Friday, October 1, 2010

Proust, Chowder, and John Brown’s Body


Early each morning, well before sunrise, in a harbor of yellow light created by a small lamp my mother brought home years ago, I have been reading Proust. Progress is slow, about ten or twelve pages per sitting; still, I am 803 pages into the first volume and I’m enjoying the book immensely. There’s an obsessive, neurotic quality in Proust’s writing that I like, and it’s not without its own subtle humor.

I have also been reading Stephen Vincent Benét’s long Civil War poem, John Brown’s Body. That reading, though, takes place much later in the day, generally in the waning hours of the afternoon. A beautiful book.

Yesterday, my wife and I escaped to the ocean. To see the sea we need travel less than sixty miles, a trip that takes a little over an hour. The weather there was remarkably warm, calm, and clear. A thin veil of mist hugged the cliffs along the beach. With school back in session, few people were about. The midday sunlight was blinding. Across the tide and wet sand was a sheen of purples, pinks, and blues. Gulls in flight skimmed the sand with the tips of their wings. We stopped at a restaurant for clam chowder.


Update:
In the Forum: Heaven’s deadly elbow patches.

10 comments:

Jan said...

William, Even when you write of your day it's poetry. What a beautiful time you and your wife shared. Thank you for sharing it with us too~~~

William Michaelian said...

Thank you, Jan. We had a great, leisurely stroll along the beach, listening to that incredible ocean roar, which, as loud as it is, somehow never hurts the ears. A few people had kites, but there was hardly enough breeze to keep them in the air. Outside the restaurant on a little bulletin board, we saw a flier announcing an upcoming “kite festival.” Who knows, it could easily be stormy by then.

Two Tigers said...

Beaches are always best after the summer holidays! You can have your private communications with the waves and the clouds uninterrupted, unqualified...like a good friend you see across a crowded room but wait until the party crowd thins out to approach and have a quiet chat with...

Proust! William, you already know how I feel about your undertaking -- mixed envy and a melancholy wistfulness not unlike the mood that began it all for Marcel! Such irony too that this social butterfly turned invalid wrote this novel of all novels in bed sustained by endless cups of cafe au lait! When I read it, I always did so lying down, with a beverage nearby, as a tribute. Okay, sometimes not coffee!

And yes, like madeleines, Proust is best savored in small bites! Enjoy, enjoy, my friend.

William Michaelian said...

Thank you, Gabriella, and I will enjoy it all the more, knowing the pleasure you derived from the experience. I love knowing the project will take so long.

Anthony Duce said...

Thanks for sharing the sea with us… It was a pleasant image you created. A very nice way to spend the day.

William Michaelian said...

It really was, and long overdue too. Thanks, Anthony.

rahina q.h. said...

beautiful description of the sea... and i love clam chowder when i had it in Boston:)

Bitch said...

With so little words a strong
description of a sea scene.
What a master you are!

Elisabeth said...

Your description of the sea is such a terrific backdrop to these three linked experiences, Proust, Chowder and John Brown. Thanks William.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Rahina. I think we’ve finally picked the last of the sand from our teeth. “Sea grit,” I called it, when we were eating.

Hi, Monika! Thank you. Less a master, perhaps, than something strange just washed up on the beach.

Thank you, Elisabeth. Such is the daily ebb and flow, images overlapping, lending form and grace to one another, rearranging themselves in the mind.