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Posts tagged ‘madame bovary’

Time To Go Spinning Again….

I missed the last couple of Classic Club Spins due to ill-health, over work, blah, blah blah! But like I mentioned in one of previous blogs, I back anew. Therefore it’s only natural that I undertake to be part of the Classic Club Spin again, even if I get to read books I never like (Remember Madame Bovary!!!) But then to counterbalance the whole thing, I did absolutely fall in love again with Dickens and re-read the entire Dickens collection! Anyway, as part of starting anew, I present my list! What’s if any is different this time you ask? Well starting anew is also charting untested waters, so all the books I have listed, I have never read before and I am slightly dubious about. But fortune favors the brave, therefore without any further ado, I plunge in –

  1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  3. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  4. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  5. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
  6. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  7. Wives and Daughter by Elizabeth Gaskell
  8. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  9. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
  10. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  11. The Wings of Dove by Henry James
  12. Washington Square by Henry James
  13. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  14. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
  15. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  16. The Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield by Katherine Mansfield
  17. The Good Solider by Ford Maddox Ford
  18. Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford
  19. Dubliners by James Joyce
  20. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope

There is THE list – books I have never read and some I never really want to (Kate Chopin and Ms Woolf top that list!) but onwards new journey!

Now waiting for Monday May 12th!

At The Very Beginning…..

I have always argued that I am better writer/blogger and more discerning reader because of some of lovely, inspirational and absolutely marvelous blogs that I have the most rewarding bliss to read/follow. Flowing from this, I present to you this post, that had its germination in A Year in First Lines by Fleur, who in turn took the cue from The Indextrious Reader. The concept is wonderful and extremely unusual – “Take the first line of each month’s post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year.”

If this is not fun, what is???? Thus, without any further ado, let’s plunge right in and kick-start the journey from January 2013!

January 2013

It’s the first of the brand new year again and someone sent me text with a quote that goes as follows – “Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” ― Brad Paisley from Back to Where We Started From…..

February 2013

There are many things that comes to us a legacies – a house, jewelry, money, an old piano…..the list I guess could go on. At any case, legacies are of great importance, for they bind us to a past that is inherently our own and through which, in many cases, our identity derives from; from All Those Legacies….

March 2013

This blog is in response to the March Meme of The Classics Club. The subject is Jane Austen…now how can I ever pass out on opportunity to wax eloquently on my all-time favorite author – the very witty, the very talented and an acute observer of all the fallacies of human nature from Liking Jane

April 2013

It’s always difficult to start when you have come to a halting skating stop. But you have to start again, especially if it is important to you! From At-tempting Madame Bovary

May 2013

And now for The Baker’s Daughter from Baking Breads and Tales in Wartime Germany

June 2013

Is there anything called Happy Sad? From The Happy Sad Syndrome

July 2013

I know I have to still write about Charles Dicken’s Great Expectation and I promise I will do it this week for sure, but while I drown myself in my other life, aka, the Project Manager, this Meme, I just could not let go! So Classic Club’s 2013 July Meme is – What classic book has changed your view on life, social mores, political views, or religion? from The Most Inspiring Them of All…..

August 2013

So I did the disappearing act again but I was travelling on business for 4 whole weeks and the project implementation kind of sucked all life force out of me, leaving me with no time for anything I hold remotely close to my heart – eating, travelling, writing; the only indulgence I had been reading and that too with limited timeframes. From And for the August Path….

September 2013

So the Classic Club’s September Meme is contributed by Brona from Brona’s Books –Rereading a favorite classic at different stages of your life gives you different insights with each reading. Is there one classic you’ve read several times that also tells a story about you? From Once Upon a time and Everytime …

October 2013

I read this article on Huff Post where social psychologists David Kidd and Emanuele Castano argue that reading classics like Tolstoy,Chekhov etc enhances what they term as “theory of mind”. From Alleluia for Reading!

