Proustonomics: A Post-Recession Primer

Today at work, I got lectured by a colleague actual-employee-of-the-paper-who-has-a-real-adult-job on the importance of building up credit. How else, after all, do I expect to ever get a mortgage (he did not seem to notice that I am an intern exclusively interested in living in large metropolitan centers and about as likely to take out a mortgage in the next ten years as I am to win the lottery).

Being a member of the “real world”, however, has certainly opened my eyes to “real life” things like money, debt, non-bank ATM fees, bimonthly pay cycles and the nauseating feeling of having only $4.00 in your checking account (oops).

These things are not Proust’s concerns. Let’s be honest–the man casually peppers his novel with titles like “Princess” and “Countess.”

Nor is Proust particularly concerned with the economy of language. If Remembrance of Time Past is anything, it an artifact of the opulence of leisure. The pacing of the novel is luxurious, relaxed, inquisitive. Something I am enjoying about this novel is that, despite its behemothic page count, there is no sense of urgency in finishing it. I am a native New Yorker, which means (forgive the cliches) that I am no more capable of stopping to smell the flowers than I am of willingly visiting New Jersey. I am also a reporter. The absence of looming deadlines, therefore, is markedly noticeable.

Post-grad life is a constantrush. There was the rush to find a source of income the second my cap and gown were off, the rush to find a place to live that would fit my tiny budget, the rush to make the right connections at work, to memorize the names and faces of all 550 U.S. lawmakers who are currently proselytizing a few blocks away from me.

Proust is not about rush. He is about biting off more sentence than you can chew and letting yourself digest language that is just that rich and that dense. Proust is the antidote to all these 2012 problems, some of which I’ve already pointed out on this blog: the tedium of glitzy, scandal-enhanced journalism, my depleted bank account, the loss of my academic safety net.

Proust takes me away from all that. It is not so much a search for lost time as a search to reclaim time, which seems every day to be slipping away from me. He lets me stop time, simply by escaping into his meandering syntax.

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