December 7, 2014

Flaubert's Parrot: Leave this From the Canon



When I was going to college, this was talked of as a relatively recent book. It was new when my professors were in the place I was, but it wasn’t good enough to make the syllabi. Barnes was just part of an overrepresented demographic when a new canon was being put together.

But does it deserve to be part of a new canon?  The blurbs on the cover hint at inclusion, drawing comparisons to some of my personal favorite writers, such as Joyce and Calvino. One specifically mentions “Pale Fire,” which is one of my favorite books in my mind even though I haven’t opened it in years. Personally, I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I would. I liked other Barnes, having read England, England and The History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters. I  don’t like it but  I can’t place my finger on why not. Do I not care about Braithwaite, his protagonist? Do I not care about Flaubert? Or do I not like Flaubert’s characters? I can only think of one – Emma Bovary. I didn’t like her, but not as much as I didn’t like Anna Karenina. I wanted that train to come so bad, but when Emma took up poison, I was at most indifferent. 

It can’t be the structure. I like the random pastiche stuff, and it is done well here. It’s just that the book lacked life of some sort. I just wasn’t there. I should have picked up a different Barnes off the shelf.