Tuesday, April 16, 2013

One Year Later…

Currently Reading: The Once and Future King by T. H. White

I’m not usually one to stick to long-term projects.

I’m the queen of the New Year’s resolution that lasts for two weeks before I relapse. I go through spurts of being a work out junky before I find my butt right in front of the TV again. I constantly start projects, lose momentum halfway through and then find myself unable to pick the project up again.

It’s not something I love about myself, but I admit that I have all the best intentions with pretty lousy follow through when it comes to projects and goals.

However, today marks a pretty big event in the saga of Meredith’s history of zero-follow-through.

Because today is the one-year anniversary of when I started Novel Ideas!

Which is why I’ve decided to toot my own horn a little bit in this post.

During the past year, I have written 29 blog posts (30 counting this one) and read 24 books. Of those 24 books, 18 of them were on my Reading List.

For the person with the scrapbook with only two pages worth of pictures from a vacation I took almost eight years ago; the person whose room is full of corners of organization from that one day I felt motivated; the person with stacks of Thank You cards I’ve never filled out, let alone sent; the person with diaries with opening entries in January and ending entries in March of the same year, THIS IS A BIG DEAL!

I was fairly proud when I started my blog because, as I mentioned in my first post, I had toyed with the idea for a while, but struggled to find the courage and resolve to actually begin. However, I’m so much prouder that I’ve actually managed to keep up with it! And pretty consistently as well. While I may have averaged only about two posts per month, I’ve only had one month during which I didn’t post at all! Again, another huge accomplishment for me!

Additionally, I’m proud that I set two short-term blog related goals for myself in the past year and actually completed both of them! This is especially impressive for the November challenge of nine blog posts in one month. I absolutely expected that I would fall short and post the ninth in December. But no! I did it!!

I am disappointed that I haven’t made a bigger dent in my reading list and that I’m currently behind in blog posts for the books I’ve read. But overall, I can’t help feeling pretty satisfied with the progress I’ve made. I feel empowered and want to keep setting goals for this blog.

However, I’m still not confident in how good this newfound follow-through is so I think I’ll skip setting any goals for my next year of blogging.

But maybe I’ll actually go finish that scrapbook…

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Madame Blah-vary

Currently Reading: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

WARNING!!!: This post contains MAJOR spoilers!!!

Waiting this long to write this blog post about Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary may have been both a great and terrible decision.

It wasn’t an entirely intentional decision. After spending a month focusing on reading and then spending two glorious, adventure-filled weeks in Australia, writing blog posts was not high on my list of priorities for most of the last two months. However, I did force myself to wait to write this post in the sense that I refused to allow myself to skip over the books I read before Madame Bovary in order to get to this post.

It was a struggle to do so, though, because I seriously wanted to just explode my feelings about this book all over the place!

And I actually did to anyone and everyone who would listen for weeks after finishing this book. It prompted tirades that rivaled the ones caused when Sybil died on Downton Abbey – which still pisses me off, by the way. I can actually feel my body temperature rising while I think about both…

Which is part of why I think it was a great idea to wait to write this post. I’m fairly certain that in my state of intense frustration and passionate disgust, I probably would have been incapable of writing even a slightly coherent post. Now that I’ve had almost two months to cool off, I’m hoping I will be able to describe my reaction more clearly and calmly.

This may have been a bad idea, though, only because I know that I enjoy reading rant posts more than calm ones. Hopefully this will still be entertaining. The bubble of anger stirring in my stomach as I write this introduction is probably a solid sign it will at least be interesting.

I really hope that there was a lot lost in the translation of this novel, which was originally written in French (in case you couldn’t tell from the very French names of the title character and the author), because if that’s not the case, I truly cannot understand why anyone has or will ever like this book. It has the least likable cast of characters I’ve ever encountered. Everyone is just so freaking obnoxious and this is beyond true of our leading lady.

For the record, I really did try to find Madame Emma Bovary’s redeeming qualities. I really tried to feel the sympathy for her that the author so badly wants us to feel, but I just couldn’t.

Because my God! Madame Bovary is a piece of work. She’s a mess of manic depression and self-involvement with ideas of passion and love that would nauseate a high school girl. Her actions are completely self-destructive, but apparently that’s not enough for her (fitting since she’s never satisfied). Nope, Madame Bovary feels the need to become such a force of destruction that she manages to ruin pretty much everyone else’s lives in the process of ruining her own. All for the sake of pursuing some unrealistic notion of passion that she could never hope to find, especially because she doesn’t have enough depth of personality to feel on the levels she wants to. She’s a petulant, awful, selfish, spoiled idiot and I found her unbearable!

Given that she was the title character, you could see how this would make for a less than pleasant reading experience.

It didn’t help matters that the supporting cast was comprised of more repulsive characters. Everyone was annoying. Everyone!

The only character that was even somewhat likeable was the practical Charles Bovary, our oh-so-charming protagonist’s husband. He truly loves Emma – God only knows why! – and he does everything in his power to make her happy, a goal he will never achieve because Emma is eternally unhappy. He’s a solid husband and father, basically just doing the best he can with what he has. His practicality is especially refreshing given his wife’s tendency to be the queen of Fantasyland.

He puts up with all of Emma’s crap, always believing in her (completely fictional) goodness, only to have her completely screw him over in the end.

Madame Bovary spends the whole novel having not very subtle affairs and spending money she and her husband don’t have to finance both the affairs and an expensive, unnecessary lifestyle. Eventually, she runs her family so far into debt that the only way out is to beg for money from anyone she can, including her former lover, a scene that laughably ends with Emma refusing to put out for money because she’s suddenly so moral and then accusing her former lover of being selfish.

Um, Pot, I’d like you to meet Kettle.

In a chaotic whirlwind of self-pity, Madame Bovary decides there’s no way to fix this tremendous mess she’s created (surprise, surprise) so of course the only course of action is to kill herself.

Sure. That’s the best answer to your problems. That will make them all go away… for you.

Because the problems don’t disappear themselves. Instead, they become Charles’s and her daughter’s problems.

So after years of putting up with Emma’s fits and ridiculous requests and terrible motherly instincts, Charles and his daughter end up completely destitute. Then, as if this isn’t enough, Charles finally finds the stash of letters from Madame Bovary’s lovers, discovering what a sham his life has been and just how awful his wife truly was.

For all these reasons, I find Charles the most sympathetic character.

However, he is only the most appealing of an awful selection. It’s like picking between STDs.

Because Charles Bovary is also an idiot; a spineless moron who goes from being controlled by one odious woman to another. So many issues in this novel could have been resolved if Charles had just grown a backbone and told his wife to think about someone other than herself for a change. UGH!

In the interest of an attempt at a fair, well-rounded view on this book, I guess you can argue that its merit is that Flaubert manages to get you interested in the lives of the most repulsively obnoxious characters ever created. I read somewhere that Madame Bovary is meant to be a satire, criticizing the lavish living style of the French bourgeoisie and maybe, maybe I could buy into that reading and find the merit in the novel that way, but I’m still not 100% sold that it really is a satire because Flaubert tries very hard to make Emma sympathetic..

And even if Madame Bovary is a satire, it is a long-ass satire! I don’t understand how someone can enjoy reading about completely repugnant characters for so long. Maybe some people find it funny? I really just don’t know.

In short, I’d suggest you skip this one. Unless you really enjoy unbelievably detailed descriptions of clothes because then you and Flaubert will get along great.