Monday, August 16, 2010

On Page 15, Salter writes:

"I'm strangely devout, I find myself defending the meager life of provinces as if it were something special. It's not like the life of Paris, I say, which is exactly like being on some great ocean liner. It's in the little towns that one discovers a country, in the kind of knowledge that comes from small days and nights."

Flaubert was aware of the rural-urban relationship. In Madame Bovary (first serialized in 1856) we see the influence of bourgeois Parisian culture on small town life. Same too with Wilhelm Busch's Max and Moritz (1865), which is as much the story of a town influenced by urban middle class values (on the eve of German confederation) as the misadventures of two delinquent kids. But it is in Flaubert's Bouvard et Pecuchet (1881) that we have the arrival of the urban bourgeois sensibility in human form.

The New Directions Press translation of Bouvard et Pecuchet is one of my favorite books, one I read every couple of years. It is like that for me and books: for every new title I read, I return to at least one of my favorites, books like Stein's Tender Buttons (1914), Nicolson's Some People (1926), Salter's A Sport and a Pastime (1967), Highsmith's A Dog's Ransom (1972), Chatwin's In Patagonia (1977), Didion's The White Album (1979)...

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