Chuck LoPresti's Reviews > Pages from the Goncourt Journals

Pages from the Goncourt Journals by Edmond de Goncourt
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May 08, 2012

really liked it

The Goncourt Journals will appeal mostly to those that have read Zola, Flaubert, Daudet, Dumas, Turgenev and many other great writers living in France in the late 19th-C. It will also appeal to those that can tolerate a bit of gossip and a lot of death. Overall the book isn’t so horribly morbid but death does lurk though the majority of the entries. As I read in another review - where I can’t remember - you will be tempted to kiss your nearest doctor or biochemist for the medical advancements that possibly save you from the death agonies depicted throughout this work. I write this review only two days away from the death of two of the best children’s authors I know: Palmer Brown and Maurice Sandlak. These two great minds are only a few of the beloved, to me at least, people that have recently passed. Each entry seemed to be a variation of a similar threnody that has been ringing in my ears for the last two weeks and it’s been an exhausting if not mellifluous song that I hope ends for a while at least. This is the strength of the journals: they connect deeply with the reader. I’ll admit I’ve not ready any significant portion of the Goncourt’s writing so when they compare their literary merit with that of their peers – the results can only come off as somewhat gossipy. This is a journal so it doesn’t really prevent me from enjoying the work as such – but I think potential readers should be aware that if you’ve come looking for the lofty prose of Zola and Flaubert, you will find little of that here. The entries are well written, insightful, funny, horrid and most of all revealing of the society of their time and place. There are many quotable anecdotes such as conversations between Daudet and the Goncourts that include a beautiful description of morality as a flashing moment that was frankly touching. A whole host of bon mots bandied about amongst minds like Zola and Flaubert can only please book –lovers. Scholars will benefit from the cultural orientation that the expanse of the Goncourt’s social, literary and general aesthetic prowess illuminates. Artists including: Rodin, Carriere, Rops, Degas, Courbet and many others are included in an index that serves as a roster of some of the most amazing people that co-mingled with Goncourts. What was modern in the early years of the Goncourts gives way to the symbolist writers that saw little need for reverence of their predecessors and the Goncourt’s help the reader clearly understand this shift in trends. The Goncourt’s literary appreciation is deeper than it is wide and writers such as Maeterlink and Stendhal are dismissed as anachronistic and girl-crazy respectively in single stroke entries. Turgenev, gratefully, is discussed in brief but illuminating detail. As a student of literature and art – I was pleased to gain insight on the people that have populated my imagination for many years – as a mortal human I can’t think of a book that has brought the end of life in greater humanistic detail than in these journals. I have no current need of any additional memento mori.
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Reading Progress

May 8, 2012 – Started Reading
May 8, 2012 – Shelved
May 9, 2012 – Finished Reading

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