Sunday, February 19, 2017

My Years With Proust - Day 379

However, in that rhythmical oscillation which leads from a declaration to a quarrel (the surest, the most effectively perilous way of forming by opposite and successive movements a knot which will not be loosened and which attaches us firmly to a person), in the midst of the movement of withdrawal which constitutes one of the two elements of the rhythm, of what uses is it to analyze further the refluences of human pity, which, the opposite of love, though springing perhaps unconsciously from the same cause, in any springing perhaps unconsciously from the same cause, in any case produce the same effects? When we count up afterwards the sum of all that we have done for a woman, we often discover that the actions prompted by the desire to show that we love her, to make her love us, to win her favours, bulk scarcely larger than those due to the human need to repair the wrongs that we do to the loved one, from a mere sense of moral duty, as thought we did not love her.
Marcel Proust, Cities of the Plain, pp. 860-861

First off, note to self: use the word refluence more in polite company.

Secondly, as I've proposed on this blog previously, one of my regrets in my failed first marriage (well, as I've said to my ex-wife, it you were together and looked after each other for close to a quarter century I have trouble calling it it a total failure) is that I didn't fight enough.  Instead, I either withdrew (still one of my failings) or I just tried to make things right and get through the day.  Re-reading this passage from Proust made me think of blacksmiths (and my ex-student and friend Andrew Smith who has taken up blacksmithery as a hobby) and how they work metal, constantly heating it and beating it and then re-heating it, with the result that the resulting piece is much stronger and longer-lasting.  Maybe this is what arguments, or, at least, in Proust's words, the "rhythmical oscillation", do: they strengthen the relationship by forging and reforging it.  So, avoiding arguments doesn't prolong the relationship; rather, it just leaves it fragile.  Why do I think of these things in my late 50s?  This might have proven valuable information when I was married.  Stupid Proust.  Actually, I'm the stupid one for reading the first couple volumes of Remembrance of Things Past so casually two decades ago.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Discography - Week 44

And we've reached Week 44 of our year-long Discography music discussion.  I'm not saying that we're still pissed off about Trump and that we're still depressed, but we are starting off with a World War I poem . . .

In honor of the esteemed Dave Kelley, but more generally as an homage to life, death and memory:

"Dulce Et Decorum Est"
Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through the sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep.  Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod.  All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling.
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plungers at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gurgling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent from some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Gary Beatrice

My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges

"It ain't evil if it don't hurt anybody."

Is Jim James a hippy or a libertarian?

I don't know and I don't care, at least 2/3 of the way through when James' falsetto gives way to the fantastic instrumental break / speed up. To me MMJ is all about the sound. And "Evil Urges", with its funk/ soft rock / disco/ rock 'n roll mash up, delivers.

Dave Wallace

Bruce Springsteen - The Ghost of Tom Joad

Originally the title track of a largely acoustic album, Springsteen revived The Ghost of Tom Joad with an incendiary live version featuring Tom Morello on guitar and guest vocals.  They then recorded a studio version for the High Hopes album.  Their version only amped up the the original's anger and rage at our country's amnesia of the neglected and abused.  And, of course, quoting Tom Joad's famous speech is guaranteed to warm the cockles of the heart of anyone who loves Grapes of Wrath.

Kathy Seiler

Nikka Costa - So Have I For You 

My newer playlists are getting a little stagnant so I've gone back to some albums I haven't listened to in a while. Nikka Costa isn't terribly well known as a singer but she's got a funk/soul/blues vibe and some great lyrics to her songs. This week's selection is from her "Everybody Got Their Something" album from 2001. She hasn't seemed to do much musically in the last several years.

This song expresses how the current state of affairs of our country makes me feel, which is pissed off and subjected to the dominating views of a bunch of idiotic middle-aged white men (no offense to the readers intended, I'm not generalizing to anything other than the GOP). It seems there is backward movement on every front right now; immigration, environmental issues, vaccination attitudes, women's reproductive rights (I am NOT a "host", Oklahoma)... shall I go on?  The song expresses the feelings of constantly being subjected to someone else's rules and has some lovely analogies in it, including my favorite: 

"Just like sea has spent eternity at the mercy of the moon, so have I for you"  

To its credit, the song has a message of rising above the subjugation and choosing to be positive, both in lyrics and musically at one point, where it starts to remind me of songs from the 60's. I haven't managed to channel that positivity yet, but maybe if I put the song on replay I'll manage it.

