Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Michael David Lukas

Michael David Lukas has been a Fulbright scholar in Turkey, a late-shift proofreader in Tel Aviv, and a Rotary scholar in Tunisia. He is a graduate of Brown University and the University of Maryland, and his writing has been published in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Slate, National Geographic Traveler, and the Georgia Review. Lukas lives in Oakland, less than a mile from where he was born. When he isn't writing, he teaches creative writing to third- and fourth-graders.

Lukas's new novel is The Oracle of Stamboul.

Recently I asked him what he was reading. His reply is titled “Reading Proust in the age of Twitter:”
I finished Remembrance of Things Past—Marcel Proust’s thirty five hundred page, seven volume novel—just a few days ago. Ever since, I have been trying whenever possible to work it into conversation, without much success. Much like mountain climbers and scuba divers, readers of Proust will take any opportunity to introduce the topic of reading Proust. It’s hard not to talk about the mountain I just summited, even if such conversations almost invariably fall flat. For while there may in fact be many social situations that his work can illuminate, the words “that reminds me of a passage in Proust” are almost always followed by silence. And so, when offered the chance to write a few hundred words on the topic of what I have been reading lately, I jumped at the chance.

I had a similar feeling a bit more than a year ago, after finishing Vikram Seth’s novel, A Suitable Boy (1,349 tightly-printed pages). To mark that achievement, I wrote a blog post for VQR entitled “In Defense of Longness,” in which said that the long novel feels like “a ponderous brontosaurus with its head in the canopy, lazily chomping leaves while an army of swift moving, razor-clawed creatures are building a new civilization its feet. It is a relic, teetering on the edge of extinction.” In a world of 140 character thoughts and fleeting updates of status, sitting down each day with a bulky and wordy novel about high society in fin de si├Ęcle Paris, makes one feel like the dinosaur oneself. And yet, Proust’s tone is decidedly contemporary. Gossipy, ruminative, obsessive, and procrastinatory, Remembrance of Things Past often reads like a hyper-literary blog. It’s the kind of book Perez Hilton would write if he had been born a hundred years earlier. Proust is many things to many people. To Jonah Lehrer he was a neuroscientist. Alain De Botton says he will change your life. But to me, Proust will always be a reminder that there is nothing new under the sun—or at least, very little.
Visit Michael David Lukas' website.

--Marshal Zeringue