James Salter on Flaubert

“Certain writers have the ability to put one word with another or together as a sequence that causes it to bloom in the reader’s mind or to describe things so well that they become for the reader something close or equal to reality. It’s not simply that they are well observed; it’s also in the way of telling.

“So we come into the dining room of Maison Vauquer with its walls of a now unrecognizable color, its chipped and stained decanters, piles of plates on the sticky sideboards, and wine-spattered napkins of the boarders pigeoned in a box. The table is covered with a greasy oilcloth, the grass place mats unraveled almost to the point of disappearance, and the chairs are rickety and broken-backed.

In short, poverty without glamour reigns here, a narrow, concentrated, threadbare poverty. Although actual filth may be absent, everything is dirty and stained; there are no rags and tatters, but everything is falling to pieces with decay. This room is in all its glory at about seven in the morning when Madame Vauquet’s cat appears downstairs, a sign that his mistress is on the way. ”
James Salter


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