Mike Kelly

Gravity's Gone -- Drive by Truckers 

Earlier in the week, Scudder reported that some members of this community think Mike Cooley is only the third-best songwriter in Drive By Truckers. This is patently false.  This bad hombre can turn a phrase and is probably the only person profiled on this discography that has coined a phrase in Urban Dictionary. Here- look.

Even though this should be enough to settle this nonsense, let's take a look at a classic Mike Cooley verse from this song:  

"Those little demons ain't the reasons for the bruises on your soul you've been neglecting
You'll never lose you're mind as long as you're heart always reminds you where you left it
And don't ever let them make you feel like saying what you want is unbecoming
If you were supposed to watch you're mouth all the time I doubt you're eyes would be above it"

So there's a lot here. One of the things about the Ever South is that rarely do people come right out and say what they mean and so when it happens, it's refreshing and surprising and mostly leads to good things.  MC knows this and wrote a whole verse about it in this song of excellence.  It speaks to how he's the whole region's wise big brother whose advice you don't necessarily always want, but always need.  From songs like Surrender Under Protest which tells hard truths about the confederate flag to songs like Ghost to Most which reminds people to be conscious of the fact we all have our own shit to attend to, Mike Cooley sees it the way it ought to be seen.  

He's that friend who you take to breakfast the day after a night's worth of bad choices and helps you maintain perspective. He's that rock star I could teach in Rhetoric I about concisely saying original things and he's easily the best songwriter in the DBT.  

Dave Kelley

Let me begin with two warnings.  This is very stream of consciousness and contains not one, not two, but three songs.

My late father saw combat action in Europe in the Second World War.  One of my most prized possessions is a bunch of letters he wrote home to his parents while overseas.  Recently I spent an evening in my recliner with several pours of bourbon reading a number of the letters.  It is odd in a good way to read such letters written by your father more than fifteen years before you were born.  I recognize aspects of the man I knew growing up, but other parts of his writing are from a version of the man that was but a shadow by the time that I came into being.  That propelled me to ruminate about who we are.  Our twenty year old self, our forty year old self, our fifty four year old self.......?  Or are we an amalgam of all of our selves.  Methinks that is a subject better left to a Scudder class exercise than my superficial ass.  

The lunatic currently occupying the Oval Office certainly has the ability to drag our nation into at least one foreign war.  He and some of his team share the same vision of the world as a dark, dangerous, and evil place that jihadists have.  Last weekend I pulled into the grocery store parking lot and saw a woman who appeared to be in her fifties emerging from her car.  On her car was a bumper sticker that listed he name of a male, the fact that he was a Marine, and writing indicated that he had been "deployed to heaven" several years ago.  I can only guess that it was his Mom.  She also appeared very sad.  Now maybe she was sad because she had a headache, recently been laid off, or had had an argument with her husband a few hours before.  I of course leapt to the assumption that she was sad because her boy had been killed overseas.  I instantly got choked up and needed a minute to compose myself before getting out of my car.   

All of the above led to my selections this week.

"Momma Bake aPie."    Written by Tom T. Hall.  Recording by Drive By Truckers".

Tom T. Hall is a criminally underrated songwriter IMHO.  He wrote this song during the Vietnam War about a young man who has lost his legs in combat flying home to reunite with his family.  The fact the he attempts humor and tries to be nonchalant only makes it more powerful to me.

"Momma bake a pie
Daddy kill a chicken
Your son is coming home
11:35 Wednesday Night."

"Momma will be crying and Daddy's gonna say
Son, did they treat you good?
My uncle will be drunk and he'll say
Boy they're doing some real great things with wood."

"The War"  Lucero

Parts of this song remind me of things my Dad told me about the war.  Other parts are the point of view of a man very different than my dad.  This is an autobiographical song about the writer's grandfather.

"Three times I made sergeant
I'm not that kind of man
And pretty much as quick as I could
I'd get busted back to private again
Cause taking orders never suited me
Giving them out was much worse
I could not stand to get my friend killed
so I took care of myself first"

I'd be no guest at the table of the Lord
His food was not to be mine
Cause I cursed his name every chance that I could
And I reckon that's why I'm still alive."

"With a Memory Like Mine"  Darrell Scott. 

Told not from the point of view of a soldier but instead of a father waiting for a train to return the body of his son killed at war.

