Archive for the ‘literary ladies’ Category

LiteraryLadies #10: Emma Bovary

November 15, 2009

Emma Bovary is one of the most influential female characters in literature, behind Moll Flanders, Edna Pontellier & Anna Karenina . While I don’t love Emma, her pathetic attempts at a magical life make her tangibly pitiable; I end up rooting for her every time I read it. For a role like Emma Bovary, an actress with some flexibility is necessary, because the novel begins when she is a teenager and ends when she is about middle-aged. I thought Elizabeth Banks would be good for the role:

I chose Banks for a few reasons– one, she’s beautiful, and I always imagined Emma’s beauty as too big for the tiny market town she resides in. Two, she has that classic, ageless loveliness that has the ability to look young and naive or mature and vampy with a change of neckline and some extra rouge. Third, her versatility as an actress is important for a role like Emma Bovary: she must simultaneously portray a woman who is utterly unhappy, swamped in guilt for that unhappiness, “ripe for seduction” (as her later lover called her), and flagrantly apathetic about the consequences her behavior has on anyone but herself.

Emma is a dreamer & a romantic, having read a great many novels during her time in the convent school. With more education than many women of her time, her proclivity to dissatisfaction is organic: she can see past the provincial delights of the stultifying market town in which she resides, past her bumbling husband’s mediocre attempts at love, and past the practically-written-in-stone mores of mid-19th century France. When even motherhood’s veiled secrets escape her, she is left listless and depressed, falling to affairs and insurmountable debts.

Emma Bovary

If Madame Bovary were set in today’s society, there would have to be some superficial changes to the plot. For example, I feel like Emma must be more of a “kept woman” than she is in the original story. In the novel Emma’s husband Charles Bovary has a second-rate medical license; since things are more regulated now, he could simply be a nurse, or a physician’s assistant– something that doesn’t require the same amount of school as an MD.

Their life together should be comfortable, but not luxurious. Modern-day Emma would constantly be looking at catalogues and browsing the internet for things lovelier and more decadent than they can afford. She is prim and childlike in the beginning of their marriage– and her daughter does nothing to alleviate the boredom and sadness that has seeped into her life– in fact, motherhood seems to make Emma’s dissatisfaction even greater. The novelty of having a child wears off quickly for her, and she begins to torture herself with the first of two ill-fated affairs.

The second affair, however, proves to be her undoing. Emma is enamored of and ensnared by the rakish Rodolphe Boulanger– in my version, he is a more successful version of Charles Bovary– perhaps a plastic surgeon or something equally superficial– and a womanizer, of course– a la Christian Troy in Nip/Tuck. When he abandons her on the eve of their elopement by leaving a cursory apology at the bottom of a basket of apricots, Emma falls apart. She is ill and unmanageable, even briefly turning to religion before discovering her true love: Shopping.

The collage above is meant to show Emma’s decadent tastes– while she is beautiful and loves luxurious things, I never pictured her to have a very sophisticated palate. Her clothes would be expensive but over-the-top, her closet overflowing with things your mother might have worn clubbing in 1987. The debts pile up quickly, and before she knows what has happened to her, she is begging money off of the men she’s used and who have used her, including Rodolphe. Without a penny and with no man to save her, Emma attempts to take her own life with arsenic, but ends up dying slowly, painfully, and without the dignity of anyone thinking it was an accident. A fitting– if messy– end for a woman whose disregard for those around her brings down her entire family.


Wherein I admit that I like seeing my stats be higher than normal

November 9, 2009

senseandsensibility via flickr

I am a competitive person. So competitive, in fact, that if I’m not sure I’ll win, I often won’t even play. That’s also called “Being a Giant Brat”, but that’s a post for another time. I’ve noticed that the posts that get the most hits–either search engine hits or pageviews–are my Literary Ladies posts. Those also happen to be the least frequently posted of all my rambling. (You can see some old Literary Ladies posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. The very very first is here.)

But, back to my brattiness competitive edge: because I like reading my stats, and because they are fun to write, I am going to make the LLs a bigger part of the writing I do for this website. I’ve learned that the only way to do something right it to do it better, more frequently, and geekier than the rest. Geekier I can certainly manage, no question.

