We've already mentioned Lydia Davis twice today, now I note (via the PEN America blog) that her talk, The Architecture of Thought, "originally presented at a Twentieth-Century Masters Tribute to Marcel Proust" is up on the PEN American Center site.
I originally read all of Proust in the beautiful little Chatto & Windus paperbacks I found in Cambridge when I was living in England in the late 70s-mid-80s. I decided to learn French (all over again, since it had been many years since my last French class) to read him in the original, which I did some years later, and it was to my surprise how sinewy his sentences were, how very necessary every word was to the meaning; and consequently how little fat there was in his paragraphs. There are longueurs; few novels of any length are without them. But the strengths of this work reveal its author not only to be a man of great learning and curiosity, but also a superb mimic and a master of the comedic scene. What also surprised me is how brisk the work moves once you're into the middle-to-late volumes (he was, indeed, working against what he thought was imminent death), how raw the sexuality, how quickly the masks of the characters, especially the Baron de Charlus, are torn away to reveal the true faces beneath.
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