"In a little country graveyard
on a dark and dreary day
They laid a flag upon the casket
and the casket in the grave

I couldn't stand it any longer
And I knew not how to pray
I cried Oh Lord I hate to leave him
All alone beneath that clay

I can see him as a baby
I can hear him call my name
I can feel him under fire
And I see him rising from the flames"

I am not a parent, but this song reduces me to a puddle of goo whenever I hear it.

To end, I would highly recommend reading "Dulce Et Decorum Est".  It is a great poem written by Wilfred Owen who served in WWI.  The fact that he was killed in action before the war ended only adds to its power.

Gary Scudder

This post was inspired by the esteemed Gary Beatrice, who has forgotten more about music than I will ever know.  He pointed out a few weeks ago how Mike Cooley has grown as a singer/songwriter for the Drive-By Truckers, especially after Jason Isbell left the band.  I think he's always been a really good songwriter and I think he's becoming a great songwriter.  Mike Kelly and I had one of the great "Dude!"/bromance/hug-it-out moments at the Drive-By Truckers concert when they played Marry Me, one of my favorite songs and I one I promoted months ago.  So, with this in mind, I'd like to talk about two Cooley songs:

Drive-By Truckers, Surrender Under Protest and Primer Coat

I'd argue that, as much as I love Patterson Hood, it's actually Cooley who has written the best songs on the last two albums.  A lot has been said about Surrender Under Protest, and rightfully so, and it was my pre-concert pick to start the DBT set (my son correctly picked Ramon Casiano, in itself another great Cooley song).  It takes a talented (and ballsy) songwriter to take a line like "compelled but not defeated" from the Southern Lost Cause mythology, and turn it upside down and make it an anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement - and then Cooley takes a step back and reflects how we sadly insist on always being the "other's other."  English Oceans, their previous album, is an oddly overlooked DBT album, and Cooley's Primer Coat has quickly become one of my favorite songs.  It deals with another Lost Cause: life.  Now, understand that I'm not waving a white flag, and my friends will tell you that I kick back as hard as anyone.  Instead, I guess my point is that like the original Lost Cause, life is shaped as much by the mythology of a stolen victory, in this case it's a man whose youth and vitality and relevance are stolen by the passing of time, emphasized by a wedding (as it often is).  In this case we're really talking about two weddings, that of his daughter coming up and the memory of his own.  His wife, probably because women are more in tune with the constant flow of life and death, takes it much better. "It comes to women and they survive but when the same comes to men/ Someone comes for their babies, something dies there and then."

I love the description of the girl in the parking lot, and it's classic Cooley:

"Slinging gravel in the parking lots and looking tough on the hood
A girl as plain as primer coat leaves nothing misunderstood
Her mother and I through trembling lips, a steady hand on his own
The future of every rebel cause, when all the fighting is gone."

It's only after a few listenings that you realize that there are generations crossing in this song, and that the "girl as plain as primer coat" could either be the man's wife or his own daughter. And here's the thing, primer coat may be plain, but without it the paint job doesn't last as long.  So the song is really told from several perspectives, and it reflects on an upcoming wedding but also on the passing of time.

"My sister's marrying in the spring and everything will be fine
Mama's planning the wedding, Daddy's planning on crying
She's slipping out of her apron strings, you'd best leave him be
He's staring through his own taillights and gathering speed."

As I stumble, "Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed," towards my 60s, I appreciate the line, "He's staring through his own taillights and gathering speed."

Yes, the "future of every rebel cause, when all the fighting is gone."

Cyndi Brandenburg

Here is one is not about DBT in general or Mike Cooley in particular, even though I'm a fan despite that unfortunate phrase he coined (and I witnessed that "dude!"/bromance/hug-it-out moment, which was truly a beautiful thing to behold--talk about scattered moments of joy).  

When in doubt, Wilco always works.

Sometimes, adulthood feels dreary even when life is arguably pretty great and contains moments of joy scattered all over the place.   The reality that this is what we get, that what appears so under control is actually a ruse for how much is out of our control, can be downright depressing.  Plus, Donald Trump sure isn't helping matters.  He actually takes that sense of things being out of control from the self-indulgent to the "holy shit this world's truly going to bloody hell" level.  But driving home from work yesterday, I noticed that the feeling that set in wasn't about any of that.  It was actually simpler, predicated on something more basic. It was loneliness, which is weird, given the crowd of smiling faces and the room full of love I had literally just left behind.

