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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Friday, 18 July 2014

Embarrassment - a second try

My late mate Joe (née Plutarch) handled social embarrassment better than I did and yesterday's post, A Little Tit-For-Tat, tried to explore this. It failed and I deleted it. This should be an improvement.

Forty-plus years ago I attended an odd press conference. Joe, sponsored by a forklift company, had written a booklet about forklifts and was conducting the launch. Since Joe was my editor boss I was merely a passive spectator. Another journalist asked the obvious question touching on Joe's impartiality as author. I winced sympathetically and was relieved when Joe responded well.

Thirty years later, as an editor myself, I spoke at a press conference to launch my magazine's logistics exhibition. In the audience were journalists from magazines competing with mine. The issue was: did industry need this new exhibition? I'd prepared myself  and came out on top.

Both occasions had the potential for a special type of embarrassment. I suspect Joe avoided his problem as I avoided mine: through preparation.

But Joe could also avoid wider embarrassment, typically when approached by a street loonie. He embraced the event. Asking questions he defused the awkwardness. Whereas I tended to walk away furtively. Real mates usually have skills one lacks; this was one of Joe's.

FRENCH BIGGIE As hinted I've started re-reading A La Recherche... It fits me like an old shoe. Recommending Proust is far too dangerous but how about an extract now and then?

… awake again for short snatches only, just long enough to hear the regular creaking of the wainscot, or to open my eyes to settle the shifting kaleidoscope of the darkness, to savour, in an instantaneous flash of perception, the sleep which lay heavy upon the furniture, the room, the whole surroundings of which I formed an insignificant part…

3 comments:

Sir Hugh said...

A big improvement.

An analogy from my own world:

walking on level sheep-cropped cliff-top turf compared with walking through a recently felled hillside forest.

Lucy said...

Missed the deleted post I'm afraid.

My nephew's French wife, a very well-travelled health professional has, he says, a deplorable tendency, which one would think her worldly wisdom would preclude, to make eye-contact with the nutter, and then have difficulty extricating herself. Asking questions, the right ones anyway, might be a good way of dealing with the matter. As I've told you, I was once in a situation with Joe where he was visibly wearying and wanting to extricate himself from a tiresome stranger's waylaying, but there's much to be said for making as many experiences as one can into assets, though it's not something I'm very good at. I am pondering 'real mates have skills one lacks'.

That Proust does sound lovely. I've a couple of volumes of that newer translation, I think, in print, but never got very far with it, I think partly because Joe was iffy about it and defended Scott Moncrieff. Heather of course was just sniffy, that anyone might bother with an English version at all, and pretended barely to know of Moncrieff. This even though, as I understand, to some extent he collaborated with Proust and it can certainly be considered a very respectable work on its own account.

Anyway, lately I've got the French and Moncrieff of Swann's Way onto the Kindle (have they only just come out of copyright? Seem to remember I couldn't get them before), and will have a go at reading them in parallel, which the Kindle facilitates greatly and I do enjoy doing, though it's still slow going. Also listening to the audio book again in snatches with pleasure.

Roderick Robinson said...

Sir Hugh: The previous post made assumptions that were unwarranted. That readers are as familiar with my stuff as I am. This one makes the further point that embarrassment can arrive from unexpected sources.

Lucy: One reaction is prominent via its omission. None of us is recommending we should be sympathetic towards nutters. And I should think not!

In the past I've read Proust too quickly, keen to have the achievement behind me. This time I'm closer to luxuriating in the prose. What is remarkable is that his style, parenthetical insertions excepted, is based on quite simple language. His epiphanies often grow out of familiar domestic matters, transmuted by his superhuman observations. The madeleine experience occurs quite early on and is much longer than I remember. A story in itself. I hope we are able to swap chewy little morsels as we proceed.