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A New Lyricism

Posted 7/30/2013 6:23pm by Eugene Wyatt.

A comment to the Goodreads Proust discussion

K... wrote: I would not describe Proust's style as "conversational" in spite of the fair amount of dialogue...

There are two basic types of language: written and spoken. Both use words, both convey meaning, etc. but the difference between them is in written language, the user has the ability to reflect, to change, to edit, etc. S/he has time to rework the language uttered; however in spoken language, the time element is not there in order to reflect, to edit, etc.; spoken language is impromptu, ad hoc or momentary.

How then does one 'edit' or qualify spoken language at the time of speaking? By using parentheticals or by being digressive, etc. You will find that speakers do this when they speak of everyday or extraordinary matters, even you, even me.

The use of parentheticals and of being digressive is called using a "conversational" style when writing; both of which, Proust takes great advantage in his written prose. A conversational style has nothing to do with the writer's use of dialogue. Proust writes conversationally.

and: For me his writing is very lyrical...

Not for me. Legrandin's style is "lyrical"; listen to him, listen to the Narrator mock him: his language is old fashioned, it has become cliched, it sounds like it was uttered by Chateaubriand, as great as he was, he was. Legrandin's language hasn't read Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé et al.

Proust is writing another kind of music, a new and fresh music, a semantic music, a music of rhetoric. What you hear--because it is new--at first, you have difficulty appreciating. He makes use of far-reaching similes, he is rarely metaphorical, he makes a music of the juxtaposition of his parentheticals, of his digressions; he violates the rules of traditional musicology as applied to writing—he is a Debussy of prose. With Proust we have a new lyricism.