The constructs of contemporary American adult life naturally lead this way, I suppose.  And with maturity and responsibility, we smile, and join in, and keep at it, because running recklessly away or driving off into the distance doesn't work.  What was once overt teen angst morphs into something subtler and deeper--a loneliness that we can try to fight, but that in the end, we just have to learn to live with.

Phillip Seiler

Everything But the Girl “Missing

I think you would be hard pressed to write a more brilliant lyric than “And I miss you/ like the deserts miss the rain”. At first, it seems so obvious and simplistic (junior high poetry!) Of course the deserts miss the rain. The absence of rain is what makes a desert a desert! But then, you start to see the brilliance of this little phrase. How do deserts miss rain? Do they long for that which never comes? Is it momentary joy in between long droughts of longing? Do the deserts resent the rain for staying away? Is it all just echoes and faint memories of what was?

And then to have it sung by the incomparable Tracey Thorn. Oh there is a voice full of crystal clear longing or despair or mystery or all of these. And just when you can’t imagine Ben Watt’s accompaniment getting much better at capturing the yearning and the loss? Moment 2:24, the music begins to fall away. First the guitar, bass and drums, then the strings (except for a beautiful, diminishing echo of what was last played), until it is just Thorn and the synth. Will the song fade away, fall apart, turn to dust? No. Everything returns and life crashes back in. Or maybe the pain returns or the longing fails to subside into acceptance.

You, dear listener get to decide. It’s a Rorschach blot in musical form.  
(If you have never heard their cover of Only Living Boy In New York, you can fix that here.

My Years With Proust - Day 378

She looked so sweet, so wistfully docile, as though her whole happiness depended on me, that I could barely restrain myself from kissing - with almost the same kind of pleasure that I should have had in kissing my mother - this new face which no longer presented the lively, flushed mien of a cheeky and perverse kitten with its little pink tip-tilted nose, but seemed, in the plenitude of its crestfallen sadness, moulded in broad, flattened, dropping slabs of pure goodness.  Leaving aside my love as thought it were a chronic mania that had no connexion with her, putting myself in her place, I let my heart melt at the sight of this sweet girl, accustomed to being treated in a friendly and loyal fashion, whom the good friend that she might have supposed me to be had been pursuing for weeks past with persecutions which had at last arrived at their culminating point.  It was because I placed myself at a standpoint that was purely human, external to both of us, from which my jealous love had evaporated, that I felt for Albertine that profound pity, which would have been less profound if I had not loved her.
Marcel Proust, Cities of the Plain, p. 860

"I thus appeared at one and the same time to be apologising to her, as for a want of courtesy, for this inability to begin loving her again, and to be seeking to make her understand the psychological reasons for that incapacity as thought they had been peculiar to myself."  This sentence is from the page before, as Marcel and Albertine are discussing their relationship, and he is trying to explain to her, and to himself, and to the universe, why he doesn't and can't love her again.  As someone once told me in a similar situation, "yeah, and how's that going for you?"  As they are talking Marcel finds that Albertine is transforming in front of him, "this new face which no longer presented the lively, flushed mien of a cheeky and perverse kitten with its little pink tip-tilted nose, but seemed, in the plenitude of its crestfallen sadness, moulded in broad, flattened, dropping slabs of pure goodness." He finds that his jealous love "had evaporated," and instead he "felt for Albertine that profound pity, which would have been less profound if [he] had not loved her."

I also find it interesting that he writes, "that I could barely restrain myself from kissing - with almost the same kind of pleasure that I should have had in kissing my mother - this new face . . ."  Many times I've talked about one of my favorite books, Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, which, as all right-thinking individuals know, is the greatest American novel.  In the wonderful chapter "Death," which I often have my students read, the main protagonist, as much as the novel has a main protagonist, reflects upon the death of his mother, and how her unexpected passing had caused him to have to cancel a date with a woman he loved, or thought he loved, and it annoys him.  He has this thought while sitting in the room with his shrouded mother, and he has this thought that not only is she not dead (pretty common) but that she is actually vibrant and young beneath the sheets.  The result is a wonderful and unsettling psycho-sexual moment worthy of Freudian psychology, which, to be fair, was at it's peak when Anderson was writing - but which also fits in beautifully with this comment from Proust (writing at about the same time).  Maybe this all makes sense, at least to me, in that it proves, not that Marcel loves Albertine, but rather that he doesn't love her.  It seems to me that Marcel loved his grandmother unconditionally, but that, while he loved his mother, he always felt cut off from her love (wow, let's talk about Freudian) or at least that he never had enough time or attention from her (going back to that extraordinary scene at the beginning of the novel where he, as a child, waits in the room for his mother to sneak up to see him).  Isn't his relationship with Albertine a mirror of his relationship with his mother?  Aren't they both relationships which are unfulfilling and maddeningly just out of touch, and which are never truly consummated?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Zanzibar Again? and again

