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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. 

Posted 7/9/2013 8:33pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Eugene, I must share with you this garlic recipe that I got from Elif Batuman's blog last year. It is absolutely delicious! I make it whenever I make roast free-range chicken.

‎1.5 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced (I never measure but just throw in a handful)
Squeeze an organic lemon
1/4 cup canola oil, a little at a time
2 cold egg whites from free-range chickens
pinch of salt
1/4 cup canola oil, a little at a time (using olive oil makes it turn yellow, the canola oil gives it a white color)
Mix in a food processor in that order, slowly, for 2 minutes total or so. 


I usually make it ahead of time and refrigerate it for it to have time to thicken. It's like mayonnaise. Garlic has so many health benefits.

Posted 7/8/2013 7:50pm by Eugene Wyatt.

The 2013 harvest is in. As always we start pulling garlic on July 4th; in 4 days '10,000' (the ancient Chinese used that number to mean many) heads are harvested, washed and in the barn to dry—but who can wait—I eat it now.

I love garlic sliced raw into dashes of Banfi Extra Vergine Olio de Oliva that Sydney brought back from Tuscany and scooped out with torn pieces of San Francisco Sourdough bread from our Saturday neighbor at the Union Square Greenmarket, Hawthorne Valley.

As always, our garlic is raised with no herbicides, no pesticides, no chemical fertilizers. It is not a GMO; it was planted by hand, weeded by hand and harvested by hand. Our garlic is as natural as rain falling.

Buy now from the Garlic Store.

Tags: Garlic
Posted 6/9/2013 9:18pm by Eugene Wyatt.

As I'd promised myself I went to the Guggenheim to see New Harmony: Abstraction between the Wars 1919 to 1939 but I was disappointed in the display of 40 works assembled from the Guggenheim's permanent collection of Alberto Giacomettis, Fernand Légers, Francis Picabias et al; with the exception of a Piet Mondrian which I found myself standing before, acknowledging his greatness, and a Kurt Schwitters that made me want to see more of his work, I found the exhibition wanting. Every work was hard edged, an assemblage of pictorial ideas that seemed dated; what I was looking for was painting and I found that on my way out, on the floor below, in the Thannhauser Collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting which I'd seen before but by contrast they bore another viewing and a welcome viewing.

I'd likened drawing to prose for it's suggestion to the imagination and now I must liken painting to prose, particularly in the blending of colors of Manet, the rendering of form of early Picasso, the playing with space of Cezanne to name just several aspects and painters. I need realism to bend and the collection's paintings did it well, as does Proust in his writing, and they do not age, they are longer lived than I, they are eternal as far as one can know.

It was the carpets which, with a view to my parents' return, the servants had begun to put down again, those carpets which look so well on bright mornings when amid their disorder the sun awaits you like a friend come to take you out to lunch in the country, and casts over them the dappled light and shade of the forest, but which now on the contrary were the first installations of the wintry prison from which, obliged as I should be to live and take my meals at home, I should no longer be free to escape when I chose. ML p. 537

Little is not of value, except the redundant, whether it is art, writing, people or exhibitions; I wondered of the New Harmony... and of the Thannhauser, having left the Guggenheim as I walked down Fifth Avenue across from Central Park, what and who were responsible for that liking and disliking taste I'd had when viewing art separated by so few years. Questions or exhibitions to yourself are always of value.

Posted 6/5/2013 6:42pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Posted 6/1/2013 4:12pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Nighthawks (1942)

Posted 5/26/2013 2:43pm by Eugene Wyatt.

A comment to the Goodreads discussion list, 2013: The Year of Reading Proust,

Phillida quotes Proust writing as Norpois: But we must not be afraid to enlighten public opinion; and if a few sheep...should dash headlong into the water, it would be well to point out to them that the water in question is troubled water, that it has been troubled by an agency not within our borders, in order to conceal the dangers lurking in its depths.

Having 850 Saxon Merino sheep I must tell you that sheep are good swimmers, as most animals are, they dog paddle keeping their heads above water moving their legs as if they were running. 

I had a group of ewes who had become temporarily blind from Pink Eye (a viral infection), their corneas had clouded over, a tetracycline salve administered to the eye will help them recover faster. Objects were but shadows to them at best. They were quartered next to a pond and spooked into it by my Kelpie, Poem, a herding dog. Four ewes swam to the other side but one continued to swim in circles in the middle of the pond unable to see the bank. The water temperature was about 35F as the ice had just melted from the pond in late February; my lifeguarding abilities were of no use, having been certified at 16 by the American Red Cross, the water was too cold to enter. I felt helpless. I watched her, waiting for her to sink: round and round she swam, 15 minutes or longer, but with each revolution she got closer to dry ground, finally she got close enough for me to lasso her with a halter. 

I drug her up through brush—she was exhausted—I dried her off with towels and let her rest then go join her mates. She had a good swim, recovered her sight and had a lamb in the Spring.

