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[Do you like this way of doing eggs?]
If, by virtue of a family tradition such as makes the daughters of great soldiers preserve a respect for military matters in the midst of their most frivolous distractions, she felt, as the granddaughter of women who had been on terms of friendship with Thiers, Merimee and Augier, that a place must always be kept in her drawing room for men of intellect, she had at the same time derived from the manner, at once condescending and familiar, in which those famous men had been received at Guermantes, the foible of looking on men of talent as family friends whose talent does not dazzle one, to whom one does not speak of their work, and who would not be at all interested if one did. Moreover the type of mind illustrated by Merimee and Melihac and Halevy, which was also hers, led her, by contrast with the verbal sentimentality of an earlier generation, to a style of conversation that rejects everything to do with fine language and the expression of lofty thoughts, so that she made it a sort of point of good breeding when she was with a poet or a musician to talk only of the food they were eating or the game of cards to which they would afterwards sit down. This abstention had, on a third person not conversant with her ways, a disturbing effect which amounted to mystification. Mme de Guermantes having asked him if he would like to be invited with this or that famous poet, devoured by curiosity he arrived at the appointed hour. The Duchess would talk to the poet about the weather. They sat down to lunch. "Do you like this way of doing eggs?" she would ask the poet. [. . .] "Give Monsieur some more eggs," she would tell the butler, while the anxious fellow-guest sat waiting for what must surely have been the object of the occasion, since they had arranged to meet, in spite of every sort of difficulty, before the Duchess, the poet and he himself left Paris. But the meal went on, one after another the courses would be cleared away, not without having provided Mme de Guermantes with opportunities for clever witticisms or well-judged anecdotes. Meanwhile the poet went on eating without either the Duke or the Duchess showing any sign of remembering that he was a poet.



Today I flipped through a book called Proust's Way: A Field Guide to In Search of Lost Time. I thought about getting it to read along with LT and then didn't, for the very shallow reason that the prose wasn't as interesting as Lost Time's so I didn't feel like letting it hang around. Maybe later! Some context would probably do me good.

I think I need to make a catch-up post of some kind, either when I finish Guermantes or just when I get back to regular internet access in a couple weeks. So much has happened! But this is Proust we're talking about, so by "so much has happened," I mean, M. spent a terribly awkward afternoon watching Saint-Loup fight with his mistress and had a lot of mixed feelings about both of them and then tried to pretend he'd had a good time but couldn't quite stick the landing, and now he's at a party with the elusive Mme de Guermantes and LEGRANDIN is there, busy practicing and disavowing his snobbery (like everyone else, only more so and at greater pains). The scale of events is human and quotidian, and limitlessly expanding the way days do before they close.

SPEAKING OF BOURGIE FRENCH PEOPLE, though, guess what I found at the thrift store, to take with me on my last trip of the summer (along with M. and friends, of course)?

EUGENIE GRANDET

by

HONORE DE BALZAC!

I am excited to finally meet some fiction by BALZAC. If it's even a quarter as entertaining as his biography, it will be one of the highlights of 2016.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
osprey_archer
Jul. 31st, 2016 12:14 am (UTC)
That lunch with the poet sounds so unnerving. The guest is sitting there on tenterhooks waiting to talk poetry, the poet is probably terribly confused, and the hostess sails along like a swan, blithely discussing the best way to poach eggs.

Also: Balzac!!! Aside from your reports on his biography, all I know of Balzac comes from The Music Man, where Balzac is the epitome of French decadence. I am curious to hear if he lives up to this!
evelyn_b
Aug. 1st, 2016 08:16 pm (UTC)
BALZAC <3 <3 <3

So far, Eugenie Grandet is a very non-decadent story about a rich guy in a small town, but we'll see! Being the epitome of French decadence is an uphill struggle, though, and how do you measure it? Baudelaire had his laudanum, but Balzac had his coffee, and no one drank it blacker or sludgier (because it's a serious health hazard; seriously, Balzac, stop that). :|

All this talk about eggs is making me want some eggs, but all my pots and pans are still in boxes from moving. Maybe I'll go to the Waffle House later, and think about how much BALZAC would appreciate and abuse the free refills <3 (no, really, Balzac, you should stop).

Edited at 2016-08-01 08:24 pm (UTC)
a_phoenixdragon
Jul. 31st, 2016 12:17 pm (UTC)
LOL!!!

*HUGS*
evelyn_b
Aug. 1st, 2016 08:17 pm (UTC)
<3
wordsofastory
Aug. 1st, 2016 07:59 pm (UTC)
Aw, I sympathize with Mme de Guermantes. The times I've met famous people (by which I mostly mean mid-range writers or academics; I am not hanging out with Oscar winners or TV stars) the idea of actually discussing their work seems alternatively horrifyingly awkward or ingratiatingly obsequious. So I generally fall back on the same small talk I would get into with anyone – "How are these deviled eggs? I make mine without mayonnaise!"
evelyn_b
Aug. 1st, 2016 08:32 pm (UTC)
It's not actually a bad strategy! After all, the poet doesn't necessarily want to talk about poetry all the time, and may find praise embarrassing, and almost certainly doesn't want to be asked to read the fellow-guest's manuscript. So making small talk about eggs starts to look like a genuine courtesy. I can also sympathize with the anxious fellow-guest's confusion, though, as to why he's been specially invited to this intimate egg salon with the famous poet.
wordsofastory
Aug. 2nd, 2016 02:41 am (UTC)
Haha, indeed, the poor guest! He spends the evening desperately trying to come up with a believable segue from eggs to poetic theories.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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