I started writing the one-sentence stories when I was translating 'Swann's Way.' There were two reasons. I had almost no time to do my own writing, but didn't want to stop. And it was a reaction to Proust's very long sentences.
The idea of some kind of objectively constant, universal literary value is seductive. It feels real. It feels like a stone cold fact that In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust, is better than A Shore Thing, by Snooki. And it may be; Snooki definitely has more one-star reviews on Amazon. But if literary value is real, no one seems to be able to locate it or define it very well. We're increasingly adrift in a grey void of aesthetic relativism.
I wonder what Proust would have made of our present-day locus of collective fantasy, the Internet. I’m guessing he would have seized on its wistful aspect, pointing out gently and with wry humor that much of what beguiles us is the act of reaching for what isn’t there.
Mann and Joyce are very different, and yet their fiction often appeals to the same people: Harry Levin taught a famous course on Joyce, Proust, and Mann, and Joseph Campbell singled out Joyce and Mann as special favorites. To see them as offering "possibilities for living", as I do, isn't to identify any distinctive commonality. After all, many great authors would fall under that rubric.
Proust is a hero of mine. I read 'A la recherche' in one go, and I'm a very slow reader. It had an astonishing impact, reading it on my own and being my main company. I think Proust is the most intelligent person to ever have written a novel.