November 2013

I thought it was a good day to sit back and think just how many things I have gotten myself into for the month of November and muse over the fact about why do I take on more than I can manage and why do I keep making myself a guinea-pig for all Sadistic Gods who take great pleasure in laughing at me – considering there is no one else to blamed for the soup I get myself into except ME!! From Just a Bit More Than Usual

December 2013

Finally vacations here….I can’t believe it actually here and by the time I can actually believe it, it will be 6th January and back to work! From The Vacation Finally Commeth…

That’s the list and here are some conclusions I drew as I complete this – Some of these posts begin on one vein and end up on different tangent all together; (My MIND WANDERS is an understatement!!). It seems like I have derived a lot of my ideas from The Classic Club, so a big Thank You to the Club and all its members for making me read and think more. Most importantly, I need to work on sentence constructions; I mean did you see some of the opening sentences??? They are like 4 lines long….seems like I write the way I talk….Definitely a work on for 2014!

However this was fun and I think should you try it, you would quite enjoy it as well!

And December Will Come Spinning ….!

No! No! I cannot and I mean I CANNOT take on more projects! The Classic Club Spin#4 is way too much for a plate that already has so much and spilling over. Besides the Classic Club spin batting rate in favor of the books I selected is only 33%. I did not like re-reading Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert, but became a re-convert to Charles Dickens after revisiting Great Expectations; but again lost my way with George Elliot’s Middlemarch! There are enough reasons to shy away from this event and I will! I have will power! I do!

Oh! Heck! No I do not have will power! The devil in my mind points out that I have to read this through November and December and that by December my plate will be practically empty. Besides I have two weeks of vacation coming up, so what the hell? Go for it says the devil and I willingly jump into the deep blue sea.

Here goeth the list –

  1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  2. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
  3. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  4. Wives and Daughter by Elizabeth Gaskell
  5. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  6. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
  7. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  8. Emma by Jane Austen
  9. King Solomon’s Mines by Henry Rider Haggard
  10. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  11. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
  12. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope
  13. A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
  14. The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde
  15. The Moonstone by Willie Collins
  16. The War of the Worlds by H.G.Wells
  17. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott
  18. The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
  19. The Grand Babylon by Arnold Bennett
  20. Around the World in 80 days by Jules Verne

The list is primarily more or less the same, however because it’s December and Christmas and I have had an officially a lousy 2013, I have decided to make myself a little present via the list. I have included books I want to read and have never read as well as books I read long ago and wanted to revisit but never did; but taken off all the books that I dread reading or did not like reading it the first time round – yes! I know! Like before I may lose out an opportunity to rediscover and love an author /book because of my prejudices, but there is always 2014 to set forth for new brave adventures. In the meanwhile, the holidays are coming and I will indulge myself just this time round!

Alleluia for Reading!

I read this article on Huff Post where social psychologists David Kidd and Emanuele Castano argue that reading classics like Tolstoy,Chekhov etc enhances what they term as “theory of mind”. In a study published online in Science, the duo argue that while the best sellers of might be a thrilling voracious mind ride, it is literature which actually helps us intuit better, empathize better and improves thoughts, sensitivity and ability to understand motivation.

In a study that they conducted, they asked their subjects to read 10-15 pages of popular fiction or literary works. Examples of literary work read included Anton Chekov, Don Delillo and popular fiction included best sellers like Danielle Steele’s The Sins of the Mother and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.  The participants were then made to undertake some psychological tests like Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy 2 – the participants had to look at a face for 2 seconds and decide whether the face was unhappy, sad, afraid, happy, angry etc. The second test was Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test – the participants looked at a slice of a face and were asked to pick 4 complex emotions.  The results showed that both the reading groups did better than people who did not read or primarily read nonfiction.  But the results within the reading group were dramatic – the literary group outperformed the popular group by about 2 questions out of 36 in the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test and missed fewer questions out of 18 in the like Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy 2. The results substantiate the hypothesis – reading literature improves the mind and related cognitive abilities. The scientists are quick to point out that the theory does need more development.

Now having said all of that mouthful, one cannot deny what I had harped for ever – reading is awesome and reading books that are deemed classic, albeit difficult will only improve our mind. True they are not easy reads and true not all of them can be read – case to the point, my utter dislike for Madame Bovary and Middlemarch, but if we attempt 10, atleast we will come out like 4 at the least and the effort of reading in itself is mind exercise. I mean if there is ever a reason to read more classics, this is very much “it”.

