Flash forward to 3 o'clock on the morning of Saturday, September 13: I'm in a hotel room in Samarkand when I felt the first twinge of what became a Class-IV bout with Tamerlane's Tummy. I'll spare you the details, but I spent most of the next 36 hours either in bed or—well, mostly in bed. To keep me company, I fired up the Ipod and so, for the next day and a half, I drifted in and out of a troubled sleep to the stereophonic sonoroties of Jason's Proustian periods.
A complication was that I seemed to have the Ipod on shuffle, so whatever continuity there may be in the original seems to have been lost in delivery.
The odd—okay, the amazing—thing is that it worked, and indeed pretty well. I know that Proust is famously “complex,” but this is a characterization easily misunderstood. His sentences are coiled and serpentine; “great cathedrals,” I once heard someone say, “of commas and semicolons.” But he is not mischievously secretive like Joyce, or terminally opaque like Henry James. Once you uncoil, Proust makes his position is unmistakably clear—often poignant, sometimes savagely funny, and always penetrating or insightful. You can get it on the page, but in any event Jason gets it, and that's what makes these outtakes such good company in troubled times. Proust as a cure for a far-away gut ache, what a concept.