Monday, March 04, 2013

As a friend put it, stream-of-consciousness narrative is nice when you're writing it


His way or the highway. The ruminations and wanderings don't stop.




"OMG, ANG OA MO!!!!" - Me, after reading more than 30 pages of stream-of-consciousness whining by the narrator on how he MUST get a nightly kiss from his mother.

Apparently, I won't have a respite from Proustian ka-OA-yan because Swann's Way—and in fact, the entire Remembrance of Things Past volume—is literature's classic example of stream-of-consciousness writing (though a literary critic argues otherwise).

A SoC narrative basically means surrendering to your inner ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) "depict(ing) the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind" aka an "interior monologue."

I can deal with SoC writing. One of my adored Alanis Morissette songs is The Couch, from the much-maligned but what is really one of my favorite albums of all time, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. However, Proust can really test your patience—I've gone through pages and pages and pages of material, and oh, what do you know—he was just describing how he's turning over his bed at night!

Meron din yung kumain lang sya ng cake (madeleine), naka isang chapter ka na.

Nevertheless, I am bent on finishing the book because ironically, this style of writing forces me to focus; I need to cling onto the writer's train of thought—and yes, the literal imagery works in this case—otherwise, I'll get lost and need to re-read a few pages back (no, we don't want that). It disciplines my mind, in a way.

Also, it does have passages that speak to me, such as this quote:

"Always try to keep a patch of sky above your life, little boy," he added, turning to me. "You have a soul in you of rare quality, an artist's nature; never let it starve for lack of what it needs."


I've also been reading about Marcel Proust's life in my attempt to get him, and I learned that he wrote this book as a tribute to his mother, who had just passed away at that time. It's still a stretch for me, but his terrible longing for that nightly kiss then makes more sense.

Have you read and survived or enjoyed Proust? Got any tips?






4 * :

KatrinaAtienza said...


Currently reading it. I'm 38% in (Kindle). There's so much rumination and then suddenly he hits you with a line of such profound clarity and description that you just have to stop and gasp. It's probably so far the book I've highlighted most. That said:
- I had to get past that nightly kiss from Mamma part nga.
- I found it a bit more engaging when he starts talking about the people in Combray, zooming out from the farm house and his immediate family
- Although I enjoy it, this book never fails to lull me to sleep. Haha! Not that I'm bored; it's just the rhythm of the writing and the lyricism tends to feel like a lullaby.

Jason D. said...


Ang galing, I was just about to mention in a new post that I am starting to like the book! (I've just gotten to know Legrandin in a lengthy but delicious (!) prose.)

I like him when he doesn't meander too quickly, when he relishes a topic for at least one or two pages and you consequently immerse yourself in his imagination. That's when I get it. Hopefully, the book only gets better :-)

Deepa said...


I have a book by Alain de Botton (whom I highly recommend) called "How Proust Can Change your Life." Di ko pa binabasa kasi imbyerna rin ako kay Proust. I was guilty of lots of stream-of-consciousness writing in my early blogging days though so I can't claim to be completely beyond it.

Jason D. said...


Thanks Deepa!!! I found a BBC clip on YouTube based on Botton's book with Ralph Fiennes as Proust! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9dwwVvGfVQ

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