Stephen Evans

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Stephen is a playwright and author of The Marriage of True Minds and A Transcendental Journey. http://www.amazon.com/Transcendental-Journey-Stephen-Evans-ebook/dp/B00IHPLCB6

Stephen’s Way: An American Reads Proust

I like to read and I’m not put usually off by difficult books. I have read War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov, much of Faulkner, most of Joyce. But there are a few books that I have never been able to finish, and so far as I can tell they have nothing in common.

The first is Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstader. It came out a few years after I graduated and was a combination of two things that for me (and possibly only for me) are inseparably linked: philosophy and comedy. I have never been able to read the entire book, mostly because at least once each page I have to stop and think, and once my brain is so activated it seldom circles back to the beginning point. I was lucky if I remembered to mark my place.

The second book is The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. I started this one based on the recommendation of Joseph Campbell, who ranked Mann with James Joyce as the great mytho-centric writers of the Twentieth century. With Mann, you have some choices. I picked The Magic Mountain because Death in Venice was too short, Buddenbrooks (reputedly his masterpiece) too long, so The Magic Mountain seemed just right. Plus it had magic in the title, though as I discovered there were no elves or wizards, at least not as far as I got. I was enjoying The Magic Mountain despite its fantasy-barren nature, but life intervened, the book was packed away, and to date it has not been found. Though I did get one nice poem out it. Still I hope to find my copy one day and begin again.

The third book is  Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, the initial volume in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, which is sometimes poetically translated as Remembrance of Things Past and oddly translated as In Search of Lost Time, which sounds like a story about someone who couldn't find their watch. Proust was a contemporary of both Joyce and Mann. Proust and Joyce met once in a famous encounter where each complained about his health and excused himself (true writerish behavior).

I had a copy of Remembrance of Things Past that somehow resurfaced, which I took as a sign that I should try again. Previously I had made it to the scene with the tea and madeleine, and then gave up, possibly because it made me hungry, though more likely because I felt I had done my duty. The translation I had was the original English translation by C. K. Scott Moncrief, which was regarded as the standard. But after a few pages of this, I decided to switch to a later translation by Lydia Davis. I don’t know which is more Proustean, but Ms. Davis work was slightly livelier and I stuck with it.

In theory I could read it in French. I took eight years of French and can speak but not really pronounce several words at least. I suspect the book is better in the original, and I have the same suspicion about Mann in German and Dante in Italian and Homer in Greek. But for now, and likely forever, I will have to rely on the wonderful work of translators, who so remarkably devote years of their lives to other people’s words.

At this reporting, I am 150 pages into Swann’s Way and I am pretty sure that other than tea and madeleines nothing has happened. But I must say it is not happening marvelously and I can’t wait to see what doesn’t happen next.

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
With your bent for breviloquence, it's surprising you passed up Death in Venice for The Magic Mountain (which I couldn't get on wi... Read More
Thursday, 25 May 2017 12:40
Stephen Evans
Never have so many written so much about so little.
Thursday, 25 May 2017 14:29
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2 Comments

On Rolls the Old World

"The two parties which divide the state, the party of Conservatism and that of Innovation, are very old, and have disputed the possession of the world ever since it was made. This quarrel is the subject of civil history. The conservative party established the reverend hierarchies and monarchies of the most ancient world. The battle of patrician and plebeian, of parent state and colony, of old usage and accommodation to new facts, of the rich and the poor, reappears in all countries and times. The war rages not only in battle-fields, in national councils, and ecclesiastical synods, but agitates every man's bosom with opposing advantages every hour. On rolls the old world meantime, and now one, now the other gets the day, and still the fight renews itself as if for the first time, under new names and hot personalities."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

1841

 

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No One Expects Metasequoia Glyptostroboides

I like trees. This fact will not surprise you if you’ve read this or this.

I’m not exactly sure when this relationship began. But I think it might have been in 1970, on a family vacation to California. We flew out to San Francisco and drove down the coast to LA, stopping for a few days in Yosemite, where I took 1000 or so bad photos, which are now bad and unwatched slides. And somewhere around there we also saw Redwoods.

There were many of them, I think, but not a whole forest of them. And I'm not sure but I beieve we saw one that you could drive through. I don’t really remember how they looked, exactly, or what I thought. But I remember how they made me feel. I remember being surrounded by a sense of immense age, impressed with the realization that there were beings on this earth measured in frames outside the human.   

That was nearly fifty years ago, a long time for me, a moment for them. For some reason over the last few years, I have felt a strong desire to see them again. I’m not sure why, or why now. Maybe I hope something so ancient will make me feel young again. Or maybe just a worry that they, along with so much else, may soon disappear, from erosion or drought or acid rain or who knows. Things disappear – I have learned that. But they also appear.

There is a path behind my house where I walk once or twice most weeks, for the last decade or so. The crooked tree is there, so is the straight one, and most of the others I have written about. I was walking a few days ago when I saw this one.

It’s a redwood. Not a California Redwood, but a Dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, an Asian cousin. It won’t grow as tall as Sequoia sempervirens or a large around as Sequoiadendron giganteum. But it is a redwood. A beautiful one. And it had been there, a hundred yards from my home, for years.

So keep an eye out for redwoods. My new motto is: No one expects Metasequoia glyptostroboides.

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
You're on the button. No one does expect Metasequoia Glyptostroboides Even Dr Johnson would have been put out of countenance! A ... Read More
Wednesday, 26 April 2017 22:21
Stephen Evans
sounds like a lovely visit. red squirrels - don;t think I have ever seen that - makes sense though! we have black or grey here.... Read More
Thursday, 27 April 2017 18:53
Ken Hartke
Much to my surprise, I spotted a couple in our local nursery. It is a joy to touch the foliage. I just wonder how they would manag... Read More
Thursday, 27 April 2017 16:14
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5 Comments

Literary Limerick

One day Harold was writing a play

Which began in the usual way:

Someone came to a party,

and then it got arty

when no body wanted to stay.

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Pinter tends to have that effect on many folk :-)
Thursday, 20 April 2017 14:05
Stephen Evans
Including me!
Friday, 21 April 2017 01:17
333 Hits
2 Comments

Latest Comments

Monika Schott A rickety bridge
18 November 2017
Thanks, Di.
Diane Rampertshammer A rickety bridge
17 November 2017
Pure poetry - very evocative - you are a painter with words..Di
Ken Hartke Lamenting the Lost Art of Conversation
12 November 2017
Thanks for the comments. Rosy -- I look at this sort of social conversation as a healthful thing for...
Rosy Cole First Song
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This is almost like a memory of birth, reviving those sensations, but translated in imagistic terms....
Rosy Cole Lamenting the Lost Art of Conversation
12 November 2017
Oh Ken, how rare that is! A gift. What a lovely sojourn in the byways and an unexpected exchange of ...

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