Sometimes I reflect upon the words of my wonderful friend Sarah Cohen, who one time opined (delivering the lines with a mixture of affection and exasperation), "You know who has your life?  No one has your life!"  I don't think my life is as dramatic as she suggests, but I have been very fortunate (although, I will add that I can't remember too many times when anyone actually just handed me something; it may pain me to admit this, but I've worked really hard - although, as my friend Debi would propose, my marginal success is mainly based on being tall).  I mention this simply because I'm heading back to Zanzibar again - and then again.  We're currently interviewing students for a unique year-long interdisciplinary class that we've cooked up, which will include a two week trip to Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar (including Pemba) during our winter break.  Last year's trip was so amazing that we decided to just blow it up - if one class was fantastic, then why not two?  If one week was extraordinary, why not two?  The logic seems essentially flawless.  By way of prep we're heading back in May for a week, which we're in the middle of planning.  So, by next January I'll be strolling around Stone Town for a fourth time, which doesn't even make sense.

I may be crazy, but I have this suspicion that the beach in Zanzibar will be more pleasant in January than the shore of Lake Champlain in Vermont.

My Years With Proust - Day 377

Why should chance have brought it about, when she is simply an accident placed in the path of our surging desires, that we should ourselves be the object of the desires that she feels?  And so, while feeling the need to pour out to her all those sentiments, so different from the merely human sentiments that our neighbour inspires in us, those highly specialised sentiments which are those of lovers, after having taken a step forward, in avowing to the one we love our passion for her, our hopes, we are overcome at once by the fear of offending her, and ashamed too that the language we have used to her was not fashioned expressly for her, that it has served us already, will serve us again for others, that if she does not love us she cannot understand us, and that we have spoken in that case with the lack of taste and discretion of a pedant who addresses an ignorant audience in subtle phrases which are not for them; and this fear and shame provoke the counter-rhythm, the reflux, the need, if only by first drawing back, hotly denying the affection previously confessed, to resume the offense and regain respect and domination; the double rhythm is perceptible in the various periods of a single love affair, in all the corresponding periods of similar love affairs, in all those people who self-analysis outweighs their self-esteem.  If it was however somewhat more forcefully accentuated than usual in this speech which I was now making to Albertine, this was simply to allow me to pass more rapidly and more vigorously to the opposite rhythm which would be measured by my tenderness.
Marcel Proust, Cities of the Plain, p. 858

I think this passage exists somewhere between Neil Young's I Believe in You and the Drive-By Truckers' Pauline Hawkins.  What is the logic of love?  If Proust is to believed, at least at that moment, precious little: "Why should chance have brought it about, when she is simply an accident placed in the path of our surging desires, that we should ourselves be the object of the desires that she feels?"  There is also a shame and remorse in Proust's words as he reflects on the dishonesty of love and desire: "we are overcome at once by the fear of offending her, and ashamed too that the language we have used to her was not fashioned expressly for her, that it has served us already, will serve us again for others . . ." Every single one of us, if we have a shred of honesty and self-knowledge, will cringe at that line.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Years With Proust - Day 376

Albertine incited Andree to actions which, without going very far, were perhaps not altogether innocent; pained by this suspicion, I would finally succeed in banishing it.  No sooner was I cured of it than it revived under another form.  I had just seen Andree, with one of those graceful gestures that came naturally to her, lay her head lovingly on Albertine's shoulder and kiss her on the neck, half shutting he eyes; or else they had exchanged a glance; or a remark had been made by somebody who had seen them going down together to bathe: little trifles such as habitually float in the surrounding atmosphere where the majority of people absorb them all day long without injury to their health or alteration of their mood, but which have a morbid effect and breed fresh suffering in a nature predisposed to receive them.  Sometimes even without my having seen Albertine, without anyone having spoken to me about her, I would suddenly call to mind some memory of her with Gisele in a posture which had seemed to me innocent at the time but was enough now to destroy the peace of mind that I had managed to recover; I had no longer any need to go and breathe dangerous germs outside - I had, as Cottard would have said, supplied my own toxin.  I thought then of all that I had been told about Swann's love for Odette, of the way in which Swann had been tricked all his life.  Indeed, when I come to think of it, the hypothesis that made me gradually build up the whole of Albertine's character and give a painful interpretation of every moment of a life that I could not control in its entirety, was the memory, the rooted idea of Mme Swann's character, as it had been described to me.  These accounted contributed towards the fact that, in the future, my imagination played with the idea that Albertine might, instead of being the good girl that she was, have had the same immorality, the same capacity for deceit as a former prostitute, and I thought of all the sufferings that would in that case have been in store for me if I had happened to love her.
Marcel Proust, Cities of the Plain, p. 832

