This is my favorite New York Story. There was a new translation of Proust a few years back and someone had it at their house, and I got excited and started asking questions about it and the guy was really evasive.
On the way home, I said, "It seemed like he didn't even read the book."
My boyfriend, a native New Yorker, exploded at me. "OF COURSE HE DIDN'T READ THE BOOK!"
I didn't know people did that. Where I come from, you hide the fact that you read, you don't celebrate it. But you certainly don't fake it either. Which is worse, I don't know. I've certainly lived through both and I guess better a bunch of fake readers than people who consider too much reading at best a little eccentric and at worst dangerous and immoral. My cousin used to sneak romance novels to her best friend, a Pentecostal Holiness girl whose hair was down to her knees at 14 years old. She had to wear Little House on the Prairie dresses every day. The American Taliban is real.
Anyway, I've read In Search of Lost Time all the way through twice, because I am a well-read redneck, and I learned a great deal about people and fin de siecle French culture and history.
One of my favorite observations from him is in regard to the Dreyfus Affair. He basically says some people are Dreyfusards, some people are anti-Dreyfusards, and most people are idiots.
He says that we always think that the people on our side of a political argument came to their views through sound reasoning and an honest, seeking heart, and we think that the people on the other side are over-influenced by their family or tradition or have just never thought clearly enough about the issues to come to a thorough conclusion. But in truth, the people who do that are on both sides, not just one.
I think about that a lot.
Also, in the end, his character was a Dreyfusard and fought several duels about it.
I think about that a lot too.