Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Themed Reading Review: Remembrance of Things Past

Some books, when they're finished, you know you'll never part with them because they will always hold a special place in your life, and therefore in your library. Other books, not so much. Glad you read them, glad you can cross them off the old Life List (and frequently, off the challenge list, too), and that's about it. So long, it's been good to know you.

This is one of the latter. It went on way too long. It had its moments. But I just don't have much patience for a young man who spends the better part of the evening in a funk because he knows his mother will come up to his room to tell him good night, because he knows that her appearance in his room means that she will soon leave again, and that ruins the whole experience for him, before, during and after.

Or a young man whose constitution and sensibilities are so delicate that his doctor says he has to spend the morning lying abed in a darkened room, even when he's gone to spend the summer at the seashore for his health.

Or a young man who wants to meet a pretty girl he sees on the street, but has to go through all sorts of machinations to be properly introduced to her by a mutual acquaintance, after finding out her family background, to make sure she is of a sufficiently high social class that it's proper for him to speak to her.

If you are such a young man, and you live this sort of life, and then you want to tell me about these non-events in excruciating detail, with all sorts of digressions and diversions, demonstrating what a sensitive, perceptive artiste you are, you run the definite risk that after the first 200 pages or so I'm going to want to slap you, call you a drip, and tell you to get yourself some kind of a life. I think you are a candidate for a little tough love.

Okay, now that I've got that off my chest. I realize this review is far too personal and has no literary merit beyond "I didn't like this book because . . . ." But, frankly, I'm exhausted and I can't do any better.

It didn't help that the wonderful, evocative passage that I remember from Northern Exposure (when the Tellakutans come back for the body of Pierre Le Moulin, close friend of Napoleon Bonaparte; they were fishing in Alaska during the Battle of Waterloo--remember that episode?) appears very early on in the book. After that it was rather downhill for the next 1,000 pages.

There were definitely a few bright spots, though. I have to admit Proust is spot on sometimes. I guess it's fair to say I like his writing; it's his whiny personality I wasn't crazy about.


And I should have liked to be able to sit down and spend the whole day there reading and listening to the bells, for it was so blissful and so quiet that, when an hour struck, you would have said not that it broke in upon the calm of the day, but that it relieved the day of its superfluity, and that the steeple, with the indolent, painstaking exactitude of a person who has nothing else to do, had simply--in order to squeeze out and let fall the few golden drops which had slowly and naturally accumulated in the hot sunlight--pressed, at a given moment, the distended surface of the silence.


  1. Won't bother with that one....thanks for the heads up. Kudos for finishing it yourself.

  2. Hmmmm . . . this one is on my life list of TBR books, but I might have to take it in bits and pieces. It could take years.


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