Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I'd ban coincidences, if I were a dictator of fiction. Well, perhaps not entirely. Coincidences would be permitted in the picaresque; that's where they belong. Go on, take them: Let the pilot whose parachute has failed to open land in a haystack, let the virtuous pauper with the gangrenous foot discover the buried treasure-it's all right, it doesn't really matter.

One way of legitimising coincidences, of course, is to call them ironies. That's what smart people do. Irony is, after all, the modern mode, a drinking companion for resonance and wit. Who could be against it? And yet, sometimes I wonder if the wittiest, most resonant isn't just a well-brushed, well-educated coincidence.


- Julian Barnes Flaubert's Parrot

I'm enamored with Barnes's intellectual game he calls a novel.

I just got in to work, wet and soggy from the New England rain, and just wanted to write this up quick. I couldn't stop thinking about Barnes playing with the concept of literature. This quote is a microcosm of the book so far. At first you think he's going to be serious about coincidences, but by the end, I don't know if he's still anti-coincidence or what. Maybe that's the point? I love the book so far anyway. It's a like a brainteaser.

When I get home tonight, I'm going to attempt to write about my perception of the parrot as writer metaphor that Barnes and Flaubert tackle. If they could do it, I should have no problem. Piece of cake.

7 comments:

Stefanie said...

Do I need to read Flaubert before I read about his parrot? I should get around to reading Flaubert anyway one of these days, but this book sounds so interesting I want to know if Madame Bovary should be sooner rather than later?

Dorothy W. said...

Hmm ... I tried to leave a comment earlier about how much I love Flaubert's Parrot, but I'm not sure it went through ... Blogger's acting up. But I do love that novel!

M. Barresi said...

Stefanie, you don't have to read Flaubert before reading Barnes's novel. As long as you have an idea who Flaubert is, i.e. a French writer, then the novel is an easy read. You can read it in a day and it's great.

Dorothy, Blogger was acting up on me too. But I guess we both finally got on. Have you read anything else by Barnes? I want to read Arthur and George, but I'll probably wait until the paperback comes out.

Stefanie said...

Good to know. Thanks!

Dorothy W. said...

I've read A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, but I can't say I remember it that well. It wasn't as good as Flaubert's Parrot, but I don't remember not liking it. I saw him at a reading once with A.S. Byatt -- it was pretty cool. I'm interested in Arthur and George too.

litlove said...

Arthur and George is a very good book, but it's not a bit like Flaubert's Parrot. It's a straight novel, not playful at all. His A History of the World in Ten and a Half Chapters is a better bet.

M. Barresi said...

Litlove, now that you and Dorothy both recommended A History of the World I'm going to have to check it out. TBR pile keeps a-growing.