Sunday, July 11, 2010

Book #36 - A Sentimental Education (Gustave Flaubert)

With my reading of the 35th book on the list, Toni Morrison's "Beloved", I realize that I am now 1/3 of the way through my 105 books! Woohoo! I raise my glass of English ale to salute this achievement. And yet, I cannot rest, for death is breathing down my neck and I have lots of reading to go. And admittedly, slacker that I am, I am not reading at the pace I was two years ago. Although who knows what reading pace the future may hold.

I am in England right now. I spent a few days in London, wandering around aimlessly, checking out a few museums, and drinking some delicious real ales. Now I'm just south of Cambridge, attending a conference for work, and wondering what I'm doing in the English countryside reading a book by a Frenchman. But it's OK, because Britain and France have historically been the best of friends for thousands of years. Well, except for the Hundred Years War. And for most of the rest of pre-20th century recorded history.

I started reading Flaubert's "A Sentimental Education" on the flight over to England. The only other Flaubert I've read is "Madame Bovary", which I read freshman year in college. That's a great book, but one which can definitely be characterized as "a downer". "A Sentimental Education", however, is a whole new ballgame. I mean, is it me or is this book seriously funny? The book so far, and I'm 150 pages (of 450 pages total) into it, is about a young French dude in the 1840s named Frederic Moreau, who has just graduated from college and decides to live in Paris and be hip. And in the first third of the novel, there's not much plot. Moreau falls in love with a rich man's wife, but dares not say anything to her. He does terrible on his initial try at the law school's exams. He hangs out with his friends, who discuss politics and what should be done to stave off the revolution, but all they do is talk talk talk with no action. Frickin' French pussies. Yet, although it's easy to laugh at the characters for their big words and pretensions, it's a bit sad when they don't follow through on their words and don't even really try. I dunno, reminds me of a lot of dorm conversations I had in college, beer in hand. We'd argue politics, and sports, and art, and philosophy, but in reality we didn't know what the f#*$% we were talking about. Time wises up everyone, I guess. As some Bob Dylan once said "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now".

Anyway, I'm enjoying this book, and I'm looking forward to continue reading it on the flight home. Will Flaubert's characters wise up and start getting their act together? Or will they just keep drifting through life, and their conversations espousing their ideals but not acting upon them? Stay tuned...