However I am still curious about certain questions – this came up also on one of the comments and I was also thinking about stuff in the same lines: what about comic books? Does reading of comic books say a slower/more animated mind-set? I not only mean the Batman/Superman genre but Tintin and Asterix comics; I know a lot of kernels of ideas in my youth came from reading  and re-reading these two comic series including my interest in Roman Civilization. Then there are books that are now considered a classic but originally not believed to be literary at all – like James Joyce’s Dubliner or Lorna Doone by Richard Blackmore. Does reading of these book enhance cognitive skills equally as reading Charles Dicken’s  Great Expectation  since Dicken’s work was hailed as a masterpiece right from the start and not in hindsight and therefore cannot be credited to changing tastes and belief system of the mankind? Finally of course the question remains as to what is considered to be a classic and literary? Per Wikipedia, In the 1980s Italo Calvino said in his essay “Why Read the Classics?” that “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say” and comes to the crux of personal choice in this matter when he says (italics in the original translation): “Your classic author is the one you cannot feel indifferent to, who helps you define yourself in relation to him, even in dispute with him” This kind of falls in line with what Kidd and Castellano argue on the ability of classics to make people think. But Calvino also says  is a personal choice one cannot develop a universal definition of what is Classic Book since “There is nothing for it but for all of us to invent our own ideal libraries of classics” .  I mean till 1975 The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger was considered to be obscene and vulgar and still makes a lot of people uncomfortable in calling it a classic

Some of these factors I am sure go into what we read, consciously or subconsciously and define our behavior and cognitive skills. I have interacted with two groups very closely – my university years were filled with voracious readers who read extensively and all kinds from Sylvia Plath to Tolstoy to Jhumpa Lahiri. I work on the other hand with a set of extremely bright and funny but very non reading people. While both the groups are kind and generous, the fact remains that most of my university “geeky’ friends are more sensitive and more attuned to people’s emotion and can sense change in a person’s temper than the other set. While I always knew this, I also kind of presumed that corporate world takes on a different kind of mental capabilities and I was an aberration and not a norm; considering most of my university friends continue working in the field of academics, social services and arts.  However I never thought that reading and more importantly reading classics had anything to do with the cognitive capabilities. Again the Kidd and Castellano study is hardly definitive, but it cannot but help but make me wonder.

Caveat – This is not a blanket theory and there are exceptions and contradictions because one cannot typecast entire mankind in slot! But yes to end, a mental high-five for reading – any kind of reading! One will always be better off than a non-reader.

 

The Only Way Ahead…..the Classics Way!

It’s the Classic Spin time again! Yup! The Classic’s Club has organized another Spin and the rules are as always simple –

  • Pick 20 Classics of your choice
  • On Monday, i.e. May 20th, the Club will pick a number
  • You read the book that you have marked against the number through May and June

The big question is will I do it again? I mean in the last club Spin, I got Madame Bovary which I detested the first time I read it, so may years ago; but with loads of encouragement and support from fellow club members, bloggers and readers, I managed to prod through the book, a second time – net result I still did not like it!

So will I do it again? The answer is …..Of course!! Yes!!! Most definitely!

There is no denying it’s a lot of fun. Even if I did not like the book, I got some wonderful perspective and engaged in some marvelous debates about it. Most importantly, if it was not for the Spin, I would have never read that book again since it was part of my private dreading to read it again list!

Now for the list – here goes….

  1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  2. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  4. A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
  5. Jane Eyre  by Charlotte Bronte
  6. Great Expectation by Charles Dickens
  7. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  8. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  9. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  10. The Way of  all Flesh by Samuel Butler
  11. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  12. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
  13. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  14. The Moonstone by Willkie Collins
  15. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  16. Wives and Daughter by Elizabeth Gaskell
  17. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn      Waugh
  18. The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell
  19. My Antonia by Willa Carther
  20. A Farewell to the Arms by Ernest Hemmingway

Let’s see what faith holds on Monday. I have edited m y previous list a bit and put down a few more books that were in my to-read-but-never-got-around-to –it list.

