Flaubert didn’t have Stendhal’s cool, telescopic, analytical detachment, Balzac’s sweep and insight into human destiny, nor Proust’s psychological penetration and sensitive social radar. What Flaubert had was a powerful artistic vocation and an obsession with perfection of style. Do such qualities alone a great writer make?
…[Henry James] wrote that “style itself moreover, with all respect to Flaubert, never totally beguiles; since even when we are so queerly constituted as to be ninety-nine parts literary we are still a hundredth part something else.” James concludes that Flaubert is best spoken of “as the novelist’s novelist.” And so his cultists are pleased, even proud, to have him. Yet, how much better to be the reader’s novelist.
I find this article interesting because, although I admire Flaubert’s impressive command of detail, I’m finding it hard to sustain my interest in Madame Bovary. Full story at the link above. What do you think?