The World’s Most Famous Bored Lady

Yesterday, Sunday, T spent all morning at the monastery, where he runs the Zen Teens program with another senior student (and friend of ours). Azalea slept until 10 (!) and then played with a friend. I figured, hey, if they can do what they want to do, then I can do what I want to do! The laundry can wait. So I curled up on the couch, in my jammies, wrapped in the coziest, wedding-present, pink cashmere blanket, and read Madame Bovary. Again. Every few years I need a dose of Emma Bovary foolishness to set me straight, to work on my incessant¬† longing, and boy, what a fun way to get a talking to! I just love the subtlety of Flaubert’s insight into her sentimental demands. Love is such an easy target (and I will share more of my own take on this this in the conclusion of the proposal that follows), so while it is delightful and comforting to read about poor Emma’s not so divine disappointment in marriage (“Before marriage she thought herself in love; but since the happiness that should have followed failed to come, she must, she thought, have been mistaken.”), it is even more intriguing to explore the other ways her emotionality and immaturity color in the rest of her life, including her short-lived spiritual life in the convent where she “puzzled her head to find some vow to fulfill,” and after finding out about her mother’s death, and having a few days of sadness, “Emma was secretly pleased that she had reached at a first attempt the rare ideal of delicate lives, never attained by mediocre hearts.”

Youch.

People like to hate Ms. Bovary, citing her self-centered-ness, her lack of insight, comparing her to Anna Karenina, the woman of the same period who suffered the same fate, who people find more…interesting. As much as I love Ms. Karenina, I have a special place for Emma and like it when delusion is stripped bare of delight. Melancholia makes hell feel purposeful. I think I’ve had enough of that purpose.

(but don’t hold me to it!)