Great Stuff, Cheers: Flannery O’Connor and I Read Proust |
Michigan Quarterly Review

In 1921, an American living in Rome wrote a letter to Marcel Proust. She tells him that for the past three years, she’s read nothing but In Search of Lost Time. This may lead one to surmise that she adores the seven-volume novel, but a fan letter this is not. Instead, she chastises the French novelist: “I don’t understand a thing, but absolutely nothing. Dear Marcel Proust, stop being a poseur and come down to earth. Just tell me in two lines what you really wanted to say.” If this reader found nothing in all of Proust’s writing, why then did she dedicate three years to it?

Literature is a bustling bevy of varying relationships: some last the length of a book or a poem or an essay—some only a paragraph or two. Others stretch on for years, decades even, and they shift and morph from platonic to romantic to antipathetic and back again. There is no monogamy here; the written word is polyamorous, pantextual. Literature goes on dates, trysts, booty calls; it rarely settles down. It is on-again-off-again. As in real-life relationships, we often spend the most time focused on people we don’t love or find reprehensible. But the feelings are deep and dense and rooted and real. Continue reading…