Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Literary Criticism at its Finest

Flaubert, as anyone with taste will have experienced first-hand, used language with wondrous precision. It seems that someone wrote a book about him (it probably isn't as good as Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes, because nothing in this world is), and a certain reviewer deemed it necessary to rise to the prosaic (in both senses of the word) challenge implicit in writing about someone who wrote about Flaubert. The review appeared in the New York Times--a noted asylum for book reviewers who try way, way too hard. This particular flash of inspiration emblazons the horizon of our consciousness by way of James Wood, a "professor of the practice of literary criticism at Harvard University":

"Flaubert scans the streets indifferently, it seems, like a camera. Just as when we watch a film we no longer notice what has been excluded, so we no longer notice what Flaubert chooses not to notice. And we no longer notice that what he has selected is not of course casually scanned but quite savagely chosen, that each detail is almost frozen in its gel of chosenness."

May God have mercy on our souls! "Each detail is almost frozen in its gel of chosenness"? If I were paying $40,000 per year to hear this guy profess the practice of literary criticism, I would file a lawsuit immediately. Allow me to follow that up with a randomly selected passage from Flaubert's collected letters:

"What is wrong with your health, pauvre cherie? What are all these vomitings, stomach pains, etc.? I am sure that you came close to doing something completely foolish. I should like to hear that you were well again - completely. I'll not hide from you that the landing of the Redcoats was a tremendous relief to me. May the god of coitus grant that I never again go through such agony ... But the joy I subsequently felt has been profitable for me, I think."

Okay, so I may not have lit upon the most feverishly brilliant and incisive stretch of Flaubert's writing career, but at least he was a dapper hand at euphemism.

P.S.
RIP Nacho

1 comment:

amber said...

pooooor nacho. pooooooooor andrew. how are you holding up?