Now, it’s your turn: Who do you want to see here? Which actresses are you interested in seeing reprise your favorite leading role? Check out the last poll for some inspiration, and please leave a comment if you have any ideas.
That said, I’m glad to be back to blogging with a bit more regularity! I know it’s not perfect, but things are slowly improving on the stress front, for various reasons.

What’s making Monday less manic for you, today?

Literary ladies #9: Ella Turner

July 22, 2009


Literary Ladies is my series where I nerd out for a bit & imagine my favorite literary heroines into the modern world. Email me your suggestions or leave a comment below!

In Tracy Chevalier’s novel The Virgin Blue, the main character, midwife Ella Turner, moves to France with her husband, which sparks the beginning of a journey that she can barely bring herself to believe. Her dreams are arrested by scenes from the life of a Catholic midwife from the 16th century, and as Ella learns more about her French lineage, it becomes clear that fateful forces have drawn her to her family’s ancestral home. Because Ella & Isabella both play active roles, the actress in the lead would have to be versatile enough to play both parts, and speak convincing French. That’s why I chose the beautiful French actress Marion Cotillard for my imaginary film:

via ask

via ask

Like Isabella, Ella and her husband are experiencing marital troubles– Ella spends her days studying French and preparing to become licensed as a midwife in a new country, while her husband’s increasing absence due to work makes it hard for them to communicate meaningfully. Isabella’s husband is abusive and manipulative, taking no care with her well-being or happiness. Meanwhile, Ella finds it hard to connect with locals and neighbors, despite her efforts at learning French and being friendly. Isabella is also a midwife, and furthermore, she is also a former Catholic, whose family converted to Calvinism with the Huguenots’ crusades. She still prays to the Virgin Mary, or La Rousse (a nickname suggestive of her red, red hair), which causes problems within her family and her community, who come to view her as something of a witch. As problems for Isabella increase in Ella’s dreams, Ella connects with a librarian who specializes in local history. As their friendship intensifies, Ella becomes aware that the coincidences between her own story and Isabella’s cannot be coincidence alone.

Ella Turner

For Ella Turner, simple and stylish pieces should be mixed together for the ultimate sense of luxury and good taste. Her style would mesh the classic (khaki shorts, strappy sandals, stacks of bangles and pearls) with the funky (drape-y, near-neon tops; sparkly, ruffly dresses paired with popping blue platforms for nights out dancing). Ella and her husband are financially well-off, and her wardrobe in film format would reflect that. After all, she is able to stay at home, study French and take midwifery classes to update her certification– the luxury of freedom suggests at least moderate wealth. She would choose a bag that both surprises and compliments several of her favorite outfits– just because she’s wealthy doesn’t mean she would be wastefully so. Her base would be neutral, but a flash of color helps her to stand out as an individual in a sea of unfriendly faces. Ella would love classic headbands, pink lips, and understated beauty. Film-Ella would have flawless porcelain skin and hair that changes throughout the film– in the novel, Ella’s hair lightens over time from dark and brown to a fiery auburn, symbolizing the interconnection between her life and the life of Isabella– who is often called La Rousse herself.

This novel was Chevalier’s first, and got far less attention than did her follow-up novel, The Girl With the Pearl Earring. If Pearl Earring was your favorite book of all time, you may not like this one as much, as the writing is not as refined as her later work, however if you can suspend disbelief and just enjoy the how well-crafted the supernatural and spiritual aspects of the book are, you can certainly enjoy it at least as much as the other.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Literary Ladies #8: Scarlett O’Hara

May 5, 2009

Literary Ladies is my weekly series where I nerd out for a bit & imagine my favorite literary heroines into the modern world. Email me your suggestions or leave a comment below!

Is there a literary heroine with more spunk, more grit, than Katie Scarlett O’Hara? I always have a hard time coming up with an actress to play my heroines, but this one was nearly impossible. Scarlett O’Hara is epic. She personifies the South, the belle of the ball, excess and poverty, determination– so many things to consider! And, almost more important, Scarlett must be ravishingly beautiful. That’s why I finally decided on Amy Adams:

I chose Amy Adams because of her amazing versatility– have you seen the plethora of movies she’s been in? She went from Enchanted, a family musical, to Doubt, which won a Pulitzer & deals with Very Adult Subjects, in the course of a year. I there’s any actress in Hollywood with the chops to play a woman like Scarlett, Amy Adams is the one. Gone With the Wind 2009 would be set in the South, of course, but since the whole premise is the Civil War I think I’m going to fabricate a war with Mexico. That’s the beauty of the internet. I can fabricate whatever I’d like. (Sort of like Scarlett, but with fewer broken hearts.)

