“The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise in you a challenge to life, and the promise of future accomplishments.”
“Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.”
“Novelists should thank Flaubert the way poets thank spring; it all begins again with him. There really is a time before Flaubert and a time after him. Flaubert decisively established what most readers and writers think of as modern realist narration, and his influence is almost too familiar to be visible. We hardly remark of good prose that it favors the telling of brilliant detail; that it privileges a high degree of visual noticing; that it maintains an unsentimental composure and knows how to withdraw, like a good valet, from superfluous commentary; that it judges good and bad neutrally; that it seeks out the truth, even at the cost of repelling us; and that the author’s fingerprints on all this are paradoxically, traceable but not visible. You can find some of this in Defoe or Austen or Balzac, but not all of it until Flaubert. ”
James Wood, How Fiction Works
I’m feeling in a Flaubertian mood because I have been reading Madame Bovary and marveling at its incredible style and energy. At one point, I was laughing out loud because some passages were so funny. Managing that in a tragic story is truly an amazing feat. I love James Wood’s capturing of the essence of Flaubert: brilliant detail and visual noticing; an unsentimental, nonjudgmental style that doesn’t call attention to itself; and truth telling. What better qualities can we bring to our own work? So while it may not be glitzy, let’s be good valets and let our words speak for us. And write on!