Can Proust Really Change Your Life?

In Guest Contributors by Dennis Abrams


By Dennis Abrams

You know you’ve been meaning to. You’re pretty sure that you’ve got a dusty copy of Swann’s Way sitting around somewhere. You’ve probably even read the book’s famous opening line, “For a long time I would go to bed early,” and thought to yourself, well, not now, maybe some other time.

That time has finally come. Next Monday, Publishing Perspectives is launching The Cork-Lined Room, a blog devoted to the reading, discussion and study of Proust’s masterpiece of 20th century literature, In Search of Lost Time.

Join us, (there is safety in numbers) and see what you’ve been missing all these years.

Should you need further encouragement, here are ten reasons why you should join in and make Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time your next big literary project.

10.       You’ll finally be reading the work of one of the great prose stylists of all time.  Long, sensuous sentences that cast a spell like no others: Glorious descriptions of nature, art, music, and fashion, full of witty conversation and aphorisms galore.

9.         You will be constantly putting the book down to underline another memorable passage, all the while asking yourself, “How does he know that?”

8.         You’ll be surprised to learn that Proust is surprisingly funny.  Yes, In Search of Lost Time is a literary masterpiece, it’s long, and it’s French, it can’t possibly be funny.  But it is. Truly.

7.         You should do it because it’s there. At 3,000 pages and over 1.25 million words, it’s the Mt. Everest of literature, but you can reach its peak without an oxygen mask or the assistance of a Sherpa. By way of comparison, it took David Chase 86 episodes and six seasons to tell the story of The Sopranos and the Harry Potter saga is 4,224 pages long and contains over one million words. Given that, Proust doesn’t seem nearly as daunting.

6.         You’ll learn nearly all there is to know about love, jealousy, obsession, memory, and time. It will, if you let it, change your life: it is one of those rare books that provides an entirely new way of perceiving and understanding the world.

5.         You’ll have the thrill of accomplishment.  Think of the sense of pride you’ll have in having read, comprehended, and enjoyed In Search of Lost Time.

4.         You’ll meet lots of fascinating people from all levels of French society.  Harold Bloom wrote that “Proust’s greatest strength, amid so many others, is his characterization:  no twentieth-century novelist can match his roster of vivid personalities.”  Of course, Harold’s not always right, but this time he is.

3.         You’ll impress your friends.  Consider the following piece of dialogue.  Them:  “Did you catch last night’s episode of Lost?”  You:  “No, sorry, I was so enthralled reading Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time that I couldn’t bring myself to turn on the television.” Game, Set and Match (Of course, you should say it nicely).

2.         You’ll be able to relax knowing that for the next few months at least, you will not have to worry about what you’re going to be reading next.

1.         And finally, and most importantly, reading In Search of Lost Time means that at long last you’ll be reading the greatest novel ever written.  Virginia Woolf said, “My greatest adventure was undoubtedly Proust. What is there left to write after that?”  Who are you to argue with Virginia Woolf?

The discussion will start on Monday, November 2.  In the meantime, check out The Cork Lined Room for our first posts, which look at which translation to read, what else you might want to read to prepare yourself for the journey, and even a recipe for madeleines so that you can dip along with Marcel.

I hope you’ll join us.

WRITE: To site curator Dennis Abrams if you wish to participate.

LOG ON: To The Cork Lined Room.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.