What’s the story with Madame Bovary?
There’s no question that it’s one of the most celebrated novels out there - and yet, having finished it a few nights ago, I found myself wondering: really, that’s it?
All right, there’s a universe embedded in the detail; and all right, that detail amounts to portraiture of the literary variety. But come on: what is it about Madame Bovary that we are supposed to be attracted to? And another thing: where’s the sexuality? I mean, the real sexuality...
I’ve said this to Frank before, but I have serious trouble connecting with that perfected element of nineteenth century novels. Because for all the precision packed into Flaubert’s book (and others like it), there’s a curious lack of detail when it comes to the important things - like Madame Bovary’s infidelity. I mean: just because she runs her fingers against the cuff of her lover’s coat doesn’t mean that the sex was good. And if it does, well, I missed the hints, the moans.
Come on, Gustave: Madame’s driven to the ultimate act of self-destruction, and yet we’re never given access to her bedroom - and her behavior when she’s in there.
Don’t get me wrong, there were parts of this book that I greatly enjoyed (especially Flaubert’s treatment of rural France), but I found it a frustration: if there is going to be sex and sexuality there need to be ideas hovering around them. And this is where Flaubert, in the end, had me confused: what drives - I mean, what really drives - Madame Bovary toward adultery? And what is the meaning of the sex-act to which she ultimately commits herself?