structure of the novel’s action, and the places the action occurs, among other things. It has a section on Proust’s life, but it’s not a biography — mostly it gives an overview of what the novel’s all about and offers interpretations of its meaning and significance.
I’m pleased to be reading something that will help me think about Proust more deeply and will help me pull my experience of reading him together, even though I’m not quite finished. Reading Shattuck’s book sometimes teaches me new things and sometimes reinforces things I’ve already thought about Proust.
I prefer to read about a book after experiencing the book itself, rather than preparing for reading a book first and then picking it up. Sometimes that means I’m bewildered as I read the primary text and don’t get things I might if I’d prepared first. But I prefer to experience something directly first and then to try to make sense of the experience afterwards by doing the critical reading, if I’m going to do any critical reading at all.