What I Happen to Be Reading At the Moment

"A thirteen-year-old is a kaleidoscope of different personalities, if not in most ways a mere figment of her own imagination. At that age, what and who you are depends largely on what book you happen to be reading at the moment.”

 

While not 13 anymore, the desire to read almost anything and everything in order to read for fun and for experience is still around. I'm currently working on my PhD in a physical science, but I love to read and books are one of my non-science hobbies.

Swann's Way - Marcel Proust, Lydia Davis It was one of those summer nights in Cambridge, MA when I was trying to escape the muggy heat in a dorm without an air conditioner. Taking refuge in the Harvard University book store, the Coop, I was cold after being soaked through with sweat, or rain, or both. It was one of those summers. Shelf-reading until it cooled off and I could return to my room, I came across a set of In Search of Lost Time, standing on shelf on the second floor, conjuring memories of a half understood Monty Python sketch. The set looked pretty on the shelf, in with all the books I wished my own small university book store carried. The titles caught my eye, knowing almost nothing about that period in French literature made me want to feed my recreational knowledge of literature in general. It was also a pretty Modern Library set of a posh, intellectual work of literature so the superficial appeal was obvious.I never did get those Modern Library copies from the Coop; instead I special ordered the Lydia Davis Swann's Way from the local independent at home because it was the recommendation for reading Proust by the Paris Review. In retrospect my intellectual snobbery is sort of a sad attempt to be the English major I never was (I had been mistaken for one over that same summer at the Old Manse in Concord), but it was for an entirely different reason. I'd been quite easily convinced to join the "2013: The Year of Reading Proust" Goodreads group because around New Years it is quite easy to make book related resolves to finish major reading undertakings in the upcoming year. Instead of those proud, copper spine Modern Libraries I'd left behind in Cambridge, I was the proud owner of Penguin fancy French-fold edition, complete with deckled edges. I promptly fell asleep during the discussion within the first pages of sleep itself, because something across time and language carried over into my own experience. When I got flu so badly I couldn't even read, I regretted slowly letting the impression of the first couple pages fade away through the retching and heaving of a body out for revenge. Through an astronomy conference, a hectic beginning of the semester, and many late Sunday nights trying to keep up with the Proust 2013 schedule, I kept up because no matter how obtuse I found Proust's prose at the beginning, by half way through the reading section for that week, there would be a break through where I found those complex sentences beautiful and once again discussing something true about humanity and transmitted through time. Memory is a tricky thing, as our narrator describes, and from memory to developing intellectualism to discovering one's tastes in theater and literature were relatable to my own memories of those discoveries. In poor Swann's love affairs I saw how people still are oblivious to relationships that are wrong with them and slowly descending into frustration. Every now and then I felt like giving the narrator a swift kick in the pants for being such an uptight snob, while realizing almost at the same time that the uptight snob phase is one every precocious aspiring intellectual goes through. The language was splendid, the characterizations spot on even to the point where I wanted to roll my eyes along with the narrator, and the obsessive attention to detail dense but fascinating. I'm looking forward to finishing more of In Search of Lost Time throughout the year. While Proust has created a work of art I might not have picked up otherwise, now that I have begun on the path by reading Swann's Way I am ready to head down it and discover what's next in this literary adventure.

Currently reading

Native Son
Richard Wright
The Great Glass Sea
Josh Weil
The Elder Edda
Anonymous, Andrew Orchard