"Novelists should thank Flaubert the way poets thanks Spring: it all begins again with him. There really is a time before Flaubert and a time after him. Flaubert established, for good or ill, what most readers think of as modern realist narration, and his influence is almost too familiar to be visible. We hardly remark of good prose that it favors the telling and brilliant detail; that it privileges a high degree of visual noticing; that it maintains an unsentimental composure and knows how to withdraw, like a good valet, from superfluous commentary; that it judges good and bad neutrally; that it seeks out the truth, even at the cost of repelling us; and that the author's fingerprints on all this are, paradoxically, traceable but not visible. You can find some of this in Defoe or Austin or Balzac, but not all of it until Flaubert."
Cela dit, certains ne semblent pas partager les thèses de l'auteur A Not So Common Reader :
Having been lashed by twice as many citations as even a formalist-cum-structuralist should require, and having been incrementally diminished by Wood’s tone of genteel condescension (he flashes the Burberry lining of his jacket whenever he rises from his armchair to fetch another Harvard Classic), the common reader is likely to concede virtually anything the master wishes — except, perhaps, his precious time. For someone who professes to understand the fine machinations of characterization, Wood seems oblivious to the eminently resistible prose style of his donnish, finicky persona. “How Fiction Works” is a definitive title, promising much and presuming even more: that anyone, in the age of made-up memoirs and so-called novels whose protagonists share their authors’ biographies and names, still knows what fiction is; that those who do know agree that it resembles a machine or a device, not a mess, a mystery or a miracle; and that once we know how fiction works, we’ll still care about it as an art form rather than merely admire it as an exercise. But there is one question this volume answers conclusively: Why Readers Nap.
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