Do writers think up rules for writing as a way to avoid writing?
Category Archives: Writing About Writing
‘What a bitch of a thing prose is!’ Flaubert complained in a letter to Louise Colet while at work on Madame Bovary. ‘It is never finished; there is always something to be done over.’ Fanatical in his search for a style that, as he put it in another letter, was as ‘rhythmic as verse, precise as the language of the sciences, undulant, deep-voiced as a cello, tipped with a flame’, Flaubert devised a method for purging his sentences of unwanted repetitions. What he called the gueuloir (from gueuler, ‘to bellow’) was his practice of yelling prose at the top of his lungs until he felt it had been condensed to its sonic core. During one particularly savage gueulade he told the Goncourt brothers he felt he was going to spit blood.
From Carthachinoiserie, by Paul Grimstad, in the London Review of Books,
reviewing Flaubert’s ‘Gueuloir’: On ‘Madame Bovary’ and ‘Salammbô’ by Michael Fried
Mrs Dempster was not pretty–we understood prettiness and guardedly admitted it as a pleasant, if needless, thing in a woman–but she had a gentleness of expression and a delicacy of colour that was uncommon. My mother, who had strong features and stood for no nonsense from her hair, said that Mrs Dempster had a face like a pan of milk.
I envy the perfection of stood for no nonsense from her hair. Without any actual physical description, Davies forces me to imagine her hair, and tells me what kind of woman she is.