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>Madame Bovary

October 20, 2010

>When I first read Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary I had just turned 18, and I was extremely tickled by this particular passage:

“…one of the novels that she always had in her apron pocket, and from which the good old maid herself would devour long chapters in the intervals of her task. They were always and only about love, lovers, paramours, persecuted ladies fainting in lonely pavilions, postilions killed at every stage, horses ridden to death on every page, gloomy forests, troubled hearts, oaths, sobs, tears, and kisses, skiffs by moonlight, nightingales in groves, gentlemen brave as lions, gentle as lambs, virtuous as no one ever is, always well dressed, and weeping like tombstone urns.”

I had never heard anything funnier in my life than the idea of novels in which horses are ridden to death on every page. I was so taken with the idea that two of my friends and I began to write a comic novel in which a horse is, literally, ridden to death on every single page. We called it A Horse For All Seasons.

I’ve been thinking about our comic novel lately because of my reading of Mrs. Craddock and also because of the Madame Bovary read-along, and made so bold as to comment about it over at Pages Turned, at which opportunity Susan urged me to share some of it.

Okay. Here is the never-before-seen-in-public Chapter VIII, In Which the Volcano Utters Many Impotent Portents, and in Which the Situation Deteriorates into Pathetic Convulsions of Fate:

“Tell us more!” said the townspeople, by now emerging from the river with their household utensils still in hand.

“Woe is you and you is woe” said the volcano. “Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.” At that moment, the sky became dark and bolts of lightning grounded out the townspeople by the dozens and sent all the rest scampering back to the river, waving Veg-o-matics at the volcano. “Hmmph,” said the volcano, and fumed for a while, and was dormant.

Whilst these unhappy things transpired, the newly-blinded Cosmo found himself lost somewhere in France. Eight days passed, and nights too, but still he wandered. At last, by happy circumstance, he wandered close enough to an old farm horse to collide with it, catching its foreleg in his waistcoat. “Aha!” he cried. “A horse!” He leapt on the beast with the sure movement of an accomplished equestrian, drew out his riding crop, and slapped the animal on. Sadly, he’d mounted the creature backwards and whipped it in the face, startling it so that it crashed off through the forest, until it died.

Cosmo wandered around the dank, deep forests of central France for a while, and taking a notion to turn left, stumbled into the west wing. “Blind luck,” cackled the butler, pecking at the ground. Martha moaned and stuttered at the butler’s lack of decency and more so at Cosmo’s return. “Quick, hide!” she said to the thoroughly intoxicated bee-catcher, plunging him into the pearl-handled washbasin. Just before the image was shattered by the potted bee-catcher, Martha noted that in the garden the mysterious masked man in black was grinning savagely as he savagely whipped his frantically struggling mount, savagely riding him up to the lip of the pouting volcano. “Aiee!” cried the rapidly vanishing horse as the horseman waved bye-bye with savage glee.

“I just don’t see,” muttered Cosmo darkly and swarthily. The butler’s face was a mask of chagrin as he hadn’t thought of it first. Martha sighed, as if on cue.

We wrote 23 chapters of this kind of stuff before we came to our senses, and as you can see, in later chapters we sometimes finished off more than one horse per page, making it a more exciting book than even Madame Bovary could ever imagine.

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. October 20, 2010 10:43 am

    >Brilliant! And I think I may be even more partial to the grumpy volcano than to the dead horse.

  2. October 20, 2010 11:41 am

    >Jeanne and her friends, the "they" in the title They Shoot Horses, Don't They?Thank you thank you thank you for posting this. I LOVE it. What fun it must have been to write.

  3. October 20, 2010 12:29 pm

    >I want more!!

  4. October 20, 2010 12:35 pm

    >I like the way the "accomplished equestrian" mounted the horse backwards without noticing!

  5. October 20, 2010 12:39 pm

    >Harriet, It's funny that after 30 years I can't really remember which one of us wrote which part. At the time I thought our styles quite distinct! One of us ended up majoring in Physics, another in Math and History, and me, of course, in English.Susan, ahaha, "they"!I'm pretty sure it was more fun to write than it is to read.Lass, I would have to retype the whole thing, as it exists only as a printout from obsolete technology. (Of course, I've shown that I'm not unmoved by begging.) Anyone who comes to visit me can see it!

  6. October 20, 2010 12:40 pm

    >Karen, that's just one of the many, many contradictions inherent in the plot of a novel written in bits by separate people late at night starting with the fourth chapter.

  7. October 20, 2010 12:45 pm

    >Also a good Veg-o-matic reference is never misplaced.

  8. October 20, 2010 1:14 pm

    >Hilarious. I'd like to read more if you don't die of retyping.

  9. October 20, 2010 2:08 pm

    >I have often wondered (and can't remember) whether they typed version also had a horse ridden to death on every page!

  10. October 20, 2010 2:13 pm

    >This is hilarious! Thanks so much for sharing! I get the feeling Emma Bovary doesn't have much of a sense of humour though, so your most excellent novel might be wasted on her.

  11. October 20, 2010 4:04 pm

    >You're a true geek. ( and I say that fondly.)

  12. October 20, 2010 4:45 pm

    >Definitely made my day! I want more too….maybe you could scan it in??:-)

  13. October 20, 2010 5:37 pm

    >I liked the vegematics, too.

  14. October 20, 2010 6:15 pm

    >This is just too funny. It definitely has a bit of a Hitchhiker feel, with the grumpy volvanco and absurd elements. I love that a morse novel like Madame Bovary could inspire such comedy.

  15. October 20, 2010 9:16 pm

    >FreshHell, maybe I'll eke out a chapter here and there. Or you can come visit.Cschu, I can guarantee only that the original handwritten version had at least one expiring horse per page.Isabella, you're so right. Emma was humorless and so came to a bad end ;-)Care, I've never been called a geek before! Suddenly I have the urge to eat a raw chicken head!Betty, I'll see what I can do for my most faithful readers!ReadersGuide, the veg-o-matics might have been a riff on SNL.Avid Reader, what a nice compliment! You know what it takes to make me smile.

  16. October 20, 2010 9:53 pm

    >That is so entertaining! I was keeping an eye out for the death of the horse and you treated us to two – how nice of you! 🙂

  17. October 20, 2010 10:29 pm

    >Alyce, two for the price of one…and you get what you pay for!

  18. October 21, 2010 2:21 am

    >Hee hee hee. This is so funny. I think you should have kept writing – I LOVE the title of the chapter. It's so very British melodrama that it hurts.

  19. October 21, 2010 2:28 am

    >Kim, we did keep writing group fiction for a while; our second one was entitled Blank Penguins and featured a scene at Graceland.

  20. October 21, 2010 11:07 am

    >I so want to know why these people are hiding from Cosmo – were they very relieved when he was blinded and began wandering because he was a bit of a bore? Really fun pick me up for a work day (I don't suppouse they at any point rode a unicorn to death did they?), thanks for posting it.

  21. October 21, 2010 11:31 am

    >Jodie, there was actually a bit of plot, in which Martha and the bee-catcher were having an affair, and trying to hide it from Cosmo, her husband.

  22. October 21, 2010 11:32 am

    >And there were no unicorns. That would just be silly.

  23. October 22, 2010 6:26 pm

    >You had fantastic friends!And a lot of stamina. Know what? You should get it printed up and bound and send them each a copy!I especially like it that a volcano utters impotent portents.

  24. October 22, 2010 7:16 pm

    >Trapunto, had and do have. The friend who doesn't live with me typed it up and gave us a copy some years ago. Or maybe I typed it up and gave him a copy. I really can't remember.

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