How do you review a painting? You may discuss contrast, contours, use of colours. But it is meaningless if the person you are discussing it with hasn’t seen the painting already.
How do you review a madeleine? Here is Proust’s take:
”I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory — this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was myself. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, accidental, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I was conscious that it was connected with the taste of tea and cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could not, indeed, be of the same nature as theirs. Whence did it come? What did it signify? How could I seize upon and define it?”
Even Proust can but convey the feeling it inspires. I understand it. But I still have no idea what that madeleine tastes like.
Yes, unlike the examples above, the review and its subjects are in the same medium and therefore closer. But I say that reviewing Swann’s Way is an exercise just as futile. You have to read it. And I have to go to eat that Madeleine de Commercy.
Madeleines in question: