I had a week off from work recently. It was interesting. I’ll explain it to you the same way I’ve been explaining it to my coworkers, when they express disbelief that I stayed home the whole time: I don’t take vacations to travel. I take vacations so I can spend some time not getting up at five in the morning, not spending four hours a day traveling on public transit, and not having to rely on sedatives to get to sleep early enough to actually be awake and functional at five in the morning every day.
For the past five years, I have been constantly under the gun, time-wise. Getting ready to go to work, going to work, worrying about finishing up as much work as I can before I have to leave, getting home, getting to bed — even on my weekends (the one’s I don’t have to work on), I feel a tremendous amount of time pressure to get all my home stuff done; if I miss a haircut, it’ll have to wait for next week. If I don’t do the dishes and laundry, I’ll have to miss my bedtime on Monday to finish those tasks.
I occasionally need a week free from that constant ticking clock, because I tend to forget what life is like without it. So naturally, when I got that week off I started reading Proust. Oh, I had no intention of finishing it, of course. I just wanted to be able to briefly imagine what it feels like to be the kind of person who had the time to get through the whole thing.
Also, it was free in the Nook bookstore, so there’s that.
I am not the most robust reader. I go pretty slowly through texts that no one would consider challenging. So read Proust, for me, requires a kind of meticulous grind that, in the early going at least, I did not find especially rewarding. Like, getting through a two-page long paragraph and realizing that the author could have boiled down the idea being expressed into a six-word sentence — it was hard for me to not feel like my time was being wasted.
But that’s not how you’re supposed to read Proust, right? I think? At any rate, I eventually started to enjoy myself, as I sank into the illusion that I had all the time in the world, time enough at least to luxuriate in the language of the book and enjoy watching a right reeaaallly stretch out. It was a nice change of pace.
If you know me of old, you may remember I used to write really long essays in support of ostentatious, verbose writing. Well, I forgot that I used to do that. I haven’t had time to enjoy that sort of thing in years, and for at least one week of my life, I learned to miss that old me. It was fun. And I hope to not do that again for a good long while, because I need to work to forestall my family’s ruin.
Oh and the first little part of the book was pretty good. And resonant! I too hated going to bed as a child, and I too have become an adult who sometimes finds himself ambushed by vivid memories (which really sucks, by the way, because they never seem to be good memories, nor are they especially useful when they occur outside the care of a mental health professional).