“There are two sorts of people”: Classics of literature edition
From the interview that was the subject of the previous post:
KURT VONNEGUT: [Saul Steinberg] said that in almost all arts, there were some people who responded strongly to art history, to triumphs and fiascoes and experiments of the past, and others who did not. I fell into the second group, and had to. I couldn’t play games with my literary ancestors, since I had never studied them systematically. My education was as a chemist at Cornell and then an anthropologist at the University of Chicago. Christ—I was thirty-five before I went crazy about Blake, forty before I read Madame Bovary, forty-five before I’d even heard of Céline. Through dumb luck, I read Look Homeward, Angel exactly when I was supposed to.
Forty, BTW, is an excellent age to read Madame Bovary. I read it at 16 and at 19 and thought “meh.” I read it at 42 and could not put it down, it was so gripping. In a day school where I taught, they had young kids = 6th graders, as I recall, but possibly 7th grade – reading Macbeth. It’s nice that they get exposed, but really, at that age they have no idea of ambition or of the depth of the crimes Macbeth committed: he killed man, who not only was a man but a guest, who was not only a guest but a kinsman, who was not only a kinsman, but the (divinely appointed) king—and, worst of all in that misogynistic time, he had done it because his wife made him. At they age they lack sufficient life experience.
So also with Madame Boavary.