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Posts Tagged ‘Flaubert’

I’ve been reading about Gustave Flaubert and his writing method.  “What a bitch of a thing prose is!” he wrote to his friend and lover, Louise Colet. “It’s never finished; there’s always something to redo.” And redo he did.

Flaubert was a definite “basher,” taking up to a week to produce a single page. He once remarked that for the first 125 pages of Madame Bovary, he actually wrote 500 pages. But this constant revision was required to achieve the style for which he aimed.

“A good sentence in prose should be like a good line in poetry, unchangeable, as rhythmic, as sonorous.”

In reading an analysis of the style he adopted for Madame Bovary, I realized that I, too, have a style. (more…)

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Stack of BooksBy the time he was my age, Gustave Flaubert was decades past his peak with Madame Bovary. By the time Hemingway was 54, he was pretty much done. And by the time Shakespeare was as old as I am, he’d been dead a couple of years.

It’s hard to look at facts like these and not get a little depressed. I mean, sure, I didn’t even start writing until I was in my thirties, and didn’t really get into novels until my forties, but…damn! Adding fuel to the fire, a quick search for “writers who started late in life” does not generate a list of  late-blooming literary giants.

My mind quickly comes up with all sorts of justifications and explanations as to why so-and-so succeeded early in life and I have not—financial support from others, an early start in the craft, etc., etc.—but it’s all nonsense. As my father once wisely told me, there’s always going to be someone richer, smarter, or more talented than I am. Getting down on myself for not being a genius, for not getting that Nobel Prize for Literature, is silly. More than that, it’s counter-productive.

I don’t write to be famous. I don’t write for immortality. Crap, I don’t even write to make it into the “Who’s Who in American Literature.”

I write because I like it. Because I love it. And that’ll do.

k

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