reviewed by Molly McQuade

“The letters which we receive from a person should be more or less similar to one another and combine to trace an image of the writer,” wrote Proust in A la recherche du temps perdu. Yet in his letters, there are many Prousts.

There’s Marcel the cuddling bootlicker of ladies, writing worshipfully to his own father’s mistress. There is Marcel the tender, steely narcissist, remarking of his mother in a letter to somebody else, “I had always hoped she would die before I did so that she should not have the grief of losing me.” There’s Marcel the self-mocker, who snickered, “I go from bad to worse. It’s three weeks since I have set foot outside my house. My beard is so long it doesn’t even make me look dirty anymore.” There is, of course, Marcel the artist, who can dismiss the call to charm, and...


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