by David Blake, Central Library, Fiction Department
Julian Barnes is a Flaubert fan-boy. Were he a Tolkien fan, he’d be the King of the Ringers, but nineteenth century French literature needs its knights, and few knights are as ready for battle as Barnes on behalf of Flaubert. Critics and academicians are the villains to be vanquished.
Flaubert’s Parrot is organized around the mystery of a stuffed parrot that resided on Flaubert’s desk, and became divine in his story "A Simple Heart." As he has researched Flaubert’s life, Barnes encounters two stuffed parrots, both credentialed as authentically Flaubert’s. Before we learn the truth of the parrots, though, Barnes takes us on discursive journeys back to the nineteenth century in long essays about the man himself: his mistresses, his train journeys, his friends, and his petty flaws.
The star of the show, however, is Barnes himself. One imagines an epic battle of epigrams between Barnes and Oscar Wilde, both doubling over with laughter. Opening Flaubert’s Parrot at random will yield plenty to dine out upon on any page. For example, at random, in the middle of a Barnes rant on literary coincidence we read, “One legitimizes coincidences by calling them ironies.”
Among the discursive essays we find a list of Flaubert’s personal nicknames and speculation upon the reason for each. We learn, at length, and with vehemence, the various ways Madame Bovary’s eyes are described by Flaubert, this in response to an academician who criticized the ways Flaubert, the famous realist, had been careless in his description of those eyes. Barnes is on it, and the academic critic is vanquished. We get an A to Z rundown of the great man’s friendships, and ferocious rebuttals of any and all criticisms that may have been directed towards Barnes’ hero. And, we get a telling of the story of Flaubert’s romantic relationship with the writer Louise Colet from his point of view, and from hers, in separate essays.
Julian Barnes received the prestigious Man Booker prize for his novel The Sense of an Ending, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker on three other occasions: this book, Flaubert’s Parrot, England England, and for Arthur & George. His Something to Declare will serve as a welcome, entertaining sequel to Flaubert’s Parrot.
By the way, we do find out about the parrots, but not as we expect.
What: The Lion King musical ticket giveaway Where: All Birmingham Public Library locations When: Drawing will be conducted on March...
Woodfin Transition Education Co-Chair Stresses Partnering Library Resources to Help Birmingham SchoolsBPL Executive Director Floyd Council and Mayor Randall Woodfin Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s transition team co-chair of Education ...
The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) System, with 19 locations and one of the largest urban libraries in the Southeast, is now a member...
What: Steps to Starting Your Business When: 3rd Tuesday of each month, February-June 2018 Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m. Where: Central L...
Money Matters Workshop – Protect Yourself from Identity Theft Scheduled for March 21 at Central LibraryThe Birmingham Public Library is partnering again this year with UAB’s Regions Institute for Financial Education to offer a series of Mo...