Marcel Proust Meets Web 2.0
For a few weeks, colleagues and friends have been pointing me to Wordle, a web app that takes text and presents it as a “word cloud.” I tried it with a few pieces of my own writing with the expected pedestrian results, but then I copied one of my favorite-ever pieces of someone else’s writing, the “Combray” intro to Proust’s Swann’s Way, and saw this work of art:
(You can click on the image for a larger version.)
Why is this so great? Because, despite being a mere text cloud, it tells the story of the first section with elegant precision. The young narrator is in tremendous psychic pain awaiting the arrival of his mother to kiss him goodnight. So “mother” and “mama” are in large type in the center of the image; even larger is the “room” to which he is confined, as is, just below it, “time,” the narrator’s great obsession. And then, in small type, hiding, is that elusive “kiss.” It’s an intriguing alternate way to consider or enter a story. I’ll play with it some more.