My dearest, darling readers, to whom I should never lie, I feel I must confess to you the current state of this project. I am, like Nora, bogged down in the first section of Within a Budding Grove, mired in Proust’s dense, cyclical prose. And although I fully and completely intend to see this project through to its very end, at the moment, page 4,211 seems a million miles away.
I spend most of my time on this blog likening various aspects of my post-college life to Proust (to varying degrees of success!), and pointing out different aspects of the author’s writing that appeal or relate to me. Well, for once, I would like to take a moment, for reasons of full disclosure and mental wellbeing, and ruminate on those aspects of the nineteenth-century novelist’s work which I do not love. Proust can be long-winded, verbose, and at times seemingly random. His prose is more immersive than narrative, his characters tableaux rather than active forces. There are nights when I lie in bed and plow through forty pages of a description of a single afternoon tea, days when my commute to work is dedicated to Marcel’s thoughts on Odette’s various nightgowns. Sometimes, to be perfectly blunt, Proust is boring. And I get bored fairly easily.
My friends have, of course, born the brunt of my literary frustration, encouraging (coaxing, and chiding) me to keep going, to find beauty in the narrative, and sometimes just to suck it up and write. Comparing our endeavor to that of Julie Powell, whose efforts to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking fueled her blog, book, and later, the film Julie & Julia, Sam told me this was like the low point of her project. Overwhelmed by her task, Julie has a breakdown about halfway through the movie, and laments the futility of the project:
“This is that moment where you’re lying on the kitchen floor, covered in chicken liver, and crying,” Sam joked. I enjoyed the comparison, especially as this moment for Julie ends with the phone call from a food writer that eventually leads to her discovery. When I first began this post, I fully intended to confess to my horrible procrastination, apologize, and, as I always do, vow to carry on with renewed enthusiasm. But Nora’s entry and Sam’s words brought home a refreshing reality: it’s okay for this project to be hard. We are allowed to hate it at times, allowed to want to want to sit on the kitchen floor and throw a tantrum, covered in liver. We are allowed, in short, to live.
I have fallen behind on both my reading and writing this past summer, moved to New York and was (and still am) so terribly in love with life here that I neglected my art. September has come, and along with it the slight panic of a life without the routine of college, and the fear that I am behind on things I should be doing. Nora is back and the nights have begun to grow crisp, and I have remembered why it is that I came here. I mentioned the need to return to my writing last week at dinner, and both Nick and Sam responded with “what have we been telling you for months??” Balancing life and art, work and play, is always a challenge. But as much as it is now time for me to get down to business, I have decided not to regret my procrastination, not (for once) to apologize.
For unlike Marcel, I am never content with stasis. It is only through narrative, through living, that my art comes alive.