Can’t wait for Monday!

At-tempting Madam Bovary…….

It’s always difficult to start when you have come to a halting skating stop. But you have to start again, especially if it is important to you! No, I am not in for a philosophical debate, so do not stop reading as yet! What I referring to was the two weeks hiatus that I took from blogging and the lethargy that as result set in and prevented me from taking up the pen again….in  this case, typing keys again! I did plan the hiatus; come to think of it, I did not even want one, but what with another weekend spent being sick and the next weekend going away for a long-planned getaway and then coming back to work with three business reviews in a row….let’s just say, there has been no time for any writing. Unless you consider making PowerPoint presentation on business strategy as creative writing and considering some strategies, well truth is stranger than fiction!!

Anyway, I am back in driving seat and I am going to write about a subject that was long overdue. The Classic Club’s Spin April 1 deadline for a classic was completed by me well before the required deadline – I in fact finished reading it by about 15th March but for reasons aforementioned, could not get around to writing about the same. Some would argue about the futility of blogging about something well past its deadline, but then for me it’s always the journey that matters and not the end, though the end does decide the journey! (Don’t give up on me yet – I promise this is the last of prosaic philosophy for this day!)

After all the ado, I present to you my review of Gustav Flaubert’s Madame Bovary

Flaubert published Madame Bovary was published as a serialized novel between October 1856 and December 1856. The plot was fairly simple, focusing on the adulterous affairs of Emma Bovary, who seeks romance and adventure away from the provincial life. Apparently, after the publishing of the last episode, Flaubert was brought to trial for the eroticism of the novel, but was acquitted soon after. The book became an instant bestseller and is considered one of the most influential literature of 19th century.

Now many are already aware that I was not particularly overjoyed on getting this book as my Spin read. I had read it in my late teens and quite disliked it. However many of you and my sister insisted that I give the book a second chance in my more “advanced” years and my sister had spent one good lunch explaining to me how the beauty of the novel lay in its details and descriptions.

madame-bovary-coverThus with such encouragement and support, I valiantly ventured forth in the Bovary land! I must admit that there was a lot of truth in what all discerning readers of the novel were trying to tell me – there is enormous beauty and poetry in the description. The French countryside comes alive under the word images of Gustav Flaubert – the land, the flora, the rivers and countryside are wonderfully captivated and described that in your mind eye, you can see this part of France come alive all over again.

There is again so much originality in life and habits of a provincial 18th century French town and its habitants. The book throbs and brings to life all the characters of a typical French town – Monsieur Homais, the self-aggrandizing town chemist, Leon Dupuis, the petty town clerk whose pretense for sophistication leads to endless ruin and Monsieur Lheureux, the sly merchant and moneylender. The descriptions are correct and bring to light the frailties of human nature. Towering above all of this are the characters of Emma Bovary and her ordinary husband, Dr Charles Bovary and it is around then that the novel really develops.

My only ire was that I could not once again warm up to Emma Bovary’s character. I could not bring myself to empathize with her nor could I relate to her feelings of misery and discontentment. True, it was stated in the novel, that she was a woman of great accomplishment and education, but there was no evidence of her accomplishment in the book, unless one counts playing piano, decorating the house and reading novels as great achievement. I could not understand how a woman who had apparently been so well-educated could be so vacuous or frivolous – so frivolous that she sees herself getting more and more entangled in emotional and financial quagmire , but is unable to manage or improve her state of being. I mean she just does not seem to get the point, despite being unceremoniously abandoned by Rodolphe Boulanger, she again engages in a disastrous affair with Leon Dupuis. And all this, because she had married what she believed was an ordinary man???? A man whom she choose to marry to get out of the daily grind of running her father’s farm…I mean this woman needed professional help and instead the reader is supposed to feel empathy for her through 300 pages!!!

