Un fou + one nut = ?
Grâce aux Proustien(ne)s, je fais de constants progrès en anglais…
Je connaissais deux mots pour dire « fou » : « mad » et « crazy ». Je viens de découvrir « nut », que les dictionnaires traduisent en « cinglé », « timbré » ou « fana ».
Une certaine P Segal (c’est ainsi qu’elle est connue) s’attribue ce qualificatif dans l’expression « I’m a Proust nut ».
Avertissement : cette chronique appartient bien à un blogue proustien, mais il y sera (aussi) question d’un restaurant à San Francisco, du désert du Nevada, des filles du couple Obama et de thérapie… proustienne (Proustian Therapy, dans sa version originale). P Segal est en effet descendante du mouvement dada et des situationnistes, ce qui entraîne quelques zigzags dans le récit.
Contexte : il se trouve que d’inattendue manière, le fou de Proust s’est ouvert le chemin des « States », grâce à de fascinantes passionnées de l’écrivain français — Marcelita Swann, à New York, qui m’a conduit à Debbie Weiss, à Boston, et aujourd’hui à P Segal, dont elle me signale qu’elle a été son « model » (inutile de traduire) et est « a gatherer (rassembleuse) of fellow Proustians and a cheerleader (entre meneuse de claque et pom-pom girl !) for Proust », enfin « definitely off-beat » (excentrique).
Pour ce qui nous concerne, elle a été une pionnière en prousterie en ligne, auteur du premier magazine sur internet, « zine » annonciateur des blogues. C’était entre 1994 et 1998, Proust Said That (http://zacker.info/pst/).
Sur Twitter, l’intéressée se présente comme « writer, restaurateur, therapist, and now life coach and children’s book author. Serious about enjoying life and laughing as much as possible. »
Illustrons certains points :
Ça, c’est elle au premier Burning Man, rencontre artistique déjantée qui se tient tous les ans dans le désert de Black Rock au Nevada, née dans son salon.
Ça, c’est la veillée qu’avec la San Francisco Cacophony Society et The Marcel Proust Support Group elle organise autour du cercueil de Proust.
Ça, c’est le « Caffé Proust », restaurant qu’elle a ouvert dans sa ville en 2000 (et aujourd’hui fermé).
Enfin, ça, c’est un livre pour enfants qu’elle a co-écrit en 2011.
Menant des études de psychologie post-freudienne, P Segal a un projet de cabinet de soins proustiens (libre traduction de « world’s first Proustian Therapy practice »). Elle vient de publier un article qui livre tout à lire sur http://www.saintred.com/archives-may/2015/5/20/proustian-therapy.
D’un « fou » à une « nut » : Let’s go gaga over Proust deeper and more !
Parole de proustiste…
May 21, 2015
by P Segal
It was a convention, in our post-Freudian graduate program in psychology, to begin each class with a new instructor with a round of self-introductions. In turn, we’d tell a bit about ourselves, so the instructor had some idea of our inclinations, interests, and areas of expertise. Everyone in our cohort developed a fairly standard response. When it got to me, a mid-life career changer, I would say, “I’ve been a writer most of my life, owned a restaurant, lived primarily in the arts underground… and I’m a Proust nut.”
One day, as I delivered this abbreviated curriculum vitae, the class tittered when I said “Proust nut,” as they always did, but the instructor’s face went from the “uh-huh, uh-huh” look of registration to an absolute goggle. “A Proust nut? You’re kidding,” he said.
“No, I’m quite serious,” I replied.
“Tell me about that,” he urged, quite ardently, giving my classmates a long breather in which they could stare at the smart phones in their laps.
So I told him about being a member of the San Francisco Cacophony Society, and hosting the 11-month long event, The Marcel Proust Support Group, in which we plowed through Proust at the rate of ten pages a day. We had costumed events at fin-du-siècle venues, where we read our favorite bits to each other, or gathered to watch Monty Python’s “Marcel Proust Summarization Contest,” as well as “Swann in Love.” I dumped the standard answering machine message a few months into the oeuvre and replaced it with a changing series of Proust quotes instead.
As we neared the end of the 3000-plus-page read, I went into withdrawals, and as soon as I got to the last page, I started on biographies, earlier works, letters, critical analyses, and anything else Proust I could find. After that, I began to amuse myself, and my friends, producing a zine called Proust Said That. Shortly after I did the first issue, two techie friends came over and told me they were working on something that was going to be really huge, called the World Wide Web. However, they said, they had very little content so far, and they would love to put Proust Said That online. My zine was the first magazine on the Internet.
