Well, it’s begun. Life has officially snapped us up in its jaws and deposited us in an entirely different place than we expected to be. Maeve has made the move to New York and I already miss her a great deal, and I am beginning to grapple seriously with the question of whether I want to remain in D.C. when my internship ends or move back “North” to the city I know best, where most of my good friends and family reside but where I fear I will be trapped by the comfort and familiarity of New York.
In the midst of all these changes and existential crises, the Proust Book Club has lagged. Of course, the problem is not an entirely esoteric one. My computer, the trusty MacBook Pro which saw me from my first day of college to my last, has wheezed its last electronic breath. The old girl has threatened to quit on me all summer, but she expired for good (I think) a few days ago. A trek to the Georgetown Apple store is in my future (what kind of metropolitan center has only ONE Apple store, by the way), and in the meantime, I will try to find other ways to get my posts out.
Maybe the heat killed my computer. In the past few weeks D.C. has turned into a cruel inferno, with the average temperature stagnating at 100 degrees and the expected high for tomorrow climbing to 106. In other extreme weather news, a storm on Friday took out the power for most of the Metro area and many suffering residents were deprived of their AC. Luckily, I didn’t lose power, but my neighborhood was hit by a “mini-cyclone” and I found upon returning home that a tree had fallen down in front of my house.
But I have kept up with the Proust reading, if my writing has left something to be desired. Marcel’s childhood recollections have ceased, momentarily, and we have now entered “Swann in Love,” where the narrator transposes his identity onto that of Swann, the well-to-do neighbor who has become infatuated with Odette (that name!). What’s so wonderful about this entire section is how excruciatingly painful being in love is for Swann. Somehow, it communicates perfectly the agony and the utter ridiculousness of the emotion, making us feel as readers that Swann is a complete idiot but also empathizing with his plight (“I must be cruel to Odette because then she will be nicer to ME!” “I didn’t like you at first, Odette, but now I love you so much and you don’t want me! Woe is me!”).
The adolescent narrative arc here is fairly transparent — as we left Marcel in the preceding section, he was just experiencing a sexual awakening, facilitated by a combination of chance encounters, obsessive fantasies, and straight up spying. Now we get Swann, completely possessed by a woman whom the text assures us is entirely unremarkable. Swann’s problems seem utterly unworthy of pity, yet at the same time there’s universality in his innocuous struggles. To me, it’s evocative of my situation — how very lucky I am to have graduated and found a position–albeit a temporary one–that allows me to do what I love to do: write; yet despite this privilege, I spent many hours a day agonizing over the uncertainty of my future and my geographic dilemma–among other things. I feel you, Swann.