Of Proust, "Bells On," and electronic downsizing

One of the gifts I asked for (and received) for Christmas in 2000 was Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past in its entirety. I started to read it in early 2001, and made it to "Place-Names: The Name," the final chapter of Swann's Way. Then I defected.

For some reason, I was seized last week with the desire to try again. From the beginning. And this time, all the way through--all three volumes, all eight books.

There's something in me that gets determined to finish something, no matter how monumental, no matter how occasionally tedious, and then becomes willing to do so at all costs. Call it commitment, call it stubbornness, call it folly. I call it curiosity and determination.

And so, for the foreseeable future, I have a new bedtime companion: a sometimes insufferable, sometimes hilarious, always verbose French guy with something of a mother fetish. Should make things interesting.

On various mix cd's that came my way from G. over the years, Sloan made an occasional appearance. Their "Penpals" is giddily silly, and "Deeper than Beauty" almost as much so (especially in the line "And your glasses, your hideous glasses," at the end of which you can actually hear the singer's voice crack with laughter).

But I don't think I'd ever heard "Bells On" before I downloaded it (and the rest of Twice Removed) from eMusic last week. It's another thing altogether: achy, angry, ever so slightly bitter, and, ultimately, resigned. All of which is to say: brilliant, and the perfect tune for the legions of angst-ridden and disaffected and sensitive who are drawn to Conor Oberst and his ilk.

I can't stop listening.

Last Saturday night, as I was doing a final once-over of my house to weed out any final additions to my garage sale offerings of the next day, I decided that it was time for my stereo to go. It was a relatively gigantic thing--two cassette decks, a 51-cd changer, two large speakers--that, after the arrival of iTunes in my life, had gotten increasingly little use.

So I emptied it of cd's, dug up the user guide and remote control, typed up a description of it to post at the sale, and felt something in me lift. On Sunday, I sold the unit (for $45), rejoiced in the shelf space the stereo's absence revealed, and promptly bought an iPod dock/speaker set from Amazon.

Over the past week, I've been unloading relatively large swaths of my cd collection online, which has been oddly thrilling. It's the income, to be sure (ignoring the depreciation factor), but it's also an inexplicable sense of moving on and up, of simplifying without really sacrificing. And it's the thrill of finally being able to take advantage of technology's benefits: I may never give up my Filofax for a PDA, and may never feel the urge to do anything more with my cell phone than make and receive calls, but I will gladly trade my huge stereo and hundreds of cd's for a tiny set of speakers and a tiny green iPod.

No comments: