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Category Archives: Madame Bovary

ArtMusicLitPrize

One of my favorite habits as a Classics Reader and citizen of West Michigan is finding references to our books amid the thousands of entries in one of the largest art competitions in the world, ArtPrize.  In years past I’ve seen bits of Gulliver’s Travels,

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Moby Dick,

ArtPrize Moby Dicks Tail

and even an unintentional Great Gatsby reference.

ArtPrize Great Gatsby Glasses

This year’s festival just started yesterday, and I haven’t yet been downtown to see the works in their glory, but the media’s been pretty good at flooding my feed with glimpses of what awaits.  Including this rather unexpected entry:

Even though Mrs. Emma B. wasn’t my favorite character or novel, I would love to hear this.  The piece is by Grand Rapids Symphony’s principal oboist for their newly appointed principal cellist.  According to this interview it is heavily influence and inspired by Flaubert’s work.

It’s an actual ArtPrize entry, and if you can’t make the concert you can always listen to the midi file online.  Personally, I’d rather scramble to find a last-minute babysitter and some dough for some tickets.

*crickets chirping*

What?  That’s not the sound of crickets I hear?  Oh, I see, it’s the sweet music of electronic strings.  That makes more sense.

 

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Some Dads

Happy Father’s Day Sancho, Christian, Gulliver, Mr. Bennett, Fagin, Mr. Brockelhurst, Arthur Dimmesdale, Ahab, Arthur Shelby, Charles Bovary, Marmeladov, Vronsky, Damon Wildeve, Gilbert Osmund, Pap Finn, and Tom Buchanan.

Thanks for not being my dad.

You see, he’s pretty awesome.  And you guys, well, let’s just say that you’re best left where you are:  inside the covers of a book.

Dad Dance

 

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Not to Bum You Out

I’m so tired of all these women dying.  I’ve nearly lost track of them, first it was Helen, then Emma, Alyona and Lizaveta, Anna, Eustacia, and now Lily. Why?  Why must we read so much tragedy?  Why the death?  What’s wrong with a happy ending once in a while?

Then I stumbled across this article in my facebook newsfeed.  Friends, it’s worth the read (it even mentions three of our authors.)  The subject is tragedy.  The context is Christian worship.  The backdrop is our life.

If you only click on one external link today, I encourage you to choose the one above.  You can even leave the arguments about worship behind, but I’d love to know what you think about the tragedy vs. entertainment question.

Is our WEM reading list reminding you that we live in the valley of the shadow of death?  Is it drawing you face to face with the world of iniquity from which we would rather shield our minds?  Are the authors and their sin-filled worlds making you cling firmly to the Author of creation?  Is the despair of the characters wakening a vision of the evil that surrounds us outside the pages of fiction?  Or, are the novels a source of pacification and escapism?  Are the classics entertaining?  Should the classics be entertaining?

 

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The Fastest 300 Years EVER!

Sancho and the donkey.  Christian.  Yahoos and Houyhnhnms.  Elizabeth and Darcy.  Oliver.   Bertha-in-the-attic.  Hester and Pearl.   Moby Dick.   Uncles and Madams.  Rascal.   Anna-Kitty-Levin-Vronsky-oviches.   The Heath.   Isabel.   Huckleberry.   The Journeys of Henry and Marlowe.   And now Lily, whose outcome, at least for me, is still uncertain.

While paging through the Well-Educated Mind list of fiction books, I realized that Don Quixote was published in 1605 and House of Mirth in 1905.   300 years!  I congratulate myself and you, fellow readers, on plowing through 300 years of literature.   May the crop be plentiful!  I suggest a glass of red wine and some good chocolate to celebrate.

 

 

I Thee Read

Another blogiversary, another year of reading bliss.

Blogiversary Two

For better, . . .

Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Crime and Punishment
Anna Karenina
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Red Badge of Courage

for worse, . . .

Madame Bovary
The Return of the Native
The Portrait of a Lady

for richer, . . .

Rodolphe Boulanger
Augustine St. Clare
Stepen Arkadyevitch Oblonsky
Lord Warburton

for poorer, . . .

Berthe Bovary
Sofya Marvelodov
Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikov
Jim

in sickness, . . .

Nikolai Demitrich Levin
Ekaterina Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya
Ralph Touchett
Clym Yeobright

and in heath, . . .

Pansy Osmond
Huckleberry Finn

till death us do part . . .

Evangeline St Clare
Uncle Tom
Emma Bovary
Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladov
Alyona Ivanovna
Lizaveta Ivanovna
Anna Karenina
Mrs. Yeobright
Eustacia Yeobright
Damon Wildeve
Daniel Touchett
Ralph Touchett
Grangerfords
Pap Finn
Miss Watson

So who did you love and cherish most this past year?

 

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The eye(lids) have it.

Anna Karenina and Eustacia Vye don’t seem to have much in common.  There is that “grass is always greener” thing they have going.  Yes, yes… that “looking for love in all the wrong places” thing.  The desire for happiness that causes them to make poor decisions, but other than that…

Russian socialite.  Hater of the Heath.  Not much in common.

I did notice a similarity in their eyes.  Particularly their eyelids.  Did you notice it too?

Anna Karenina:

Kitty gazed at her in dismay as she went up.  Anna looked at her with drooping eyelids, and smiled, pressing her hand.  But, noticing that Kitty only responded to her smile by a look of despair and amazement, she turned away from her, and began gaily talking to the other lady.

Anna, taking her eyes off her friend’s face and dropping her eyelids (this was a new habit Dolly had not seen in her before), pondered, trying to penetrate the full significance of the words.

Eustacia Vye

Well it is what I call no water,” she said, blushing, and lifting her long-lashed eyelids as if to lift them were a work requiring consideration.

One touch on that mouth again!  there, and there, and there.  Your eyes seem heavy, Eustacia.”

So if the eyes are the windows to the soul, what are our leading ladies trying to hide?  Perhaps Eustacia tells us the answer:

“No, it is my general way of looking.  I think it arises from my feeling sometimes an agonizing pity for myself that I ever was born.”

Or maybe Dolly Oblonsky knows why Anna picked up this habit:

And she remembered that Anna drooped her eyelids just when the deeper questions of life were touched upon.  “Just as though she half-shut her eyes to her own life, so as not to see everything.” thought Dolly

Interesting.

PS.  Just out of curiosity, I used the kindle to check Madame Bovary for references to eyelids.

And, according to what she was saying, her voice was clear, sharp, or, on a sudden all languor, drawn out in modulations that ended almost in murmurs as she spoke to herself, now joyous, opening big naive eyes, then with her eyelids half-closed, her look full of boredom, her thoughts wandering.

 

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Christmas Is Coming

Readers are easy to shop for because they’re always happy to get a book.  But what if you want to validate their love of literature without adding to the addiction?  Here’s a list of some unique classic gifts that might appeal to us WEMers.  Feel free print it out and leave it in a conspicuous spot for the shoppers in your life.  Or not.

(If all went well, clicking on the picture should open a new window to the site where the item is available.)

Don Quixote

The question I want answered is do these earrings belong the beautiful Dulcinea of Don Quixote’s dreams, or the brawny girl of Sancho’s acquaintance?  Decide before wearing.

Pilgrim’s Progress

Because a Bunyan vest is better than Bunyan Shoes.

Gulliver’s Travels

The site says that the pages are still readable.  Never mind.  Do not buy this for me.

Pride and Prejudice

This is obviously a doll version of Darcy from the beginning of the novel.  You know, when he was really crochety, um I mean crotchety.

Oliver Twist

You could make up a batch of homemade gruel mix, put it in a mason jar, and add a festive bow, or you could give a Dickinsonian this lovely print of a giant gruel pot.

Jane Eyre

These hues of the moors are named “To the Stars,” “A Strange and Unearthly Thing,” and “Independent Will!” (Exclamation point the artists, not mine.)  Aside from the fact that I can’t imagine Jane Eyre for a moment considering her own appearance long enough to put on a coat of nail polish, they are kind of pretty, in a moody, murky way, of course.

Scarlet Letter

These days bearing a shirt with a scarlet A on it doesn’t denote you as an adulteress, although I think that meaning might be preferable.  So instead of clothing, the Scarlet Letter lover might appreciate this ignominious bracelet.

Moby Dick

The Herman Melville gift options seem endless, from “Call me Ishmael, maybe?” t-shirts to Captain Ahab Baby Swaddlers but this print is the item that really made my jaw drop.  It’s as striking and surprising as the novel itself.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Personally, I would much rather have a piece of Aunt Chloe’s pie.

Madame Bovary

What could be more fitting for Emma than a vanity mirror?

Crime and Punishment

There are hollow book safes available for nearly all of these classics, but this one for C&P has a certain, well, charm?  Although it doesn’t seem big enough to hide an axe.

Anna Karenina

If you can’t buy the gift you can always buy the pattern and knit it yourself this “adorable” and “cute” Anna Tea Cozy.  Also, shouldn’t it really be a samovar cozy?

The Return of the Native

And when in doubt, sending flowers is always a good idea.  Especially heather from the heath.  It’s much more beautiful than a furze faggot, and easier to carry.

Happy shopping and a Merry Christmas!  Oh, and don’t blame me if you get any of these things.

 

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Balls are Bad News

Today I started watching the Vivien Leigh version of Anna Karenina. I’m only a half hour into the movie, but I have had a revelation.

Balls are bad news.

Why do I say this?

Let’s think back.  The first ball we attended as classics readers was in Pride and Prejudice.  It was not a pleasant experience for Lizzy Bennett, our main character.  Darcy insulted her saying, “she is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me.”  At the second ball things weren’t much better.  Lizzy suffered through dances with Mr. Collins.  She ended up dancing with Darcy and had a terribly awkward conversation with him about Wickham.  Later that evening her mother and sister Mary each did things that brought embarrassment to the Bennett family.

In the end, Darcy and Elizabeth have the fairy tale ending, so perhaps we should look at another book and another ball.

How about Madame Bovary?  There’s a ball in that book.  The honeymoon was over for the Bovarys.  Emma was quickly disappointed in her dull, clumsy spouse, so when a wealthy patient invitesd the newlyweds to their ball, Emma was delighted.  Instead of dancing with her husband (who snoozes in the corner wearing pants too tight for dancing), Emma danced with a viscount.  The same viscount later dropped his cigar box. which Emma kept.  She held on to it dreaming of (and scheming to get) the beautiful, wealthy, decadent, extravagant (pick your favorite adjective) life she could have had.

Remember the end of this book?  Emma took arsenic, chosing to die rather than face the enormous debt she had run up in her search for (shallow/material) happiness.

And now back to our current book, Anna Karenina…  Remember that ball?  Kitty danced waltzes with Count Vronsky, sure that a proposal of marriage was not far off.  Anna arrived in her stunning black dress.  Kitty watched Anna and Vronsky interact.  She saw Anna’s sparking eyes and happy smile.  Kitty knew exactly what was happening.

“No, it’s not the admiration of the crowd has intoxicated her, but the adoration of one.  And that one?  can it be he?”

Kitty was crushed when Vronsky did not ask her to dance the Mazurka.  It was going to be the dance that decided her future, and it never happened.  Anna chose not stay for supper, but the damage was done.  Vronsky was now infatuated with the married woman, and Kitty was forgotten.

Now in the end everything turned out happily ever after for Kitty, but we know how things ended up for Anna.

I repeat.  Balls are bad news.

 
 

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Bovary vs Karenina

Madame Bovary  and Anna Karenina

Go ahead.  Google the titles together.
I’m not the only one thinking about how the two novels compare.  There are papers, essays, articles, and message boards that consider the similarities and differences of these two classics.

What’s the tie?  Adultery.  Two women sadly, oh, so wrongly, thought that an extramarital affair would bring them happiness.

We could talk about the main characters: Emma and Anna.

We could talk about the husbands: Charles and Alexey.

We could talk about the lovers: Leon, Rodolphe, and Alexey.

We could talk about the children: Berthe, Seryozha, and Anna.

We could talk about social class: lower-middle class and upper class.

We could talk about the authors: Flaubert and Tolstoy.

The list could, and does, go on and on.

I’m sure literary experts have dissected the two books from cover to cover.

What I want to know is “Why am I enjoying reading Anna Karenina?”
I hated Madame Bovary.  I gritted my teeth and plowed through the book.  Sure, at times Flaubert’s carefully crafted prose was a pleasure to read and ponder.  He painted delightful word pictures, but there were many days when I was thankful for the self-imposed reading time my children’s swim lessons gave me: time when I had no choice but to sit on a bleacher and listen to splashing while forcing myself through Emma Bovary’s shallow, self-centered, destructive tale.

I like reading Anna Karenina.  Why?  Anna’s looking for happiness where there can be none.  Just like Emma Bovary!  I have to say that I’m feeling a little guilty for my enjoyment of this title after feeling such dislike for Madame Bovary.  I find myself caring for Anna when while reading about Emma, I just wanted the book to end.

Help me, literary friends.  I have classic book guilt.  Here are two books about adultery and I like one!

Anyone else enjoying Anna K after hating Emma B?

 
9 Comments

Posted by on October 20, 2012 in Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary

 

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Madame Karenina? Anna Bovary?

I read somewhere that Anna Karenina is like Madame Bovary.

In fact our friend Gina shared that her copy of AK has an intro that includes a passing reference to Flaubert and a quote from the Mme B author about Tolstoy: “What an artist and what a psychologist!”

Have you seen any similarities yet?

Oh, yes.  There’s the infidelity.  I’m not giving anything away by mentioning the affairs.  Even the back of my book does.

Then there’s the missing main character.  I’m seventy-five pages into Anna Karenina and have yet to meet her.  Does that sound familiar?  Quite like Mme B, I’d say.

Any other similarities?

 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary

 

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