I had a post ready to go live on Team Proust and the suggestion that we read In Search of Lost Time as our shared read, starting in January 2012...
I had pictures of madeleines and recipes all lined up, nearly bought the madeleine tins to make some in
I have been harbouring doubts and several of you have also kindly e mailed with reservations about the viability of Proust on a monthly reading schedule, and a bit of me is also hesitant for several other reasons.
Firstly Port Eliot Festival and London 2012 are going to consume much of my summer with reading and watching next year, so tackling something so unknown, staying the course cheerfully and keeping everyone enthused and on board may be a tall order.
Secondly, and though this really shouldn't matter in the grand scheme of things, but why are the writers of these chunksters invariably rather unpleasant people??
James Joyce wasn't that nice to his wife and family, Tolstoy it could be argued considerably worse but all surmountable in the face of such good reading, and so I settled down to read a little background about Proust's life. Now I'm sure In Search of Lost Time is brilliant, essential reading that I would probably enjoy once I got past the first forty pages which apparently focus on a young Marcel lying in bed waiting for his mother to come and kiss him goodnight.
But I'm afraid I wish I hadn't read about him masturbating in front of a cage of rats intent on eating each other alive.
Or the shuffling around in the coat in a drug-fuelled haze.
Tolstoy and James Joyce probably did the same or worse every week too, who knows, but I didn't know that about them then, but I do know it about Proust now ...too much information and somehow I can't undo that knowing, each time I pick the book up...well all I can see is...er, the rats.
So moving swiftly on what to do.
It was a lovely meet up with Carol, who comments here, passing through on her return from a holiday in Cornwall, and we sat and used up all available oxygen in Jericho's and then ambled through Launceston on a sweltering late-September afternoon. The conversation turned to the next Big Team Read and Carol made an impassioned plea for a particular book.
In fact it was like someone definitively switching of a flickering and uncertain lightbulb and switching on a bright and dazzling one, and I drove home full of the enthusiasm I had felt for both Ulysses and War and Peace, which is something I absolutely need in order to commit to a project like this on here.
So with Carol's suggestion growing on me by the day here's why I think it would work...
- We have given over two years to books by the boys, it's the girls' turn.
- The book was originally published as a serial in eight books of about 100 pages each which suits our approach perfectly, we could follow that exact 1871- 1872 publication schedule 140 years later and see how it felt to be a Victorian reader waiting for the next episode. Dec - Feb - April - June - August - October - November - December. So we could start our read in December.
- I've read this book twice already, for study, but had always promised myself that I would read it again one day purely for pleasure.
- When I did read it I absolutely loved it on both occasions and studying it was a joy....the thought of reading it again really does gladden my heart.
- This joy would definitely see me through start to finish and perhaps we could make the whole thing more collaborative??
- Perhaps some of you who decide to join in could facilitate the debate on here by writing the occasional blog post about whatever you like in connection with the book, and which I can use for those months when I'm in the dovegreyreader tent, or watching Britain win seven medals.
- In fact I think that's a really good idea, much better than me blabbering on all the time.
- To my knowledge there is no record of this author sitting and 'communing' with er ... rats etc.
- Though she did lead an interesting literary and personal life so there will be much to explore about that if we so wish.
- The book has been a BBC series so there's a lovely watchable DVD version, all 375 minutes of it currently selling for £5.49
- The book is available to download free for Kindle.
- If you are all thinking what a stupid dingbat I am being about Proust and the rats, and none of you want to join in with anything else, then Carol and I have agreed that we'll just do it on our own here anyway....and talk to each other in comments like two billy no mates.
So what do you think??
Are enough of you convinced??
Because if you're not quite, perhaps it might help to know that Virginia Woolf thought this "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people."
Emily Dickinson adored it whilst A.S.Byatt considers it to be ' one of the greatest novels of all.'
Oh yes the book, I almost forgot though I'm sure plenty of you wll have guessed already...
...Middlemarch by George Eliot