Today I Learned – Madame Bovary Edition

Today I Learned (TIL) is my play on Reddit’s highly entertaining and informative forum.

Today I learned how Madame Bovary has made quite a few cameos in TV and movieland. Most likely because Emma Bovary’s frustration as a bored housewife mirrors the angst and dissatisfaction with life that many fictional women suffer in their own stories. However, just like Emma — it’s not always easy to feel completely sorry for some of these characters. Let’s take a look at some of these ladies.

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1. The Sopranos – Sentimental Education – Season 5, Episode 6

Carmela Soprano, who is separated from mob boss, Tony, after years of frustration as a neglected housewife, begins seeing her son’s guidance counselor. He recommends that Carmela read Madame Bovary for the book’s exploration of “bourgeois loneliness”. Sentimental Education is actually the title of one of Gustave Flaubert’s books.

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2. Veggie Tales – Madame Blueberry Movie

The popular animated series has fun playing on Emma Bovary’s obsession with things as a distraction from her boredom. “She’ll be happy, she thinks, if she just has more stuff!”

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3. Desperate Housewives – Anything You Can Do – Season 1, Episode 7

Madame Bovary is up for discussion at a book club meeting in Bree’s home. However, while Emma Bovary’s experiences should speak to the women since it parallels Gabrielle’s own marriage, the women are too absorbed in their own affairs to pay much attention to the book. WARNING: The clip below contains spoilers!

4. Sex and the City

I don’t know if Carrie Bradshaw ever read Madame Bovary (my bet is yes), but Emma Bovary is the original poster girl for the Sex and the City lifestyle. Shopping as a ticket to social status, shopping as a coping mechanism, shopping to feel good. Carrie’s favourite shoe designer, Manolo Blahnik designed a cover for Madame Bovary in 2006. He said: Madame Bovary is particularly attractive to me because it is a very dramatic story, with this woman’s incredible desire, and a compulsion to dress all the time … she spent everything she had on wonderful, beautiful textiles and dresses. It is something that a modern woman can understand.

manolo

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5. Little Children (2006)

In the movie Little Children, Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson are two parents in unhappy marriages who become friends and eventually have an affair. The clip below is from a book club meeting where Kate Winslet’s character shares her thoughts on Madame Bovary. It’s a wonderful clip and there is also a spoiler-filled version (sorry it’s a bit choppy) if you would like a deeper look into the scene and discussion.


Madame Bovary Read-along – Starts now!

 

MBShoes

Welcome to the Madame Bovary Read-along! Please click on this link to read the Master Post.

The Part One discussion post for April 10th will be hosted on Juliana’s blog. In the meantime, please feel free to link any introduction posts or initial thoughts using the linky or commenting on either blog.

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #MadameBovary2014 on Twitter throughout this event to find other participants to chat about the book. You’ll probably see me there!

We look like a pretty amazing and fun group of bloggers if I do say so myself. Juliana and I look forward to chatting with all of you about the book.

Here we go! :)

 


Guest Post: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

Please enjoy a guest post from one of my favourite bloggers, Laura from Reading In Bed.

The Assignment

Back in December, CJ of ebookclassics gave me the gift of DADEoS. Kind of.

A couple of us bloggers did a Secret Santa thing where the “Santa” assigns a book to read. CJ was kind enough to choose something on my Classics Club list. I wasn’t that excited about DADEoS back when I added it, I just felt like I needed some sci-fi and that PKD was someone I need to read. But, CJ, ya done good. I loved it so much that I broke my year-long TV ban to watch Blade Runner (though in hindsight, I should have just stuck to the book.)

The Book Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?dadeos

My rating: a solid 4/5 stars.

The thing about DADEoS is that it’s set in a really specific time and place, and has a pretty limited cast of characters, but somehow it’s about everything: religion, consumerism, colonization, the environment… it reminds me of that oft-quoted line of DFW’s, “Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being.” That’s literally what the book is about – it asks “are androids human” but really asks “what makes us human?”

Pretty ambitious for a novel that’s under 250 pages, and seeing as it’s set in a future dystopia, devotes a fair amount of those pages to setting the scene. PKD starts in right away, with the title – posing a question is a bold move, and, it gets you thinking: what does it mean, to dream of electric sheep? How is that different from dreaming of a real sheep? Don’t we all picture cartoon sheep in this context anyway?

Empathy, not dreaming, is the only way to tell the difference between “andys” and humans. Our hero Decker is a bounty hunter who administers a lie-detector type test that gauges empathy. It’s pretty archaic (today) and I kept expecting Decker to break out in a Maury-style “and THAT was a lie,” but this book was written almost fifty years ago, so I’ll give it a pass (and a pass on the flying cars. Everyone thought there’d be flying cars.) There’re some interesting ideas about empathy and why (if?) we have it, and possibly some vegan propaganda going on in this instance:

“Empathy, he once had decided, must be limited to herbivores or anyhow omnivores who could depart from a meat diet. Because, ultimately, the empathetic gift blurred the boundaries between the hunter and the victim, between the successful and the defeated.”

