Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review - How Proust Can Change Your Life by: Alain de Botton

Title: How Proust Can Change Your Life
Author: Alain de Button
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 215
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal purchase

Description:

'What a marvellous book this is . . . de Botton dissects what [Proust] had to say about friendship, reading, looking carefully, paying attention taking your time, being alive and adds his own delicious commentary. The result is an intoxicating as it is wise, amusing as well as stimulating, and presented in so fresh a fashion as to be unique . . . I could not stop, and now much start all over again.' Brian Masters, " Mail on Sunday"

'De Botton not only has a complete understanding of Proust's life . . . but what is particularly charming about this small, readable book is its tongue-in-cheek benignity, its lightly held erudition and its generous way of lending itself to what is not only the greatest book of the century but also the darkest and the most eccentric' Edmund White, " Observer"

'It contains more human interest and play of fancy than most fiction . . . de Botton, in emphasizing Proust's healing, advisory aspects, does us the service of rereading him on our behalf, providing of that vast sacred lake a sweet and lucid distillation.' John Updike, "New Yorker "

'De Botton's little book is so charming, amusing and sensible that it may even itself change your life.' Allan Massie, "Daily Telegraph"

'This engaging book is one of the most entertaining pieces of literary criticism I have read in a long while.' "Sunday Telegraph"

'A very enjoyable book' Sebastian Faulks

My thoughts:

One of my bookworm friends and I have been saying for a long time that we really should read Swann's Way: In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. We're both after reading the books that are commonly referred to in modern literature and culture, classics that seem to have left a deep impact on everyone who read them. However, this time she read it, but I was defeated by fear-- I wasn't afraid of the book, but I was afraid of how big his sentences are. I must afraid the book still scared me. Yet I was lucky enough to get a copy of How Proust Can Change Your Life, which made me even more curious about Swann's Way: In Search of Lost Time. I will read it when/if I get supersick or if I break a leg or something one day. And if you're going "what the hell?" here's why...

Written  by the crafty Alain de Button, How Proust Can Change Your Life is about Proust's life, his character and thoughts as well as his writing. As I haven't yet read anything of his, know only that he's French and likes to form very long sentences, it was a very enlightening book for me. The whole thing about reading it when I break my leg is actually in reference to something his brother said. He said sickness and broken legs were appropriate situations for reading Proust'a work. Actually, Proust explained everything in such a long way that there are competitions in England titled, "Summarize Proust." Those who take part need to summarize Swann's Way: In Search of Lost Time in 15 seconds tops. The person who had the best score even though he needed more time was Harry Baggot. His summary goes like this:

Proust's novel ostensibly tells of the irrevocability of time lost, of innocence and experience, the reinstatement of extratemporal values and time regained. Ultimately the novel is both optimistic and set within the context of human religious experience. In the first volume, Swann visits--

Now, can you tell me you're not scared?

Proust is mostly portrayed as someone who doesn't go out much and spends most of his days in his bed. However, we see in How Proust Can Change Your Life, we see that he throws unbelievable parties and was known for the very big tips he used to leave at restaurants. I'm actually surprised that this born-wealthy man who figured out he's not the son his father dreamed of wasn't party hopping all the time. Instead, he chose to read, think and write.

In addition, when I learned that he was homosexual, all those things said about him about "not wanting to be among people" made sense. Unfortunately, homosexuals have a hard time in society even today, and I imagine it was even harder back then. What is love if you can't hold hands on the street with the person who means the world to you?

What I'm trying to say is that if you're afraid of reading Proust, aren't sure if he'll be worth the effort or if you need some reassuring like I did, this is the book for you.