I am in the midst of rereading Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past (sometimes translated, as Proust preferred, as In Search of Lost Time). I last read it maybe forty years ago. It is a supreme work of literary art, a magnificent achievement of the European literary tradition. Normally I do not read books explaining literary works, I do like literary biographies, preferring to read the source directly. I am so glad I made an exception for The Magic Lantern of Marcel Proust by Harold Moss. As soon as I saw he dedicated the book to Elizabeth Bowen I felt this would be a work of distinction.
I first read the wonderfully civilized foreward by Damion Searls that the publisher Paul Dry Books has kindly included in their edition. I admit I did not know anything about Howard Moss. Moss (1922 to 1987) was a poet and for many years was poetry editor of The New Yorker. I really liked it when Searls talked of a time when people did not apologize for being readers of a 4000 page novel and of world where it was assumed any literate person would have read the great French masters of the novel.
I found Moss's commentary on Proust wonderfully helpful. He helped me understand the overall architecture of the work. His explanations of the importance of looking through windows was very illuminating. He explains in elegant ways the intricate connections between topics as seemingly diverse as homosexuality, the Dreyfus case, being partially Jewish, sexual and social role playing. Because Proust has such a large canvas to write upon, he is able to give incredibly peceptive accounts of social and personal relationships, of snobbism, jealousy, painting, food and much else. The theoretical focus of my blog is on people that lead reading centered lives and Proust's work is a holy text of the reading life. I have already realized I must read more Balzac.
Ross helped me see how Proust creates a world, a personal great mythology. I will read the remainder of Proust with more enjoyment, and I hope perceptivity, after reading Moss's book. I did some quick post read research on this book and many consider it the best second work on Proust. The prose style is elegant and refined.
I highly recommend anyone looking for some excellent reading ideas to spend a few minutes on the web page of Paul Dry Books