Deckard comes to think that it doesn’t really matter whether an android has empathy, it matters whether we have empathy for them. If a human empathized with an android, has sex with an android, loves an android, is it not human? The human-android sex scene may be the unsexiest thing I’ve ever read (“exposed her pale, cold loins”) but Deckard was into it – so was Rachael, possibly even more so.

And further – as humans continually try to control the body and the mind with drugs or diet or whatever, isn’t an android the end game? Still made of organic matter, but never gets sick, never gets depressed? Insert “whoa” face Keanu Reeves here.

keanu

Whoa.

DADoES isn’t just introspection and navel gazing. PKD created a convincing dystopia in which various disasters have killed off much of the population, and Earth is so devastated that those who can leave to colonize Mars. This many not sound that groundbreaking now. The Year of the Flood, Children of Men, and even kid’s movie Wall-E all cover similar territory, but PKD did this years earlier. He also did it in such a unique way, with the strange cult of Mercerism, the worship of animals, the Buddy Friendly TV show/propaganda machine, and kipple. What a great word. And what a frightening, confusing, yet somehow familiar world.

I love this book for being deep yet accessible, for being of a specific time yet timeless, and for being both a great example of a genre book and a book that kind of straddles all the genres.

The Movie Review: Blade Runnerbladerunner

My rating: 2/5 stars.

I’m not very good at watching movies. Since I quit watching TV last year, I can’t fathom just watching TV for an extended amount of time. I start itching to do something – read, write, call someone, clean something – after about 15 minutes. It took me four sittings to watch Blade Runner, over about two weeks. I realize this is not ideal.

I didn’t enjoy the movie that much. I realized it was more “based on” than “adapted,” and a lot of the weirdness I loved in the book didn’t make it to the movie. Decker was different, too; suddenly a bachelor and much more of an action hero. Harrison Ford and Sean Young were pretty good. I shouldn’t have consulted IMDB, because has I not been reminded of Young’s role in Ace Ventura, I may not have thought “LACES OUT” every time she was on screen.

The treatment of the romance between Deckard and Rachael was very different too. In the book, it was almost absurd, but very much consensual (as far as an android can consent to anything. I’m not even gonna go there.) In the movie, it was not so clear. The sex scene felt more like coercion than consent, so the happy ending for Deckard and Rachael seemed a bit off. This is an interesting take on the sexual politics in Blade Runner, and it includes an alternate ending in which it’s suggested that Deckard is an android himself – something I wondered about while reading, but didn’t think much about in while watching.

Another thing that bothered me about the movie was how dark it was. I don’t mean in content, I mean literally. It was always night time, and raining; everything happened in alleys or abandoned buildings with no light. I know, film noir and all, but I felt like I couldn’t see what was happening. I realize not liking a movie because of its lighting is about as dumb as not liking books with blue covers, but there it is.

Further Reading

If you’re new to PDK, check out this excellent flow chart, created by SJ of Snobbery. Answer a few simple questions and find out which PKD book is right for you. I got DADEoS, so there’s something to it!

And do check out the other secret Santa guests posts. We’re still waiting on a few, actually – whew, I’m not the last one!

Thanks again CJ! Let’s do this again next year.


Celebrities in Classics – Gwyneth Paltrow

Celebrities in Classics is my regular feature profiling actors and their appearances in classic book adaptations.

WHO IS IT? With all of this talk lately about her “conscious uncoupling” from her husband, I started thinking of some of the classic adaptations Gwyneth Paltrow has appeared in over the years. The award-winning actress was born into Hollywood as the daughter of director, Bruce Paltrow, and actress Blythe Danner. Her godfather is director Stephen Spielberg.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT GWYNETH: Whether you love her or dislike her, you can’t deny that she is a talented and versatile everywoman. She’s a mom, acts, sings, models, cooks, writes, blogs and runs her lifestyle company, Goop.com. I’m sure she has tons of help, but unlike many other celebrities who have tried to “do it all”, Gwyneth has been very successful. I’m fascinated by her, but a little wary of her genuineness. Unfortunately, she has a terrible habit of putting her foot in her mouth and getting into fights with other celebs, so … Oh well, the girl crush continues.

FIRST ENCOUNTER: The first movie I saw with Gwyneth Paltrow was Seven. She plays the wife of homicide detective, David Mills, played by Brad Pitt. If I remember correctly, her character was sweet but a little wimpy and I didn’t love her. Although, I do feel bad about what happens to her character at the end of the movie.

FAVE MOVIE/SCENE: Shakespeare In Love! I thought it didn’t count as a classic book adaptation, but of course it does cleverly playing on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night, with plenty of other cheeky references throughout the movie to other plays. Gwyneth plays Viola, a princess who pretends to be a boy so she can act in the theatre.

CLASSIC BOOK FILMOGRAPHY

1991 – Hook ~ Young Wendy Darling
1996 – Emma ~ Emma Woodhouse
1998 – Great Expectations ~ Estella
1998 – Shakespeare in Love ~ Viola De Lesseps
1999 – The Talented Mr. Ripley ~ Marge Sherwood
2002 – Possession ~ Maud Bailey
2005 – Proof ~ Catherine
2008 – Two Lovers ~ Michelle

For Gwyneth’s full filmography visit Wikipedia.

