Ah, the writer’s life!  The insecurity!  The unappreciated, unremunerated toil!  The risk of failure!  The torment!  The passion!  The syphilis!

And the devotion to ideals of Truth and Beauty.  Flaubert says he’d rather beat himself to death with a table leg than write a socially conscious novel like Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  He says, “The three finest things God ever made are the sea, Hamlet, and Mozart’s Don Giovanni.”  He discusses his boils.  He says in France you see the sun as often as you see “a diamond in a pig’s ass-hole.”  He lays bare his relationship with Louise Colet with incomplete insight but complete honesty and detail.  He discusses the writing of fiction as a craftsman, not a bullshit genius or self-conscious visionary.  He is totally down-to-earth and human, that’s the surprise.

This belongs on any writer’s bookshelf.