yes, when and where
I bought the book years ago for a class I was taking at NYU. We never got to the book during the course of the semester. I got rid of most of the unread books from school, however I never threw this one out. I picked it up a couple of weeks ago because it’s a small mass-market that can easily fit into my pocket for subway reading. At first I thought it would just be a filler book that I would read the first couple of chapters of until I could get something I really wanted to read.. however, I became completely rapt with the book. You should really read it. Really.
It’s pretty amazing that the themes of Flaubert’s 1856 novel seem so friggin’ contemporary. It’s about the unhappy Madame Bovary. She wants to lead a glamourous life but is stuck living in a small town, married to a guy she doesn’t love. She does some really fucked up shit and falls into severe credit debt.. it’s really poignient.. at least for me.
I found myself carrying a highlighter and dog-earing pages of the book as I read. Ohh, how happy my professor who assigned the book would be! Here are a few of my favorites:
No matter: she was not happy, and never had been. Why was life so unsatisfying? Why did everything she leaned on instantly crumble into dust?... But id somewhere there existed a strong, handsome man with a valorous, passionate and refined nature, a poet’s soul in the form of an angel, a lyre with strings of bronze intoning elegiac nuptial songs to the heavens, why was it not possible that she might meet him some day? No, it would never happen! Besides, nothing was worth seeking – everything was a lie! Each smile hid a yawn of boredom, each joy a curse, each pleasure its own disgust; and the sweetest kisses only left on one’s lips a hopeless longing for a higher ecstasy.
Her pride swelled: never before had she felt such esteem for herself or such contempt for others. And she was exalted by a feeling of belligerency. She wished she could attack all men, spit in their faces, grind them into the dust. She walked swiftly along the road, pale, trembling and furious, scanning the empty horizon with tear-filled eyes and almost delighting in the hatred that was choking her.
He, this man of great experience, could not distinguish dissimilarities of feeling beneath familiarities of expression. Because lascivious or venal lips had murmured the same words to him, he now had little belief in their sincerity when he heard them from Emma; they should be taken with a grain of salt, he thought, because the most exaggerated speeches usually hid the weakest feelings -- as though the fullness of the soul did not sometimes overflow into the emptiest phrases, since no one can ever express the exact measure of his needs, his conceptions or his sorrows, and human speech is like a cracked pot on which we beat out rhythms for bears to dance to when we are striving to make music that will wring tears from the stars.
If you have some extra time over the holidays and wanna read a beautifully written novel of infidelity, discontent, death and despair, pick up a copy of Madame Bovary.
In homage to M Bovary, enjoy a video of one of my other favorite Madames. “Yes, when and where.”… brilliant.