December 26, 2011

Flaubert in The Age of Twitter

After having set it aside years ago, I picked up Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pecuchet yesterday, and made the observation that Flaubert was the prefect narrator.

Tim Carmody replied:

I have three favorites, who are very different: Flaubert, Eliot, and Proust.

I asked if he meant George Eliot, and mentioned not having read Proust.

Yeah, George Eliot in Middlemarch. She has all of Flaubert’s tools, but an infinitely greater capacity for sympathy.

I thought it would be easy to have a greater capacity for sympathy than Flaubert….

Tim said:

It’s hard if you can see, see through, & disintegrate like Flaubert & Eliot can.


Proust is… Well, nothing is like Proust. Imagine a blend of Flaubert, Kierkegaard, and Wilde.

A human being compelled to identify the nuances of small moments and big ideas in a withering yet charming style.


  1. Tim Carmody on December 26th, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    Flaubert would rule at Twitter, BTW. See the Dictionary of Received Ideas (sometimes appended to Bouvard and Pecuchet):

    BALDNESS Always ‘premature’. Caused by youthful excesses, or the hatching of great thoughts.

    CHIAROSCURO Nobody knows what this means.

    ERECTION Said only of monuments.

    EXCEPTION Say that it proves the rule. Don’t venture to explain how.


  2. Cooper on December 26th, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    I haven’t read Proust and may not have read enough Flaubert to make comments, especially as the readings haven’t been terribly recent. But Eliot! She is good. And Middlemarch is absolutely superb. And it’s also funny.