Dr Charles Bovary was also difficult to digest – he starts off as competent doctor and seems to disintegrate into this mass of low self-esteem and ridiculousness. How can a man be so completely be oblivious in a small town of his wife’s adulterous propensities is beyond me! And on finally discovering her affair,  and giving oneself up to complete despondency, when you still have a daughter to care for is again something I could not fathom or understand.

In the end, it’s all so depressing – Emma Bovary’s painfully self-inflicted death; Charles Bovary dying and their daughter being left destitute! I need a glass of wine and couple of Saki stories to restore a more tranquil phase of mind!

I know there are some wonderful tragedies that have been written, but Madame Bovary is just plain painful. I do not like it….not even in my advanced years!

All ado about pathos and tragedy

Books

Books (Photo credit: vasta)

I am fundamentally a very happy person. I was not always a happy person, but a wise man once advised me that to get ahead in life especially when things are down and out, one must consciously make an attempt to be happy. This might include wearing an outfit that you never wear but you know makes you look awesome; it might be watching movies that are absolutely inane but make you laugh; in my case it was reading books which bring joy! I have tried this recipe of reading joyful books or at least books with a happy ending for a number of years now and it has become a part of my DNA. Today I can be happy almost in all circumstances – keyword almost!

This post however is not about my philosophy of happiness but my ever-increasing marvel at the sheer number of highly intelligent and intellectual people who seem to prefer everything in the way of reading that has some tragedy, heartbreak and calamity as its theme and would end in ensuring the reader’s mind is absolutely beset with the misfortunes of life. A case to the point is my best friend and flatmate rolled into one. She is an extremely intelligent woman, who has a degree in English and Mass Communication, besides picking up a Ph.d along the way. She is extremely sensitive, intuitive and can be a lot of fun! However her idea of a darn good read is Brother Karamazov and In the First Circle. I mean Gulag, murder and Siberia are some of staring features of the book. Then there is my sister – another one of such ‘weirdo” species. She has a double master and is one of the most erudite individuals whom I have the good fortune to know with a quirky sense of humour that makes you laugh out loud. What is her favourite read? Madame Bovary! I mean you know by the second chapter of the book that this book will end in a tragedy and Madame Bovary is destined for death, but that does not prevent my sister from proclaiming this is one the best books ever.

Of course I do not mean to deride the extreme versatility of these great authors or the understanding or the philosophy that they tried to convey. These books are a must read for any enthusiast of literature and can truly be considered classics. Having said that these are not and I repeat not comfort books and I would not turn to them for relief when I am disturbed. They are not the pick me up kind of reads and they do not give you a warm fuzzy feeling of being at peace with the world and they definitely do not make you smile.

I understand that life is not all fun and games and we have serious issues to address. My contention is that when I am down and out, serious issues do not help, unless you do a take-off in the lines of Evelyn Waugh. Anybody who has read “Scoop” will agree with me that it is as sarcastic a portrayal of commercial journalism as there can be. However it is written in the most light-hearted manner that not only drives home a point but also makes you laugh along the way. Tried reading “The Case of Exploding Mangoes” by Mohammed Hanif? The book covers one of the darkest periods of Pakistani historyGeneral Zia‘s dictatorship and his assassination. But it has been written in subtle black humour while being completely honest to the horrors of an undemocratic tyrannical government. The book tackles serious issues, but it does not make me feel like Atlas; It does however make me aware and appreciate democracy. So while entertaining me, the book has given me substantial food for thought without making me weep buckets!!

There will be tales where some amount of tragedy cannot be avoided. Try “The Great Mysterious” – I am told it’s not Lorna Landvik’s best book, but I love it! I know I cried buckets when Jordan dies some 10 pages before then end, but the book still ended in hope with the protagonist bonding with her nephew and finding a new worth to her life! See what I mean ….

In the end, all I can say is I will root for Oscar Wildes and Sakis and Mohammad Hanifs of the world till kingdom comes. I do not understand the whole “beauty of pathos” thing. They do not make me sigh and teary eyes at all the unhappiness of the world…they make me never want to read them a second time! Wit on the other hand is truly the highest form of intelligence.

 

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