Swann's Way is one of the preeminent novels of childhood-a sensitive boy's impressions of his family and neighbors, all brought dazzlingly back to life years later by the famous taste of a madeleine. It also enfolds the short novel Swann's Love, an incomparable study of sexual jealousy, which becomes a crucial part of the vast, unfolding structure of In Search of Lost Time. The first volume of the book that established Proust as one of the finest voices of the modern age-satirical, skeptical, confiding, and endlessly varied in his response to the human condition-Swann's Way also stands on its own as a perfect rendering of a life in art, of the past re-created through memory.
Let's set the scene...
[BW&R Note: there are multiple references within this episode. So... get comfortable!]
Max has slaved over some ex-girlfriend Osso Bucco for Ms. Gilmore. As Max brews some life blood (read: coffee), Lorelai browses his book collection...
Lorelai: (giggles). (turns around to look at his books) Wow these are beautiful!. Hm, I never read Proust, I always wanted to. Every now and then, I'm seized with an overwhelming urge to say something like "As Marcel Proust would say.." but of course I have no idea what Marcel Proust would say so I don't even go there. I could do, uh, "As Micheal Crichton would say.." but it's not exactly the same you know.
Max: Well, take it.
Lorelai: Oh no! It-it looks so valuable
Max: It's a book. It's meant to be read.
Lorelai: You sure?
Max: Take it, read it.
Lorelai: Ok, I will.
(She takes the book and sits down and starts to read)
Max: (laughing) Not now!
Max: I'd rather you didn't read it now.
Lorelai: But um, what about (Max kisses her) my required reading (stands up, moving towards the bedroom, between kissing..) But I won't make the cheerleading squad! (kissing) Mr. Medina, is this my extra credit work because Missy just had to take a test!?! (laughing through kisses. Door closes.)
Lorelai is doing The Walk of Shame back into her own house (which is probably the worst version of The Walk of Shame). And she gets caught...
Lorelai: Yeah well...Hey he loaned me a book.
Rory: What book?
Lorelai: 'Swann's Way'
Rory: Aren't we ambitious.
Lorelai: Yes we are.
Rory: You know what it means when a man loans you a book don't you?
Lorelai: That he's already read it?
Rory checking in with Lorelai on her reading progress...
Rory: So how's 'Swann's Way' coming.
Lorelai: Oh finished.
Rory: You're kidding! It took me forever to read that. I had to renew it 10 times.
Lorelai: The first sentence - I finished the first sentence.
It's that special time of year, folks! Parent's Day at Chilton! Max is explaining to parents in attendance what their kids should expect to read this year...
Max: On Monday we will start a two week of creative writing exercise, but that doesn't mean we stop reading. One of the greatest inspirations of working writers is the writing of other that they admire. Walt Whitman read Homer, Dante, Shakespeare. And the novelist Edna O'Brien has been quoted as saying 'that every writer should read some Proust every day'. Now, at this point, normally I would impress the parents by pulling out a copy of Proust's 'Swann's Way' and reading a particularly difficult passage but alas, you're all saved. I have misplaced my copy. (bell rings) Oh that does is - parent's thanks for coming, students - papers on Whitman are due tomorrow and those of you who are just starting tonight - I'll be able to tell.
Still at Parent's Day, Lorelai approaches Max...
Lorelai: So - here. (tries to give him book again)
Max: Why do you keep on trying to give me the book?
Lorelai: Because it's yours.
Max: Is there something going on here that I don't know about?
Lorelai: Yeah, uh I hate Proust.
After The Kiss Heard Round The World Chilton, Lorelai and Max agree to meet in neutral territory... the source of all goodness, a coffee shop...
Lorelai: Hey Mister, wanna buy a really nice copy of Proust?
Max: How ya doing?
[BW&R Note: HOLY SHIT! I think I got carpal tunnel ("or some other sort of modern disease"... you'll be my new best friend if you get that reference) from that!]
Proust's writing style is unlike anything I have ever read. The Dangers of the Run-On Sentence were drilled into your head over and over again in elementary school. And then again in middle school. And then again in high school. And then again in college (if you were a complete moron and didn't quite take the hint by then). It feels almost... reckless... to be reading what many consider to be the most important piece of literary work, and be inundated with several instances of 4 page long sentences. And this is where you start to realize that your English teachers had it wrong. Can most people use the run-on successfully? No. Most people just appear to have forgotten about the invention of the period. But, Marcel Proust isn't most people. His sentence structure lends a stream-of-consciousness quality that is so important in telling the story of this unknown narrator and the characters that star in the story of his life.
I will admit that I'm actually a little bummed that I don't read the remainder of In Search of Lost Time until much later into the series (when Paris finds out she is the first Geller not to get into her precious Harvard, has her wittle meltdown and proceeds to tell CSPAN that she's cashed in her v-card). I want to know more about this mystery narrator. About how Monsieur Swann and Odette went from a toxic relationship to a marriage. I want to know more about the neighborhood (especially Guermantes Way). And I especially want to hear more words of wisdom from the embittered Francoise. However, that will come in due time, the show must go on, good things to those who wait... and whatever axiom you use to try to soothe someone (such as myself) who was not born with that all-important patience gene.
Who do I see reading this in the Stars Hollow gazebo?
It might seem cheap and pandering, but I really do see Max Medina reading this. A prep-school literature teacher would probably appreciate Proust's imagery, writing structure and epic narration more than the average civilian.