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The Journey's End

WiFi is the best. I am blogging today from a Capitol Hill hotspot, Murky Coffee by Eastern Market (natch, they have a blog), which has its own free wireless hotspot, so I sat near a handful of other laptop-bound eggheads as I wrote this post. I'm also going down to the Capitol, to see if the National Mall wireless network, Openpark, is up and running (see my post on April 29).

Available at Amazon:
William C. Carter, Marcel Proust: A Life, (2002)

It's hard to say goodbye to a companion who has been constantly under your arm for months. As regular readers know, I started on Marcel Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu back in September. (Here is the first post on it, Your Proust Excerpt for Today, September 15, 2003.) Well, I turned the last page at the start of this month, but I still have two or three posts to write about the experience. (You should now send your messages of support to Waggish Reads Proust, who after getting stalled in the third volume, is back in the saddle again. He has a nice recent post on the death of the narrator's grandmother, which is one of the most beautiful and horrible moments in the book, although I didn't really write anything about it.) So now I am halfway through the excellent biography of Proust by William C. Carter (shown at right), which is a most illuminating experience after having just finished the novel. Smartass Gérard Genette memorably summarized the plot of the Recherche as Marcel devient écrivain (Marcel becomes a writer), and while that is a humorous simplification, it is also true. The biography does a great job of showing the biographical background of that struggle to be born, to find a voice, and how the book was connected to the author's life. It's fascinating, and although the biography is itself just over 1,000 pages, it is much easier reading than the novel.

In fact, as of Bloomsday (see post on June 16), I have also been engrossed in Ulysses. Now this is no easy read, but in some ways, I am finding it easier to read so far than Proust. Where Proust is dense and often directionless, cloudlike, Joyce's style is surgically precise, although I am the sort of reader who delights in stopping to unpack Latin and Greek texts and other obscure references. The margins of my copy, the hardback version of the 1961 Modern Library edition, are covered with pencil annotations (p. 5, "epi oinwpa ponton, upon the wine-dark open sea, Homer catchphrase, qalatta, ocean"). (As Buck puts it, "Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks. I must teach you. You must read them in the original.") I am only in the "Hades" episode at this point, so I'm sure I will be complaining before too long.

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