Marcel, despite his earlier protestations that he was not a jealous person, is certainly suffering over Albertine.  One wonders how much of this is a deliberate attempt on Albertine's part to inflict pain on him.  Proust tells us, "I had just seen Andree, with one of those graceful gestures that came naturally to her, lay her head lovingly on Albertine's shoulder and kiss her on the neck, half shutting he eyes; or else they had exchanged a glance; or a remark had been made by somebody who had seen them going down together to bathe . . ."  If these are unconscious actions on the part of Albertine and Andree then they are remarkably self-confident or largely oblivious to the world around them, and especially the pain that they were causing Marcel.  All of this makes me think that they are consciously doing their best to inflict pain, although, as we've seen, he's hardly blameless and not above treating Albertine fairly shabbily and provoking arguments.  As we know, once jealousy takes over then it seldom ends gracefully, and Marcel even finds himself reflecting back on "some memory of her with Gisele in a posture which had seemed to me innocent at the time but was enough now to destroy the peace of mind that I had managed to recover."  He even begins to compare his situation to that of Swann and his long-standing struggles with Odette, and fears that he, too, will end up "tricked all his life."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Years With Proust - Day 375

But Albertine had at once turned back towards me a gaze which nevertheless remained strangely still and dreamy. Mlle Bloch and her cousin having finally left the room after laughing very loud and uttering the most unseemly cries, I asked Albertine whether the little fair one (the one who was the friend of the actress) was not the girl who had won the prize the day before in the procession of flowers. "I don't know," said Albertine, "is one of them fair? I must confess they don't interest me particularly, I never looked at them.  Is one of them fair?" she asked her friends with a detached air of inquiry.  When applied to people whom Albertine passed every day on the front, this ignorance seemed to me too extreme to be entirely genuine.  "They didn't appear to be looking at us much either," I said to Albertine, perhaps (on the assumption, which I did not however consciously envisage, that Albertine loved her own sex) to free her from any regret by pointing out to her that she had not attracted the attention of these girls and that, generally speaking, it is not customary even for the depraved of women to take an interest in girls whom they do not know. "They weren't looking at us?" Albertine replied without thinking.  "Why, they did nothing else the whole time." "But you can't possibly tell," I said to her, "you had your back to them." "Well then, what about that?" she replied, pointing out to me, set in the wall in front of us, a large mirror which I had not noticed and upon which I now realised that my friend, while talking to me had never ceased to fix her beautiful preoccupied eyes.
Marcel Proust, Cities of the Plain, pp. 830-831

Marcel and Albertine continue their cat mouse which is as much about deciphering her sexuality as it is about the tortured nature of their relationship.  In response to a question about the appearance of Bloch's sister and her cousin, Albertine, feigning indifference, asks, "I don't know, is one of them fair?"  Marcel admits that he "did not however consciously envisage that Albertine loved her own sex."  On the one hand a reader today would say, "seriously? well duh," although I suspect that this response is as anachronistic as Proust's failure to make the connection.  In today's age when homosexuality or bi-sexuality is much more readily accepted, I guess I would argue that making that connection would be a more natural part of the thought process, as compared to an age when it was less common (or least the acceptance of it was less common) and thus making that intellectual jump would have seemed more scandalous, and thus more far-fetched.  I loved Proust's use of the mirror in the scene, which allowed Albertine to watch the young women while seeming to be focused on Marcel.  There was, in fact, as Proust discovered, "a large mirror which I had not noticed and upon which I now realised that my friend, while talking to me had never ceased to fix her beautiful preoccupied eyes."  Albertine sees the young women, and more importantly actually sees herself, in the mirror.