My Year of Proust

In September, I finished Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, concluding a year-long enchantment in what quickly emerged as my most profound personal reading experience to date. What I didn't appreciate is what happens after you think you've hit your peak.

I believe more have started Proust than finished, so how did it go for me? From the beginning and throughout, my mind frequently recalled that convention of the Golden Age of cartoons (of all things) when Bugs Bunny, say, would float above the ground and through a window, beguilingly led by the gravity-defying aroma of the perfect porridge. Or maybe it was pie.

Lydia Davis's translation clinched it in the first volume, carrying me through an open window into the life of my new best friend, our narrator. And I stuck with him--even the times when he is more than a complete ass and is, alarmingly, horribly and cruelly offensive--just as he stuck with me, patiently unfolding a world that is, by many turns, familiar yet also extinct. European culture, of the kind to which we are given entrée, might have been transformed by the Great War, but people not so much. I recognized myself and many others in most every page, while touring a life beyond my reach.

And then it ended, and I've been living with olfactory withdrawal since. Progressing from one book to the next, as many of us do, the completion of one book is to anticipate the next, and that has been the hardest thing about my year of Proust: I haven't wanted to read anything next. What could be next? I have picked up other books since, some finished, others not. Nothing suits. For all that I did find in Proust, I have not found a taste for what comes after.

--Neil Strandberg, director of technology and operations, Shelf Awareness
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