Wednesday, January 03, 2007

But of Course! On the Concourse, the Goncourts!

Picked up PAGES FROM THE GONCOURT JOURNALS (nybr classics) recently and am delving into its dastardly abyss of gilded gossip and winnowing wit. The brothers Goncourt, who often make the barbituate-popping, gynecologist twin brothers in David Cronenberg's film DEAD RINGERS (and their real-life counterparts to twin the twain) seem a mere affinity group, write in both a singular and collective voice. They lampoon and lavish praise on their literary demi-monde, offering astute and often mean-spirited, schizophrenic-seeming critiques of their friends (Flaubert gets the most praise and damnation, almost simultaneously). Edmond and Jules write about dinner parties, venereal disease, boredom, boors, discontent with the writing trade, which become subjects in themselves or trajectories to launch into other subjects. They typically insert aphorisms about middle-class etiquette and their delicate, dark moods so filled with comic despair they come off at times like proto-Cioran tidbits. A skewed and terrifically entertaining glimpse into mid-19th century Parisian literary life, these journal entries go well with absinthe, opium, cheap wine, and syphilis.