Norpois is talking to Bloch about the Dreyfus case in the quote above. From my studies of rhetoric, long before I'd read Proust or about him, I see this is an example of Proust's wit: Bloch almost always speaks in a mock Homeric way; he imitates, or imagines, classical Greek rhetoric using adjectives to modify nouns in the Homeric fashion. To see the wit of this passage you must understand that Norpois speaks to Bloch with real classical Greek rhetoric, as if spoken by Giorgias (485–380 BC), a sophistry as much to explicate as to conceal, that he honed while speaking in his career as an ambassador. 

Proust knew the classical rhetoric that was taught in French schools of the 19th century. 

Posted 5/21/2013 8:09pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Another reading of Marcel Proust,


Proust cuts between speaking voices in the salon scene; they are different and appear to be what the Narrator overhears. He comments on the speakers and what they say as the present Narrator and as the reflective Narrator, but in this case that could be Marcel Proust himself.

About Mme de Marsantes,

Possibly the reflective Narrator or Proust is speaking:

Being a great lady means playing the great lady, that is to say, to a certain extent, playing at simplicity. It is a pastime which costs a great deal of money, all the more because simplicity charms people only on condition that they know that you are capable of not living simply, that is to say that you are very rich.

The present Narrator is speaking: 

Someone said to me afterwards, when I mentioned that I had seen her: "You saw of course that she must have been lovely as a young woman."

Possibly the reflective Narrator or Proust is speaking:

But true beauty is so individual, so novel always, that one does not recognize it as beauty.

The present Narrator is speaking: 

I said to myself that afternoon only that she had a tiny nose, very blue eyes, a long neck and a sad expression. Modern Library p. 340

The verbal textures, the way people speak, alternate between speakers and between Narrators: I find these changes beautiful, Proust is to be lauded for them—how interesting, how fresh, how... And what he has to say about beauty is as contemporary now as it was when it was written 100 or so years ago, beauty is " does not recognize it...", another reason I enjoy reading In Search of Lost Time

Tags: Proust
Posted 5/20/2013 1:07pm by Eugene Wyatt.

We pulled the "volunteer garlic", that had overwintered, that was missed in last July's harvest, that had planted itself (after fencing the sheep away) to make the lamb sausage that New York has been calling for since last Spring. Garlic must be good for the memory too. 

Tags: Garlic
Posted 5/19/2013 2:16pm by Eugene Wyatt.

It's no excuse, and I'm not he, Norman Mailer said that he was reading, not writing. I have been reading In Search of Lost Time, with others in a Goodreads discussion group, about 100 pages a week taking an entire year, and consequently by coincidence...

A comment to the group on this week's reading:

Marcel Proust wrote: The streets belong to everybody, I repeated to myself, giving a different meaning to the words, and marveling that indeed in the crowded street, often soaked with rain, which gave it a precious lustre like the streets, at times, in the old towns of Italy, the Duchesse de Guermantes mingled with the public life of the world moments of her own secret life, showing herself thus in all her mystery to everyone, jostled by all and sundry, with the splendid gratuitousness of the greatest works of art. Modern Library p. 190, vol. 3

This is a sentence I find beautiful; this is one of the several reasons that I began reading ISOLT (In Search of Lost Time) several years ago and it is one of the many, many syntactical marvels that are to be found in the novel. Let me attempt to tell you of some of its beauty for me.

The subject is "I", the main verb is "repeated" and the object is "The streets belong to everybody" which precedes them. All that follows would be qualifiers of the object or of the verb. I will not bore myself or you too much, I will simplify the exact and correct terms that a grammarian would use in her description of the sentence--in truth I don't know all the terms--and besides they are not required by me to appreciate the sentence's beauty. One intuits language, one intuits beauty.

...marveling that indeed in the crowded street, often soaked with rain, which gave it a precious lustre like the streets, at times, in the old towns of Italy, the Duchesse de Guermantes mingled with the public life of the world moments of her own secret life...

Within this qualifying utterance, telling what he did: "marveling", when he "repeated" the object, Proust has the Narrator further qualify it: "often soaked with rain" and he qualifies that by "...which gave it a precious lustre like the streets, at times, in the old towns of Italy..." and qualifies that likening simile by interrupting himself with "at times" before he gets to what he marveled at, "...the Duchesse de Guermantes mingled with the public life of the world moments of her own secret life...". And the qualifications continue...

This is why I like to read Proust and when you parse the writing like this you understand what Jean Milly says in Le phrase de Proust that the structure of ISOLT approximates the structure of his sentences. 


The qualifications, or parentheticals that he uses, permit Proust to elaborate on character or situation in great detail, and greater but minute detail, for which he is famed as a verbal stylist; they enable Proust antithetical formulations: "...with the public life of the world moments of her own secret life..." that we find in subjects made more real to us or more lovely as in lyrical constructions that have a freshness of song to them by juxtaposing contrasting clauses, phrases or words as in "...with the splendid gratuitousness of the greatest works of art." 

Tags: Proust