GREAT QUOTE: “… one of the best gifts came from Ethan Hawke when we were shooting Great Expectations. I was having a hard time because my first big movie, Emma, had just been released, and everything started to change. I had my first crisis. I found myself asking, “What’s happening to my world? To my life?”

In the middle of all this, I went into work one day and found that Ethan had left me a big cardboard box full of his favorite books: The Stranger by Albert Camus, Motel Chronicles by Sam Shepard, The Passion by Jeanette Winterson, to name a few. Isn’t that the best present? He gave the books to me with the intention of taking me outside myself and having me connect with poetry and literature—things he thought would give me perspective and make me feel better. It was such a generous gesture.”

Who is your favourite celebrity in a classic adaptation?

View more Celebrities in Classics.


Paradise Lost by John Milton ~ Book Review

paradise-lost-8

* CONTAINS SPOILERS

Paradise Lost starts with a bang and doesn’t stop until the tragic end. When I look back, the poem plays like a grand opera in my mind. John Milton fires the imagination with images of battles in Heaven, twisted and dark demons languishing in Hell, an all-powerful God presiding over the world, the lush and beautiful Garden of Eden, and the lovers Adam and Eve cuddling in the bower. But not only that, Paradise Lost gives the reader so much to think about. The poem is every bit the masterpiece of verse it is famously known and I doubt my review can give it the accolades it so rightly deserves, but I’ll give it a try.

THE STORY

Paradise Lost by John Milton is an epic poem from the 17th century based on the Bible story depicting Satan’s expulsion from Heaven by God and his part in the fall of mankind. God’s human creations, Adam and Eve, enjoy the pleasures of the Garden of Eden until they are targeted by Satan to eat fruit from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. Although warned many times to not eat the fruit, Eve is successfully tricked by Satan to disobey God. In an act of love, Adam also eats the fruit and both the lovers and Satan must face the consequences of defying God.

CHARACTERS

The Narrator – Milton is as much a character in this story as Satan or Adam and Eve, his thoughts and opinions interwoven throughout the verse. He summoned muses for inspiration, but I think he did that for dramatic effect and knew exactly what he wanted to say.

Satan – The ultimate bad boy, one of the greatest surprises about Paradise Lost is that Milton presents him as an anti-hero. Satan is intelligent and strong. He struggles with sadness, anger, jealousy and pride. He is the kind of character you love to hate, and reminded me of the ambivalence I feel for TV characters like Walter White (Breaking Bad) and Frank Underwood (House of Cards). But he is the villain of the story first and foremost.

Adam and Eve – The first man and woman of Earth constantly reminded me of living dolls, such perfect specimens of physical beauty as described by Milton, but in their innocence a little vacant upstairs. I pictured them listening to the angels Raphael and Michael, blinking with wide-eyed stares completely unable to comprehend anything beyond what berries and leaves to eat that day.

God – The big guy must get so tired of dealing with his children. First, he has a group of ungrateful angels rebel against his authority and he has to send them to Hell, but one of them keeps stirring up trouble. Second, he nags Adam and Eve relentlessly about the Tree of Knowledge, sends his most trusted angels to warn them about Satan and the consequences of disobeying, and they still eat the fruit. Thank goodness he has the Son.

The Son – Interestingly not called Jesus in Milton’s poem, the Son eagerly volunteers to take care of business when God must remain in his role of just and merciful Father. The Son confronts Satan in a final showdown and sends him back to Hell. Oh, and he also agrees to sacrifice himself for the sins of humans. No big deal.

Other Demons and Angels – I often read words in this poem and didn’t realize it was meant to be a character until the word Belial or Moloch started speaking. Whoops!

THE GOOD

Most of us are probably familiar with these Bible stories, but Milton fleshes out both stories with such delicious imagery and drama, compelling characters and their relationships. Many of us doing this read-a-long agreed we would love to see the poem put into the right hands and made into a movie.

THE BAD

If you are like me and not used to reading verse of this kind, the text of Paradise Lost is dense and challenging to get through. I listened to an audio book while I read to get a better grasp of what was happening. I often re-read the poem and discovered I either missed a lot the first time or still didn’t understand what Milton wrote. Thank goodness Carolyn gave us two months to read the poem.

CONCLUSION

The themes of Paradise Lost are universal, but Milton adds so much more food for thought about free will, religion, and the relationship between men and women, and men and God in this story. I often shake my head in wonder because Milton fearlessly included many unconventional ideas in the poem and didn’t hesitate to stand behind them. Didn’t people in the 17th century die painfully for this kind of thing? Without doubt, he was an iconoclast and it is no wonder the poem has inspired writers, artists, musicians and readers for generations. Even though I struggled to read the poem, one thing was clear: Paradise Lost is powerful and truly unforgettable.

Thank you Carolyn for hosting this read-a-long!


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