October 21, 2010



No matter what, you'll never make me like Madame Bovary.


I only wish there was some way of letting the NY Times Book editors know directly how lousy this review was. Nobody needed Harrison to review the novel but only the translation, which she seemed totally incapable of doing. I blame the editors for assigning her the piece in the first place and then not killing it before it saw the light of day.


The only pathos I recall from Madame Bovary is the description of the wedding party disappearing through the fields, leaving the parents to contemplate their uselessness and emptiness. No irony there. None needed.

What I recall about Madame B isn't its pathos, but its steely forensic drive. The irony really only comes into play with the pseudo-Voltaire of a pharmacist, who, of course, turns out to be the biggest hypocrite of all.

And why is anyone still reading NY Times book reviews? Are you still watching newsreels too?


'Irony doesn't detract from pathos' means 'just because Flaubert sneers at shallow Emma doesn't mean he lacks sympathy for her.' That kind of sympathy is known as pity.

Franklin thinks pitiableness lets Emma star in a great, realism-defining novel, and that this justifies Flaubert's sneering--unless we want to reconsider the validity of realism and prevailing/historical critical opinion.

But isn't pity judgemental and condescending? A conjectural account of my beloved dog's point of view will have pathos. But should we call my fantasy 'realism' and view it as the noblest goal of characterization and/or literature?

If realism means 'ideally, lit should be conjectures about the mindset of pitiable fools,' who needs realism?

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