Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Here is what's distracting me today

You know that perma-state of dreaminess you feel when reading a really magnificent book? That’s me right now. I’m hopelessly obsessed with my current read and am unable to focus on little else. Being distracted rules.

The book in question: How Proust can Change Your Life by Alain De Botton.

Now, even though I studied English lit in school, I’m not a fan of book reviews. They are especially unwelcome on a blog specializing in all matters trivial and fleeting. To me, book reviews are alienating and irrelevant to the 98% of people who haven’t read the same text as you.

But fuck it. I really, really want to share some of the gems in How Proust can Change your Life, in hopes you’ll be inspired, pick up the book and form a Skype book club with me.

Proust and De Botton share ideas much more eloquently than I could ever could, and I hope these nuggets reach you in some way.

Please note that, when it comes to literature, I'm easily affected. One year after reading The Sun Also Rises, I decided to model myself after Lady Brett Ashley. I actively made myself into a miserable, independent woman. That phase lasted about a minute, but whatever.
Ava Gardner/Lady Brett Ashley - same diff.

Right now, I’m so preoccupied with this book that no matter how uncomfortable my physical/emotional surroundings, I’m completely immersed in the sublime. Dreamcity. On Sunday, I spent two hours in a boat for a photo shoot, in 50 degree weather, wearing long sleeves. And I didn’t whine once…until now.

All right, let's get on with it. Here, in beat blogging format, are some grand excerpts from How Proust Can Change Your Life. Maybe this won’t work as I imagined lying in bed last night, but we’ll give it a go.
On relating to a piece of art:

The restricted number of human types also means that we are repeatedly able to read about people we know in places we might never have expected to do so.

One cannot read a novel without ascribing to the heroine the traits of the one we love.

In reality, every reader is, while he is reading the reader of his own self. The writer’s work is merely a king of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have experienced in himself And the recognition by the reader in his own self of what the book says is proof of its veracity.

If we read the new masterpiece of a man of genius, we are delighted to find in it those reflections of ours that we despised, joys and sorrows which we had repressed, a whole world of feeling we had scorned and whose value the book in which we discover them suddenly teaches us. On reading the newspaper:

The abominable and sensual act called reading the newspaper, thanks to which all the misfortunes and cataclysms in the universe over the last twenty-four hours, the battles which cost the lives of fifty thousand men, the murders, the strikes, the bankruptcies, the fires, the poisonings, the suicides, the divorces, the cruel emotions of statesmen and actors, are transformed for us, who don’t even care, into a morning treate, blending in wonderfully, in a particularly exciting and tonic way, with the recommended ingestion of a few sips of café au lait.

The more an account is compressed, the more it seems that it deserves no more space than it has been allocated. How easy to imagine that nothing at all has happened today, to forget the fifty thousand war dead, sigh, toss the paper to one side and experience a mild wave of melancholy at the tedium of daily routine.
On great art:

Proust argued that enjoyment of such a wayward reading matter was typical of a writer, someone who could be counted on to develop enthusiasms for things that were apparently out of line with great art, a person for whom:

A terrible musical production in a provincial theatre, or a ball which people of taste find ridiculous, will either evoke memories or else be linked to an order of reveries and preoccupations, far more than some admirable performance at the Opera or an ultra-smart soirée in the Faubourg Saint-Germain.

Yes, Proust, yes! This is why I get more enjoyment out of watching reality television than a night at the orchestra. Right?

Was that alienating? Are you annoyed with me? If so, my apologies. I’ll write about trash television tomorrow. If you enjoyed any of're welcome.

Please read this book, you will not regret it. It makes 50 degree heat bearable.

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