Some time ago, I examined my own Proustian petulance. I even looked at all my Proust books and realized that as much as I wanted to feign disinterest in this latest craze called rediscovering Proust (and/or acting like you've only just discovered him for the first time, my singular irritation on the matter), I have a lot of Proust books. A lot. A quick glance at my shelves (yes, still color-coordinated but not for long, I assure you) would leave one with the distinct impression that I'm into Proust. Big time. We can discuss the merits of such an assumption at a later date.
What I noticed during that Proustian book tally, was that I was missing - nay, was looking very much forward to possessing - a certain book by Jonah Lehrer: Proust Was a Neuroscientist.
First off, there are some annoying things about Lehrer that we should get out of the way at once. At 25 (really, he's only 25), he has already managed to be a Rhodes Scholar in addition to writing this fine book. Annoying, I know. He also happens to be the editor of Seed Magazine. Ugh. Overacheivers. He has also been a cook at Melisse, Le Cirque and Le Bernardin. I know, ridiculous, right? He also runs the terribly interesting The Frontal Cortex blog. Had enough? Me too.
Nonetheless, I'm told this book is worth my time but that I must accept one trait of the book that my Proustian self may not wish to embrace: the entire book is not about Proust. For shame! Instead, the book focuses on how many artists & writers (Proust included) discovered essential truths about the mind well before science ever did.
Lehrer will be at Dutton's tonight @ 7pm to discuss his book and to no doubt make us all feel like we've been sitting on our lazy duffs doing absolutely nothing with our lives. Or, he might inspire us. Who knows.
If you can't make it out tonight (and there's so much going on, I don't know that I will), I offer you a great Bookforum piece by Jenny Davidson that looks at Lehrer's book as well as Maryanne Wolf's Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. A brief excerpt:
"Writers don’t use scissors and scalpels to cut brains open and look inside, but like neuroscience, literature may take the mind as its object of inquiry. The name of one novelist in particular seems to have become the watchword for those interested in exploring parallels between the disciplines, and Marcel Proust’s musings on mind spur two happy recent couplings between neuroscience and the humanities."
Indeed. I'd like to hunker down with both books, ignoring all phone calls, all emails and all knocks on the door, only resurfacing after I've read both books and drawn my own mind parallels. You?