Thursday, October 30, 2008

The 'mauve' count stands at eight

Eight mauves in nine hundred pages --it's not an obsession or anything, just a feature of style, let's say. Now if I could just find some significant pattern in the appearances of these mauves. Oh, I'm talking about Proust again, in case you're just joining us.

Thinking that, since the literature of the flaneur is unconcerned with the juvenility of plot, there was no danger in reading Proust's biography in the facing pages of my current volume, I did in fact spoil the languid flowering of what is perhaps the signal development of Proust's life: the discovery of his homosexuality. But spoil it I did, and now I'm become perhaps too sensitive to suggestions of it. You be the judge:

At the beginning of The Guermantes Way, Marcel hasn't come out yet: he's infatuated with, mad with adoration for, ass-over-teakettle ga-ga for the Duchess de Guermantes, a stranger to him and the aunt of his friend Robert Saint-Loup. Entirely in the interest of using his connection with Saint-Loup as a way to get to know the Duchess, Marcel has gone to the cavalry barracks where Saint-Loup is stationed and sleeps the first night there --in Saint-Loup's room. Big deal. I've done that. Still, what are we to make, in light of this relationship, of the way Proust describes the landscape of the barracks . . . well, we know exactly what to make of it --we may even think it's just a bit too easy to make out:

"And next morning, when I awoke, I went over to Saint-Loup's window, which being at a great height overlooked the whole countryside, curious to make the acquaintance of my new neighbour, the landscape which I had not been able to see the day before, having arrived too late, at an hour when it was already sleeping beneath the outspread cloak of night. And yet, early as it had awoken, I could see it, when I opened the window and looked out, only as though from a window of a country house overlooking the lake, shrouded still in its soft white morning gown of mist which scarcely allowed me to make out anything at all. But I knew that, before the troopers who were busy with their horses in the square had finished grooming them, it would have cast its gown aside. In the meantime, I could see only a bare hill, raising its lean and rugged flanks, already swept clear of darkness, over the back of the barracks."

I can get with that. But he doesn't stop there --in fact he takes it into the realm of stuff that I'm not really in to:

"Imbued with the shape of the hill, associated with the taste of hot chocolate and with the whole web of my fancies at that particular time, this mist . . . came to infuse all my thoughts of that time . . . [i]t did not, however, persist late into the day; the sun began by hurling at it in vain a few darts which sprinkled it with brilliants, then finally overcame it. The hill might expose its grizzled rump to the sun's rays, which, an hour later, when I went into the town, gave to the russet tints of the autumn leaves, to the reds and blues of the election posters pasted on the walls, an exaltation which raised my spirits also and made me stamp, singing as I went, on the paving-stones, from which I could hardly keep myself from jumping in the air for joy."

You click your heels all you want, Prousty Baby; meanwhile, I can never look into a mug of Swiss Miss again with out seeing, mindless eyes peering from plushy muppet-flesh, the face of Rick Santorum.

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