Proust rises from the grave to attend the 100th Anniversary Wake
The hastily made dead Proust cake, with feet collapsed in transit,the requisite platter of madeleines, and a Proust portrait by Alex Segal
In this last part of Proust’s speech, at his 100th Anniversary Wake, the re-animated author concludes with a pitch. It was also intended to introduce me, so I could talk briefly about ArtHouseSF and where we are in the long, slow process of development.
My charming actor friend, Denzil Meyers, agreed, half-heartedly, to deliver the speech, in the fairly likely chance that the ghost of Marcel didn’t appear. He inadvertently did the most Proustian thing possible. He didn’t show up, with his moustache spirit gummed in place, until people were starting to leave. This was quintessentially Proust, who was always, in real life, the last to arrive at social events, just when the hosts were hoping to say the last goodbye to their guests and retire. By the time my friend arrived to deliver Proust’s speech, the incomparable Dr. Really? had marshalled the guests’ attention for me to say a few words. Here’s the last of what Proust would have said, before introducing me, had things not gone awry.
And since you’re here, you must know how important it is to support the arts. But in case you need a reminder, I wrote this in Time Regained: “Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world only, our own, we see that world multiply itself, and we have at our disposal as many worlds as we have original artists.”
Before I go, I want to say something about what Oscar and I see happening from above in San Francisco. I never came here while I was alive, but I’ve spent a lot of time here since. It is so beautiful that it has attracted a legion of creative powerhouses, over the years, who invented so much that was absolutely new. Perhaps not everyone realizes that this city was the nexus of an internationally adored art movement every single decade of the 20th century. The last wildly creative movement to start here was Burning Man, which was planned for the first several years in P Segal’s living room.
It’s easier to pay attention to this sort of thing when you don’t have to worry about earthly affairs, like the rent, or the looking for a publisher. I can assure you that this city positively glowed in the light of all that artistic innovation in the 20th century. It was an illuminated diamond peninsula shining through the fog, a city the whole world loved. But then the artists started to leave, because they could no longer afford to stay here. The place no longer hums with all that creative energy. According to the San Francisco Arts Commission, by 2017, three quarters of the city’s artists that were here in 2000 had left, or were thinking about leaving—and how many remained, during this pandemic you’re having, when artists had no work at all for a few years, and even less money than usual?
And now–so sad—the landlords of San Francisco will not rent an apartment to anyone who doesn’t have pay stubs proving they make three times the rent! If I lived in San Francisco now, I couldn’t rent an apartment. This is why the ArtHouseSF project is so important. It will bring back the light to this dimmed city, and make it glow again. Please help the ArtHouse people make this happen—it’s literally good for everyone.