One thing I would want changed about a modern-day interpretation is the fact that the original movie left out Scarlett’s other two children than Bonnie, who, in the novel, lived with her sister Suellen at Tara. In fact, the 1939 version left out a good deal of Scarlett’s more selfish traits & merely hinted at her cruelty, whereas in the novel the reader gets a good understanding of how disliked Scarlett is, even within her family, from her relationship with her sisters. Also absent is the true sense of evolution you get from the novel– in leaving out so much of her life, the changes within her character seem far less developed, and appear to happen with far less impetus than with her entire back story explained.

scarlett o'hara

Scarlett O’Hara, in 2009, would be draped head to toe in couture, and only the most fine, expensive couture at that. Even during sieges, battles– her couture would just be dirtier, more ragged. It is those times, of siege and death, where Scarlett really learns what she is made of. In the novel, it took all that hardship for her to come to an understanding of her own limitations and freedoms, which helped to solidify her stubborn streak– Scarlett never was good at following rules. In good times, Scarlett’s decadence and almost-obscene sense of style would be the talk of the town, and the envy of all the girls. She wears the highest heels, the reddest lipstick, the laciest underpinnings, the whitest & biggest diamonds, has the most suitors (and scandal) and always has to learn the hard way.

Literary Ladies #7: Francie Nolan

April 28, 2009

Literary Ladies is my weekly series where I nerd out for a bit & imagine my favorite literary heroines into the modern world. Email me your suggestions or leave a comment below!

It’s been since January that I’ve posted a new Literary Ladies column, so I figured it was about time to log into polyvore & get my nerd on.

While in New York, I got to thinking about how the world of Francie Nolan (from Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) intersects with the world of urban teenagers today. Her family lives paycheck to uncertain paycheck, her parents uneducated but hard-working, and her charismatic & unpredictable father is an oft-absent alcoholic. Francie places more emphasis on her education than her parents do; as a teacher, I think it’s unfortunately often in modern times that parents place more emphasis on education than the child. Francie could teach an important lesson, if used in the context of today’s economic & political situations. What is unique about Francie is her pre-feminist understanding that her education was not for education’s sake alone, but moreover for the collateral it provided her, & the chance to move beyond the Brooklyn tenement of a childhood spent dreaming of being more. These trials of life are timeless & classless, for wealthy children endure the same social and family hardships as poorer ones.

In 2009, Francie Nolan’s classic TGiB characteristics– fair-haired & skinned, sensitive, studious & extremely hardworking academically– casting a Disney pop princess to such a poignant character would be a bit disingenuous. She’s the type of girl clever enough to manoeuvre through the red tape of public school & acquire a spot in a better, more competitive one– so there’s no way you could convince me to cast anyone but Abigail Breslin in the role:

There is also no way you can convince me she’d be anything but dripping with personal style:

francie nolan

Being from the city, I picture whimsical, practical staples like dressy shorts and a fitted camisole, covered up with a handmade shawl. Walking (skating? should 2009 Francie use a skateboard?) everywhere means comfy shoes, so a pair of trendy, sturdy & inexpensive sneakers are a must. In the novel, Francie is constantly sketching, doodling, writing, dreaming, drawing in her journal– it’s only appropriate to keep her well-equipped with blank paper & a plethora of pencils. Francie in 2009 would be deep into the vintage jewelry market, adorning her skinny arms with acrylic & brass bangles, floral clips, and long silver chains. Her leather handbag would be overflowing with scraps of paper, receipts, an over-full wallet crammed with everything from a library card to an expired coupon for New York & Company– and with a two-pound lake of pennies pooling in the darkest recesses of the lining. Francie cleans her purse at CoinStar & writes poems on the backs of library book inserts, hoping she makes a sweet lonely boy fall in love with her marginalia.