The Year of Reading Proust: A Memoir in Real Time

Phyllis Rose, Author Scribner Book Company $22.5 (288p) ISBN 978-0-684-83984-4
This memoir starts with a prologue and first chapter that are so lovely, it makes the 200-plus remaining pages pallid by comparison. Rose starts by recounting her spotty career with Proust and her determination, finally, to soldier through In Search of Lost Time. Her recollection in these few pages is insightful, well written and appealingly modest. For a brief moment, she seems about to follow the tack taken by Alain de Botton's delightful How Proust Can Change Your Life: ""Rapidly,"" she says, ""I began applying the fruits of Proust's research to my own life."" She also muses on Proust's use of such devices as paradox or epic simile and how they enriched her life. But from there on it's almost entirely strict memoir and Rose (Parallel Lives), who is so skillful at understanding the subtleties of other people's lives, doesn't have the same touch with her own. There are fine moments of self-revelation (particularly in her eventual acceptance of the fact that she had a happy childhood), but too often she veers discomfittingly close to unflattering self-absorption. In these instances, Rose talks about how she, an artist, deals with the importune questions of those who are not; or mistakes brand names for telling detail (she wanted a Mercedes but settled on a Saab before heading off to Il Cantinori for a Pinot Grigio); or reports on her lengthy free-association sessions. Early on, Rose points out how easily Proust moves from the particular to the general, from the small to the grand. Unfortunately, Rose's small points tend to stay that way. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-58243-055-3
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