19
Mar
22

In Search of Lost Time 3-19-2022

I finished the first volume of In Search of Lost TimeSwann’s Way, the other day, and then I began the second volume, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower. The writing style is still similar with long sentences interrupted by appositives and asides. (And as I finished that sentence I thought of Charles Olson’s poetry and remembered how he would move on a tangent and start the new thought with open an parenthesis to indicate a side thought or association and just keep on writing without every arriving closed parenthesis. And of course the next aside started with another open parenthesis. The difference is that Proust returns to the original subject/verb of the sentence . . . no matter how long the sentence is, and they quite often long.)

The opening of In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower acts as a reminder of and an introduction to characters, who are described for a few pages each, including Swann, Professor (sometimes Dr.) Cottard, Marquis de Norpois, the narrator’s mother and father, and a long passage on the actress La Berma, who, apparently, is based on the great French actress of the late 19th and early 20th century — Sarah Bernhardt. With La Berma, the narrator’s imagination delivers a portrait of her that reality can’t match. Again, his imagination bests reality. His imagination of expectations, again, leads to a let down. This experience of seeing her perform led me to wonder about media and how it affects perception. I mean, it does, but let me explain what I was thinking.

What led me to this was when the narrator finally decides, which wasn’t an easy decision, to see La Berma perform in one of his favorite plays Phèdre by Racine. The narrator’s whole day was delightful until he saw her perform. He was actively watching La Berma and the other actors act, but he was not pleased with La Berma’s performance. He then borrowed his grandmother’s opera glasses to see if that would change anything, and here’s what happens:

But when you believe in the reality of things, using an artificial means [opera glasses] to see them better is not quite the same as feeling closer to them. I felt it was not La Berma that I was seeing, only an enlarged picture of her. I put the glasses down — but what if the image received by the naked eye was no more accurate, given that it was an image reduced by distance? Which was the true Berma? (21)

The medium of opera glasses did alter his perception of her but not his experience of her acting, and it did make him concerned that he wasn’t sure which reality was the true one. Later, his interpretation of her acting changes as the crowd applauds certain acting moments by La Berma. The medium of the audience changes his perception of the acting. Even the medium of play reviews changes his perception days later. But then he realizes the he “let the cheap wine of this popular enthusiasm go to my head” (23). I love that arrogant and pompous line. 😀

All of this led me to what I want to get to: is imagination a medium? His imagination created an experience of her acting that he could perceive just as the medium of the opera glasses and the crowd and the review altered his perceptions. Or is the imagination embedded automatically within any medium of experience. I had to write all this to discover that imagination is enmeshed within each medium or lack of medium. My conclusion: imagination is a medium on its own, and imagination is also ingrained within each medium of experience.

Thank you, Writing, for helping me think that out.

//

Diva Actors:

I have heard of actors requiring certain things to be available behind stage, on set, or in the trailers, such as a certain type of water, donuts, soda, liquor, flowers, etc. I thought that was a modern thing, but it’s not as I learned from Proust. La Berma required that “hired clappers must never applaud her” (18). I assume she wanted the aura of genuine pleasure. (I was also surprised to learn such a thing existed. I assume this is the predecessor to canned laughter.) She also required “that windows had to stay open till she was onstage, but every single door must then be closed, that a pitcher of hot water must be concealed near her, so as to keep down the dust” and to ensure “the house temperature was right” (18).

//

Words of the Day:

plenipotentiary (p. 6) — a person, especially a diplomatic agent, invested with full power or authority to transact business on behalf of another.

nugatory (p. 14) — of no real value, trifling, worthless. Vain. Not valid.

//

Exclamation Points:

I won’t be counting exclamation points anymore, but they are occurring as frequently in In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower as in Swann’s Way. The final count of exclamation points in Swann’s Way is 72! 72 exclamation points over 444 pages, which is 0.162 exclamation points per page or one every 6.166666667 pages. . . . I think that math is correct. 😀

//


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