Within a Budding Grove
Racine isn’t telling a story about love among the sea-urchins (185).
Again, this does not aspire to the level of essay, and will be simply some notes from reading this particular volume.
- Within a Budding Grove is a more thoroughly conventional novel than Swann’s Way, and presents the late childhood and early adolescence of our narrator with fewer of those frills of perception that mark the earlier volume. Chronology is not particularly obscured by later reflections, nor is one left to wonder how our narrator managed to come by all the information he presents (as is the case, for instance, throughout ‘Swann in Love’, which is a produce of a more mature intelligence than the child presented in ‘Combray’).
- Evidence of the maturing of our narrator – increased interest in people beyond his family circle, at first the Swanns and then the Guermantes; increased interest also in signs and codes: what do people mean by what they say, what they do, what they wear—and how do they manage to obscure what they mean through these things (e.g. through using foreign languages, or the more obscure code of society; cf. Block and his mispronunciations and missteps); increased fascination with technology: telephone (‘she can order things from tradesmen without having to go out’ (p.250)), electricity (p. 249), automobiles (539, 655 – as tied up with women’s fashion), cameras (particularly Saint-Loup’s Kodak (p. 496,) and the childishness of his grandmother’s fascination with having her picture taken (pp. 500–1)).
A well-read man will at once begin to yawn when one speaks to him of a new ‘good book,’ because he imagines a sort of composite of all the good books that he has read, whereas a good book is something special, something unforeseeable, and is made up not of the sum of all previous masterpieces but of something which the most thorough assimilations of every one of them would not enable him to discover, since it exists not in their sum but beyond it (318).
A cup of over-steeped tea brings back the memory of student days, bent over a book, surrounded by papers, the tea overdrawing and becoming tepid, forgotten, on the desk. Legs crossed at the ankles, or sitting on one foot, it is possible to forget time itself, to say nothing of a cup of tea.
A large grey sky, and the seeping white stain of fog. The evening sun doesn’t know what to do.
We want to travel like vagabonds, wandering through the province as simply and inconspicuously as possible, living as much as possible “off the country” and as the natives do, both because it is cheaper and more carefree and because we can learn more of the people and the country by doing it that way. But we have to compromise to a certain extent between our idea of the kind of people we are and [their] idea of the kind of people we ought to be.
—Eleanor Holgate Lattimore (Turkestan Reunion)
The landlord came to the apartment to repair the leaky sink in the kitchen, which was leaky because the neighbors are doing some remodeling and wanted to separate our plumbing from theirs. The landlord works long hours, and has to deal with people who don’t always want to do what they should do – especially regarding paying money; the landlord’s job doesn’t really have anything to do with this. He stopped by around eight o’clock in the evening and went into the kitchen; he’d just come from work, and was still in his work clothes.
At this point I should mention that I am not fond of housekeeping. Whatever talents I have, tidiness does not stand at the forefront. The kitchen floor reflects that fact. We sweep it – occasionally. We mop it – twice a year. The previous two tenants subscribed to similar theories of housekeeping, and the kitchen floor reflects that as well. If it were my apartment (in the sense of ownership, rather than tenantship) I would not bother cleaning the floor in the kitchen. I would completely gut the kitchen and remodel it, because the filthy floors are the least of that kitchen’s problems.2 I don’t particularly mind, because, well, I don’t particularly care – and I don’t view the cleanliness of my kitchen floors as the best measure of my character or worth as a human being. But I still did not like it when our landlord said we needed to clean the floors ‘using hot water’.3
Of course, mostly I just don’t like being told what to do. Especially if it involves me scrubbing floors on my hands and knees with an oversized toothbrush because the mop doesn’t get any traction on these floors and has in any case disintegrated after decades of abuse. I’d just prefer not to.
- No, I’m not going to show you the kitchen floor, because you’ll just agree with the landlord. [↩]
- A much bigger problem is the lack of sealant around the sink which is causing the cabinet into which the sink was inserted to rot away. [↩]
- This was especially irritating for two reasons: 1) his mother, who is the owner of the apartment, had just stopped by two nights before and had been perfectly satisfied with how we kept the place and, 2) Armenian men are not known for doing a lot of housework, which in my opinion means they shouldn’t comment on it, especially when it does not affect them directly (which is not of course culturally sensitive of me, but we can’t always be perfectly culturally sensitive all of the time, can we?). [↩]