In search of the naive and sentimental reader

Reading Michael Dirda on Madame Bovary, I found myself nostalgic for the days of innocent reading, when books were simply books and not part of the daily grind. One of the very few drawbacks of working in a profession where your job consists of reading a lot is that you lose the ability to approach a book without your mental dissection kit in tow. It’s a bit like chefs, who never get to eat a real meal once they cross a certain level of expertise, because everything’s about whether the basil’s fresh and the place settings are just so and the grains of rice have separated as they should.

I pulled down Madame Bovary and tried to read it as though it was something I was discovering for the very first time, which is like trying to pretend that you’re a wide-eyed virgin after years of consecrated lust: it can’t be done.

Somewhere out there, though, is someone who’s coming to Flaubert without any idea of what’s in store for him. The lucky stiff. As Michael Dirda says:

“What truly matters is this: Madame Bovary is available in a superb new translation, in a handsome hardback volume, and if you’ve never read it, or if you’ve only worked through it in first-year college French, you need to sit down with this book as soon as possible. This is one of the summits of prose art, and not to know such a masterpiece is to live a diminished life.”

One comment

  1. I second that Hurree. And third and fourth. To return to the magic of reading some of the books all over again. As someone remarled to Twain once, I wish I had not read your, so that I could have the pleasure of reading it again for the first time.Cheer, maybe something will come out that will bring that fun back…

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