Friday, January 8, 2016

A Proustian Bargain

Mom and I were standing out in her back yard. Boogie waddled into the snow and sniffed around.

"There you go, Boog," Mom said. "There's a spot over there. Come on, Boog. He's looking around for a spot to pee. Oh, he's found one, I think. Nope, still sniffing... Come on, Boog..."

"Mom, it's really not necessary to narrate."

"Oh, good boy! Good boy!"

We went back inside and then went off to Perkins to do our own sniffing and peeing. For Christmas, I had bought Mom the first volume of My Struggle by Hit-- I mean, Karl Ove Knausgaard. I sort of meant it as a joke, but not the ha-ha kind. Now the non-ha-ha joke was on me since Mom was actually reading it.

"What's the point of it?"

"What do you mean?"

Mom made a face. "I don't understand. He talks about making coffee and using the bathroom and so many other trivial things. What's the point, though?"

"It's life, I guess. In all it's toilet-centric glory."

"But why does he have to write so much of it? It goes on for so many pages. I don't understand."

"It's like Proust, actually. He's getting compared to Proust a lot."

Mom looked perplexed. "Is he the devil?"

"Who? Proust?"

"Or did he do something with the devil...?"

I had to think a moment. "Oh, I think you mean Faust. Right? Faust made a bargain with the devil."

"That's who I mean, I guess. So who is Prowst?" Mom twisted her mouth around the weird French name as if saying something infinitely filthy.

"Proust wrote a very long novel about a guy who eats a pastry and then remembers where he put his car keys."

"But there's no devil?"

"No! Unless you mean the devil made him eat the pastry. Actually, that sounds pretty good. The great story of pastry sin."

Mom's stack of waffles came. The sinning was about to commence.

"I still don't understand the point."

"Well, what was the point of the new Star War movie?"

"That's easy," Mom said. "It's about good being good, and evil being bad."

"Mm. You know, Riffel has seen it three times already."

"Oh, he's such a nice man! I've always liked him."

"And Andy thought it was flaming space garbage."

"He's terrible! How could he think that? Oh, he just hates everything, doesn't he, just like you. I suppose that's why you two are friends."

"Yeah. We're great."

"Hmmp!" Mom stuffed waffle into her death star.

"Okay, so what about Gone Girl (Mom's all-time favorite novel)? What's the point of that?"

Mom's eyes lit up. "Oh! She wasn't really dead. She was only pretending to be dead, and she got everyone to think that, even her husband."

"Oka-a-ay. So what would the point of Knausgaard be, do you think?"

"I don't know!" Mom's cheek bulged with waffle goodness. "That's why I'm asking you."

"I have to admit I don't know."

"The point?"

"Yes, the point."

"There is none, I bet."

"No. None. And isn't it beautiful?"

Mom chewed. She looked at me. Then she forked up a link, and shook it over my plate.


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