Proust and Sushi

February 2, 2012

I’ve been reading a book titled, Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence by George Michelson Foy. The title appealed to the esoteric in me, so I bought it. In the book, Mr. Foy travels the world measuring the decibels of various environments with his Kawa meter; from his kitchen at midnight to an anechoic chamber that the Guinness Book of World Records dubbed the ‘quietest place on Earth’. It is as much a spiritual investigation into the nature and effects of sound and silence, as a scientific one.  It’s also a thought provoking read and a commendable piece of journalism.

One of the places he ‘measured’ for decibels was Marcel Proust’s bedroom at Boulevard Haussmann in Paris. Apparently Proust didn’t like noise any more than I do, and so he lined his bedroom, where he wrote propped up upon pillows in his bed, with corkboard to insulate himself from the clamor of the busy Paris streets below.  This is where Mr. Foy stole my heart. He actually disclosed, in copyrighted words, for all to see, the fact that he never had the patience to finish a Proust novel.  I breathed a sigh of relief because neither have I, although I’ve tried numerous times. Foy’s reasons for his impatience with Proust were because of the, “pages and pages of details about who was wearing what as she met so-and-so who thought himself superior to the next person with such and such a title.” I couldn’t have said it better myself other than to maybe add that reading Proust feels like listening to that woman down the street that you avoid engaging in conversation because once she starts talking, she never shuts up. I have to pick through Proust to find his little literary gems, then I’m done. And like that lady down the street, I want to create an excuse about my cat dying, so I can go home. Foy’s admission took as much courage to confess, as did his mile-long underground descent into a Canadian nickel mine to measure decibels. After all, we are talking about the Marcel Proust here. In literary circles, admitting such things is like a Japanese chef declaring that he doesn’t eat Sushi.  I’ve kept it concealed for years like…um…closet drinking or foot fetishes. I’ve almost been ashamed that I do not appreciate Proust, as if I should enjoy reading him simply because he is the Marcel Proust and therefore, above some yet-to-be scribed literary law.

Oh well, my secret is out. I can now breathe easier. Thank you, Mr. Foy.

And by the way, I don’t like sushi either.

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