When I got to the end of the first biography, I discovered that Proust died on my birthday. The traditional birthday celebration got ditched, along with the standard answering machine message, and I threw annual Proust Wakes instead, serving a life-sized cake of the dead Proust in an art coffin. Of course the wakes were all documented in Proust Said That.
A few years later, I opened a restaurant, and needless to say, it was called Caffè Proust. Since Proust adored Italy, I served Italian food, the cuisine of my people, plus steak frites and madeleines. We made decoupage tables on Proustian themes, with pertinent quotes embedded in the surfaces, played music by composers Proust loved, and had walls of Proust portraits painted by artist friends. Since the restaurant was open in 2000, when the long-awaited biography of Proust by Jacques-Emile Tadié came out, I got a lot of press.
The following year, the economy collapsed, and so did the restaurant. Soon thereafter, I was in graduate school, stunning my new instructor with my Proustian resume. He stopped me on my way out and told me that he also was a Proust addict, and we loitered for an hour discussing it. After that, our discussions of behavioral syndromes fell into an easy Proustian shorthand. We’d speak of “a Duke and Duchess type relationship,” “Legrandin’s secret vice,” and so on.
This instructor, of course, became my thesis advisor, and it should come as no surprise that Proust figured largely in my incredibly long thesis. We discussed the possibility of opening an office together, the world’s first Proustian Therapy practice. We never did, but the idea has only simmered in my unconscious since then. After all, my degree is in Marriage and Family Therapy, which basically is all about human relationships. They’re something that Proust understood as well as anyone with my academic standing—and perhaps better. Psychologists have indeed called him one of our own.
I’m envisioning my new practice and my client list of Proustophiles. We could use, certainly, the same kind of shorthand that my instructor and I bandied about. Clients would have references to describe their issues, such as “I have the same proclivities as the Baron,” or “My mother was a lot like Odette, except she married all her Swanns, divorced them, and then married the de Forchevilles.”
In the post-Freudian tradition, we could follow the lead of the infamous—and for some, inexplicable—Jacques Lacan, and have variable length sessions. Lacan would end a session as soon as his patient had a valuable insight, even if it was two minutes after he or she sat down. Proust himself had a variable length format. He could dispose of 12 years in a sanitarium in a single line, but devote multiple pages to tripping over a cobblestone.
I can imagine how Proustian Therapy variable length sessions might go:
Client: Sorry I’m late. My morning conversation with Mama went overtime.
Proustian Therapist: Do you also have evening conversations with Mama ?
Client: Oh, yes. When I was a child, she used to talk to me while I fell asleep every night, and she would stay in my room if I was upset.
Proustian Therapist: And so, like young Marcel, you lost the Oedipal struggle.
Client: Hmmm. I suppose I did.
Proustian Therapist: Okay, we’re done for today.
On the other hand, variable length sessions could go the other way:
Client: I’m starting to think I need some new friends.
Proustian Therapist: What makes you say that ?
Client: I went to a dinner party the other night, and the conversation had the superficial aspect of sophistication, but there wasn’t any real content.
Proustian Therapist: Can you explain that ?
The client would then go on to describe the guests, their intellectual vapidity, their reliance of the ostensible cleverness of the host to give them something to talk about to others the next day, the closed circle yawning for fresh input, and the criticism voiced by the marginally informed, just like the infamous dinner at the Duke and Duchess of Guermantes’ house that dragged on for over a hundred pages. At the leisurely reading rate of two minutes per page, a therapy session like this could go on for over three hours, keeping the next clients waiting.
However, Proust fans have patience, or they would never get through page after page of tedious dinner party conversation. But such verbal excess informs the reader perfectly why Proust would abandon high society for his own massively intelligent company and retreat to his cork-lined room. So they may have no difficulty waiting for their appointments with the Proustian therapist.
And of course, that which is hard to get is intensely valuable, and consequently worth waiting for, like a reservation at Per Se, or one of those other foodie Meccas in Manhattan. Since I would be, to my knowledge, the world’s only Proustian therapist, my worth to the world of neurotic Prousties would only be enhanced by the difficulty of scheduling sessions. I could charge more for keeping people waiting.
If Proust himself, a notorious night owl, had taken up therapy as a profession, he would have insisted on a late-night scheduling of appointments. No appointments before 10 pm, and the later the session, the higher the hourly rate. This is perfect therapeutic choice for insomniacs. I could read them to sleep with the conversation from dinner chez Guermantes, if they couldn’t calm down.
Although I’m not religious, I do believe that souls last forever, since, as Einstein said, energy can’t be naturally created or destroyed, only mutated into something else, and the soul is nothing but energy. I like to believe that in the afterlife, I’ll be able to lounge around with Proust in a heavenly café, drink endless espressos, and tell him about Proustian Therapy. I’m sure he’ll find it hilarious.