Wednesday, June 02, 2010

My Proust Boost

Last night after posting my announcement about entering the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge I intended to spend the next several hours reading. But first I took a moment to glance through the GG reading list which I have transferred into my WhizFolder ap and then gone through it title by title, changing the font color on those I have read to blue and those I haven't but intend to read to red.

As I scrolled down the list, my eyes fell on Proust's Swann's Way which triggered a string of memories. First of the Gilmore Girls episodes in which Lorelei was dating Rory's teacher, Max who loaned her his copy of Swann's Way. That beautiful dark blue (leather?) with silver embossed designs on the cover and spine had me nearly drooling every time I saw the scenes it appeared in.

And invariably seeing those scenes or remembering them will trigger memories of the copy of Remembrance of Things Past that I once owned. It wasn't as fancy as Max's but it was nicer than most of the books I ever owned. It contained the whole 7 volume Proust novel in one hard covered book that had slate blue cloth boards with a cream spine with the title and author gold embossed on the spine. Instead of a dust jacket to protect it, it had a slate-blue cardboard box which it slid into. It's pages were rough-cut on the edge opposite the spine and very thin. It had a slate-blue ribbon bookmark attached.

I'd acquired it in a used book store on the Oregon coast in the early 90s for around $8. When I was forced to sell it in 2001 I believe I was given between $10 and $15 for it and a few days later while walking past the Santa Clara, California bookstore I'd sold it to I saw it displayed front and center in the window with a hand-printed sticker I couldn't quite read that was either $30, $50, or $80. My heart sank as my slim hope of buying it back if our luck changed soon enough slipped away. Even at $30 I couldn't have justified it unless we won a mega lottery or the company that had just laid Ed off were to suddenly go public and turn his accumulation of stock options into our docking ship.

Obviously neither of those things happened.

Funny thing is. I'd never done much with the book while I owned it but dip into it at random while handling it with awe, reading a paragraph or a page or even just a sentence. I kept intending to settle in and read it but it wasn't a library book and thus had a hard time competing with those tyrannical due dates.

The memory of that book always carries a weight of regret.

So with all those memories and feelings coursing through me, I decided to find out how much it would cost me to replace the book. Not the exact edition. A paperback or two, or seven maybe. My research taught me that the cheapest option would be a two volume paperback costing around $25 total. Getting the seven volumes individually as paperback would cost between $40 and $80 as they averaged $8-11 apiece. But I couldn't really imagine ordering anything without seeing more than an image of the cover. I really didn't want to get mismatched editions. Plus I really needed to see the font to be sure I would even be able to read it.

Then I thought, what about an ebook. And was about to check the usual sources for the cost when I stopped to think that most if not all of the volumes should be in the public domain by now and I headed to Wikipedia to confirm my memory of the dates and in that article I found the link to Adelaide University which offers all seven volumes three ways: read on line, print or ebook download.

I was going to go with the ebook download but I was unsure of the file format and which ap I would be using to read it with. I'm not all that fond of reading pdf files. I prefer reading straight out of a word processor. Which reminded me of my Whiz ap which I use for all note taking, and rough draft writing and which a few times I've copy/pasted the text of public domain books into. I have all of Shakespeare's plays and long poems stored that way for example. One of the benefits is the ability to control font size. Another is being able to color-code with highlighting, link between sections in the file or between other files, and take notes right into the same file and copy/paste the RTF text into other documents for the purpose of quoting.

I can also bookmark where I leave off by inserting a unique piece of text (like the @ you see in the above screenshot) that I can find via the search function tho if I highlight it with a bright color I can usually find it by a slow scroll.

I can also control the size of the window. I can read faster if I have a larger font and short line of text. Because of my RP or tunnel vision, I easily loose my way when scanning long lines of text and I've found the optimal to be a column containing three or four words or around 20 characters in a 12 to 14 point font.

I'm not sure how long it took me to transfer all seven books into the Whiz file. But however long it was, it could have been half that because I made a major oopsie. I was opening the files one chapter at a time and clicking select all then copy then going to the Whiz and pasting. I had all but the final book completed before I noticed that the chapter I'd just pasted was cut off at the end in the middle of a word. I quickly checked all of the chapters I had and found over half of them with the same problem. Turned out that I had been too trigger happy on the mouse and had done the select and copy before the file had finished opening. So I had to redo at lest three-quarters of the chapters.

After I got them all fixed and finished placing the chapters of the last book, I decided to see what Whiz would say about the word count because I'd been reading that it was considered the longest novel ever published with estimates at 1.5 million words. Well, for the English translation by C. K. Scott Moncrieff and Stephen Hudson (v.7) Whiz counts it at 1.3 million. And that's including the Adelaide added text at the end of each chapter.

Seventeen non-final chapters contain this in the last lines:

Table of Contents Next

Last updated on Tue Jul 14 14:11:03 2009 for eBooks@Adelaide.
That first line was the navigation links.

And at the end of the final chapter of each book Adelaide left their calling card:

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Table of Contents

Last updated on Tue Jul 14 14:11:04 2009 for eBooks@Adelaide.
All of the relevant Adelaide branding of their Creative Commons file has been preserved in a separate section (aka topic) of my Whiz file apart from those containing Proust's text so I could go through the seventeen plus seven chapters removing the excess text but I haven't decided whether to go to the trouble just to get a more accurate word count.

I did a lot of dipping into the text again during and after creating my complete copy. And then I read what probably amounted to several pages of chapter one. There are not page numbers so it is going to be hard to judge progress. other than to count the words in the sections I've read and divide by some number between 380 and 450 for an approximate idea of page count.

I don't know whether I'm going to aim to finish Swann's Way as one of my 20 for the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge as it would be a huge investment in time. All by itself without its six sister novels it stands as one of the longest items on the list. Miller's Sexus, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, War and Peace and Moby Dick would probably surpass it but few if any of the rest. The total word count for Swann's Way is over 198K words and chapter one by itself is almost the length of a novella at over 21K words.

BTW my @ bookmark is 2700 words deep into Overture the first chapter. A tiny, tiny step in a long, long journey.

When I decided to go for the Rory level of 20 items I intended to favor the shorter and easier items like plays, short stories, children's and YA. Though I was planning to choose 2 or 3 more challenging items. I had in mind one of the Jane Austen or Charles Dickens which I have yet to read. But maybe I can plug away a bit each week over the rest of the year the way Rory's Grandpa did over several decades with Gibbon's huge tome.

One of the benefits of having it on my netbook is that it can go anywhere with me. It can go to Longview with me next month without adding a single ounce or cubic inch to my luggage. But the same is true for Jane Austen. Adelaide has every one of her novels.

Oh you should see their complete list of titles. I feel the hoarder in me getting all grabby. Just think of the possibilities. A library of a thousand classics that I can carry in my purse. Granted I lean toward large purses but you get the point.

1 tell me a story:

anagasto 6/07/2010 1:03 AM  

You don't have to read all the volumes. The last ones are not so great, and the first three or four ones are the best. And if you find it a little difficult, since you would probably have to read it in English, you ought to start with "A love of Swann's" which is like a short novel included in the first volume. It is independent of the rest and may have been like a trial run for the complete work.

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