Sunday, December 25, 2011

Caloub and Lost Time

Caloub and Lost Time

“The illumination is then
completed when the narrator
realizes that a work of art is
our only means of thus
recapturing the past”
—Vladimir Nabokov, “Marcel
Proust,” Lectures on Literature

Caloub Loses It

Caloub clicks it—like a light switch. That’s how it works for him. And for Denise. As surely as he clicks his heels—as surely as he snaps his fingers for Denise to stop. To stop schmoozing and wasting time—and to get down on her hands and knees on the ratty, worn-out Persian carpet. And for Denise to get serious and worship Caloub there on the dumpy sofa right away—there in the dim apartment on West Chimes Street.

Caloub is an immediate kind of guy—somewhere between the humid Deep South evening coming in thru the apartment window and the strange uncanny return of Lost Time into his groin. That fascinating jump forwards & backwards in time that Marcel Proust had rediscovered some say.

The ad lib spontaneous thing, the extemporaneous connection Proust alludes to in his 15 volumes between 1913 and 1927. The Après moi le déluge—a flood of 4,000 pages in English, a deluge of over a million words.

All the way thru Remembrance of Things Past. From Swann’s Way thru the Budding Grove, along Guermantes Way, thru the Cities of the Plain, the Captive Girl, Albertine Gone and Time Found Again.

The Snap—one can almost hear it. Feel it. Know it. That involuntary synaptic-snap when it happens. All those singular and translucent multiple connections. Not a simple scene—a minor mise-en-scene in some play. But rather a treasure chest of burgeoning mise-en-abyme portraits—a world of miniatures, full of mirages, superimposed gardens, games conducted between space and time (Cocteau).

Like the look on Caloub’s delicious, distended, stoned face—when he’d lose it really bad. Is it possible to recapture something like that?

Miss Proust

"I can’t—I simply can’t do it," I told Miss Proust. “Get real, my dear,” she said. She usually simply smirked at me, a cigarette dangling from her pouty lip. It was like "Get me some more cork, my dears, to shut-up this dummy." But then patiently, Proust began evoking the past for me—as a sequence of illustrations, images. All of them revolving around a particular phrase: “as if————.” Or another specific phrase: “To be continued————.” Any attempts to get more specific were bound to confuse my poor dizzy brain—it would make me lurch away into the useless realms of meaningless metaphysics. One had to be ad lib & gay… to play, my dear.

The key to the problem of jumpstarting the past Miss Proust said—turns out to be the key to the problem of Art. Especially Narrative. The treasure hunt is just as much in the storytelling as it is the treasure at the end of the rainbow. Miss Proust would smile, stepping back into Time. Leaving me to stare and ogle down at teenaged Caloub's crotch—he had a harelipped dick. It was uncut—but half its head leered back at me. His foreskin somehow damaged during birth, after all it was rather large. Leaving it sneering at me on the couch or in bed—even as it rudely started pealing slowly backwards.

Evil Sodomites

I was a superficial reader of Miss Proust’s work—engulfed by his yawns as much as mine. Especially his campy rendition of Sodom and the fleeing Sodomites hiding away in Paris, London, St. Petersburg, Berlin and Vienna.

The evil Sodomites got away with it tho—pausing, dilly-dallying, looking back over their shoulders at some cute young number fleeing Sodom. But were the salacious Sodomites ever punished or cruelly turned into pillars of salt—like Lot’s poor unfortunate wife? Hardly, my dear.

It was at this point I realized that Miss Proust’s soiree In Search of Lost Time—was actually a book within a book. It wasn’t quite a novel—it wasn’t a mirror of manners, nor an autobiography or an historical account. It was more like a dishy restaurant review, getting bitchy with the menu. It was a fantasy, but more real than, well, one really wanted it to be. But then who am I to quibble over the kitschy, haughty hors-d'oeuvres?

It was a pure “as if” and “To be continued” fantasy—like Miss Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” or “Anna Karenia" or Joyce's “Ulysses.” The narrator in Lost Time isn’t really the narrator—she’s actually one of the characters. Marcel contemplates his last volume in the work—at the end the ideal novel she will write. But even that’s a fantasy—that will never be written. It will always remain: "To be continued."

But it’s this book-within-a-book style—enclosing the parties, dinners, soirees, encounters, salons, hopeless passions, drawing room gossip, receptions, dinner afternoon parties, receptions, concerts, marriages—which attempts to reconstruct the past. Does it work?

Does it work?

Somewhere between certain sensations and memory. Is it always here around us—tastes, smells, touch, sounds that can resurrect some totally unexpected moment out of the forgotten past?

Whether Venice, Guermantes, Sodom or Gomorrah. I can’t stop—but help to notice it. I can’t help but stop and be stunned—by the immediateness of certain untimely coincidences. And yet it happens—out of the blue. Viola. There's Caloub next to me in bed.
My young chicken nephew. He has his own ebb and flow of memory waves—coming and going out of him. And me sitting here in bed, next to him propped up with pillows. Writing and rewriting nonchalantly, over and over again. The phrases "what if" and "To be continued" into the night...

No comments:

Post a Comment