I feel I must begin this terribly belated post with a series of confessions: I have spent the last week and a half moving my life one hundred and ninety-four miles, building (or rather, watching my wonderful friends build) IKEA furniture, drinking champagne with Indian take out, listening to Ella Fitzgerald’s “Manhattan” on loop, and walking miles through the sweltering streets. I am utterly in love with New York, and a hundred pages behind on Proust.
Rest assured, however, as soon as my life regains some semblance of a routine, I will be sure to expedite my readings and be right up to speed with Nora! For now, I have left poor insecure little Marcel at the very beginning of “Swann in Love,” dreaming of the smell of lilacs on a rainy afternoon.
When, on a summer evening, the melodious sky growls like a tawny lion, and everyone is complaining of the storm, it is the memory of the Méséglise way that makes me stand alone in ecstasy, inhaling, through the noise of the falling rain, the lingering scent of invisible lilacs.
Memory seems, finally, to have taken center stage, and the meandering reflection of Marcel’s childhood to have some place in his later adult life. The different paths (the Méséglise way and the Guermantes way, the latter of which bears the same name as the third volume of the novel) which Marcel and his family would walk in the evening hold some profound significance in the narrator’s development. What that significance may be, I can only wait, chapters or volumes, to find out.
I am about to begin a section which (I have been told, and Nora already knows!) reads rather more like a novel, with a linear plot dedicated to Swann’s romance with Odette. As beautiful as the pure prose of In Search of Lost Time may be, after nearly three hundred pages of cyclical recollection and musing, I must admit I am ready to have a bit more plot. Marcel’s narration draws you in, ensnares you with its repetitive grace and excessively long clauses, so that the sensation of reading becomes rather like entering a trance. But thus far it has not been heavy on plot, and I am ready for a bit more action, and a little less meditation.
Meanwhile, my life on this side of the pages seems filled with nothing but action. I have moved to a two-bedroom, four-floor walk-up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and am living with Ross, one of my best friends from high school. He has started working as an analyst for Citi Group, taking the stable banking job while I work a barely-paid position in arts editorial, trying to get magazine experience in the hope that someone will hire me for a real position once my internship runs out in January. We moved our stuff up fifty-five stairs, had friends over to help us unpack, put up blinds, and build furniture (Nick, Sam, and Elizabeth, who singly and collectively deserve medals for having gotten me through my move-in). The past week has been filled with reunions, walks around the city that last hours as I try desperately to take everything in at once, to absorb the immensity and reality of this place in which I have wanted to live for the past year, and can now call home.
It is anticipation distilled into reality, full of scorching days and thick summer nights, the sound of sirens outside my bedroom windows and the smell of gladiolas outside the market I walk by every morning, and I hesitate, much like Marcel, to believe I am not dreaming.
And so I write from my best friend’s couch, drinking iced tea and looking out his window at the Empire State Building, still in a state of exhaustion and disbelief and wonder. Work starts on Monday and I have only a vague concept of what I will be doing, have begun to map out my commute and plan what dress to wear, balancing professional appearance with breathable cotton (I cannot express to you how hot New York feels on a 95-degree day). There are many more adventures to come and pages to read. But I promise to stay more on top of things from now on, and to channel the energy of this marvelous city into the pages in front of me.
For now, à bientôt!
p.s. I am attaching this song, as it has been playing in my head for the past eight days, inspired the title of this post, and is simply too fabulous not to share!