Posted by: Lizzie Ross | January 21, 2011

Marcel comments on hotel guests

Within a Budding Grove, pp. 504-514

Saint Blandina, courtesy

The only thing to report about these 10 pages is that Marcel has arrived at Balbec Plage, had a physical collapse, been rescued by his indulgent grandmother (“… be sure you knock on the wall if you want anything in the night.”), and recovered enough to mingle with other guests at the hotel and comment on their behavior.

For example:

… the barrister and his friends could not exhaust their flow of sarcasm on the subject of a wealthy old lady of title, because she never moved anywhere without taking her whole household with her. Whenever the wives of the solicitor and the magistrate saw her in the dining-room at mealtimes they put up their glasses and gave her an insolent scrutiny, as minute and distrustful as if she had been some dish with a pretentious name but a suspicious appearance which, after the negative result of a systematic study, must be sent away with a lofty wave of the hand and a grimace of disgust.

On a related topic, I find it impossible to read one book at a time. No, I’m not like a two-fisted eater, with a book in each hand as my eyes alternate between the two. But I have a couple of books next to my couch, that I read in the afternoon or evening, and three more by my bed, that I read at night or when I wake up. When I get bored with one, I switch to another.

Bored with a book? As Spongebob would say, “Those words! I didn’t know you could use them together in one sentence!”

But, yes, bored. Every book has its slow moments, and Proust’s has what seems like more than its fair share. All this is to say that, although it may look as though I’m devoted to Marcel and carefully focused on the 10 to 20 pages I can read each week, it would be misrepresenting the truth. I’m actually a very fickle reader. If Proust were the only thing I was reading these days, I’d have finished the two volumes/seven novels long ago.

What else have I gone through? In this week alone: Diana Wynne Jones’ House of Many Ways (second sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle), Sara Zarr’s Story of a Girl, Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Luka and the Fire of Life, Gregory Maguire’s A Lion Among Men (second sequel to Wicked). Not to mention book reviews and reading for work.

Busy, busy, busy.


  1. I’m exactly that same type of reader — like someone with a number of friends and acquaintances (books are like that for me) I like to ring the changes depending on my mood, what they have to say and circumstances. And they’re never offended if I abandon them in the middle of a sentence!

    • It’s reassuring to know that my reading habits aren’t unusual. Probably nothing that anyone does is unique, but it’s still comforting to find evidence of that. Thanks for visiting my defunct blog, and for reminding me that I need to return to Proust. I’ll have to reread all these posts to get back into the groove.

      • I’m sure work is keeping you very busy at the moment, but good that you’re active on another group blog — which I’ve ‘followed’!

      • I noticed! And thanks. The group blog may go dormant, when the course ends, but I hope a few of the students continue to post. We’ll see what happens.

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