Proust's Way: A Field Guide to in Search of Lost Time

Roger Shattuck, Author
Roger Shattuck, Author W. W. Norton & Company $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-04914-5
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-14-029498-9
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-393-07870-1
Paperback - 290 pages - 978-0-393-32180-7
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Cobbling together commentary, instruction and practical advice, this grab-bag of a guide attempts to fill a gap in the vast library of Proust literature, with mixed results. Eminent scholar Shattuck (author of Proust's Binoculars and the National Book Award-winning Marcel Proust) eschews the personal approach favored by Alain de Botton and Phyllis Rose in their popular memoir-appreciations, but he does not limit himself to scholarly analysis, either, producing instead a kind of sophisticated Cliff Notes. The guide begins with a helpful overview of the novel and a chapter answering basic questions: in what language should one read Proust? (In French, if at all possible.) Is it absolutely necessary to read all 3,000 pages? (It is not--and Shattuck supplies an abridged reading plan in a footnote.) Moving on to a discussion of narrative strategies and themes, Shattuck urges an appreciation of Proust's often-overlooked comic sensibility and examines the author's more familiar preoccupations like time, memory and art. Most enlightening is his complex explication of the double ""I"" Proust employs: the gap between young Marcel and his older incarnation, the Narrator, creates what Shattuck terms a ""stereopticon effect,"" by means of which the novel springs to four-dimensional life. A fascinating if polemical second-to-last chapter weighs in on ongoing debates in the world of Proust scholarship, judges the various French and English editions of the novel and examines its film versions. Although much of the guide is genuinely illuminating, the best material will be familiar to readers of Shattuck's previous works (he acknowledges his borrowings in his introduction), and some of the new sections--particularly an experimental ""Coda,"" a fictional radio interview with a Proust scholar--strain for effect. (May)
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