Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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In Search of Future Timelessness

I'm finally doing what I've put off for far too long. I'm reading Proust. For years I've known that his prose would reverberate through me like the gong in a Zen monastery. But that knowledge inspired a measure of fear. Once I started, I might never stop. Would I ever be able to return to the life I had been leading beforehand? Would I come back to life period? I guess we're about to find out.

I'm alternating between the two translations of Swann's Way right now in order to get a better feel for the sentence structure and style of the original. While my friend and colleague Eric might shudder at that statement -- he rightly points out the paradoxical notion of the "original" -- it suits me to well too suppress. I'm not sure which one I like better. The classic C.K. Scott Moncrieff, modified by Terence Kilmartin, feels more balanced to me so far. But the new Lydia Davis version seems less soporific and more intellectually stimulating. Perhaps that's just because the larger font and more extensive white space in hers goes better with my line-ending dyslexia. Still, I'm glad to be alternating.

Last night, as I sat in the food court in Park Place Mall, waiting for tommix to join me for a 10:20pm screening of The Devil's Rejects -- fun, but so thoroughly filtered by Kim's excellent review that it didn't feel fresh enough -- I read in the Davis. "I'll be the one reading Proust," I told him on the phone. "Give me another distinguishing characteristic. That's not going to be much help in that environment," he replied, to my delight.

Later, as we were settling into our seats, I announced to him that I was perfectly positioned to be the next Proust. "He started the project in his mid-30s. Why can't I?" The thing is, even though I was going for maximum irony, there's a part of me that really does feel, reading him, that I'm reading the sentences inscribed in my mind, the ones I struggle to make less convoluted, less precious, less long before I make them public. I suppose any memoir-heavy blog has a Proustian dimension to it. But I also share his problem lungs. Perhaps some day scrapple will be slotted into the literary pantheon next to Marcel's madelines.

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