In Search of 70 Days

Today’s Salon.com has a nice piece from Jane Smiley on reading Proust. (You’ll have to view a brief ad to proceed to the full article.) It’s part of the zine’s series on reading various classics. Cool idea. As for conquering Proust – which I did in in Chicago from September 2000 to January 2001, much of it on the El train – Smiley suggests a regiment of 65 pages a day for 70 days. From the piece:

“You are going to find that he is both more friendly and more alien than you ever imagined. You are going to be charmed and also offended, sometimes disapproving, and occasionally bored. Quite often you are going to be impressed – his capacity for thinking things through is going to seem almost infinitely great. Mostly, though, if you are like I was, you are going to come to anticipate your daily what? – Dose? Encounter? Immersion? Meditation? – with greater and greater eagerness but also greater and greater languor. You are going to come, at least in your own way, to feel French. When you have finished "In Search of Lost Time,” you will be convinced that you know something visceral about Frenchness, and that that knowledge is important.“

I liked this as well:

"It is important that you go about your business while you pursue your reading project. You have to take M. with you on planes and trains and into hotels and to the dentist’s office and into your child’s piano lesson. ‘In Search of Lost Time’ will not have its full effect if you sequester it. It must diffuse into your life, color every place you go and every scene you look at with its own tints.”

In March, I reviewed a new collection of essays called “The Proust Project,” in which I said that readers of the massive novel carry with them, post-novel, something extra. “Much of this something extra,” I wrote, “is the physical memory of hauling around and spending time with and digesting a work of art whose sheer size demands a rearrangement of one‚Äôs life. One doesn‚Äôt read Proust so much as host him.”

In the mail a few days ago came Smiley’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel,” which comes out later next month. I’ve only scanned it, but the big book looks juicy.