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briefly on Balzac and bussing dishes

"One Step Forward" from Philadelphia's Rodin Museum
I've never read Balzac, and have had always had mixed feelings for prolific novelists who were widely read while they were alive, but I just read past Elif Batuman's mention of the French writer in her The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, and it reminded me that I'd shared "One Step Forward" on facebook earlier in the day. An imagined essay I've drafted but never completed is on my brief literary tour of Philadelphia's Rodin Museum. This "tourism" includes a statue and "statuette" of Balzac: Rodin's "Colossal Head of Balzac," which I have always called, "Bust of Balzac" and the parody, "One Step Forward," which I have called "Balzac in the Shape of a Seal."

The Batuman is fun reading, and I've just made it to the Dostoevsky section toward the end. His novel The Possessed is important to me because the old hardcover Constance Garnett translation of it is one I borrowed from Shakespeare and Company when I was "un commis," bussing dishes in Paris, France many moons ago. On Wednesday in Clemson, I'll be reading from a story that includes some detail from those travels as an undergrad taking time off from college.


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