Being Happy With What We Have
by Bruce Fleming
Hardcover; 6 x 9 inches
ca. 320 pages
February 2017, $24.95
Tired of being surrounded by stuff? Tired of same-old-same-old? Convinced that adventure always lies somewhere else? So was Gustave Flaubert’s heroine Emma Bovary from the 1857 novel Madame Bovary, and she killed herself. Fortunately, we don’t have to. Nor do we have to be miserable, like poor Emma, who dreams of high life with the beautiful people, yet whom Fate has condemned to an ordinary life with an ordinary husband and an ordinary child in an ordinary town. But what makes her think the aristocracy is made of people any happier than she is? For them, that’s their ordinary. We want what we don’t have. Saving Madame Bovary is a stay-up-all-night read, a book about how we live our lives. Maybe it could have saved Emma, and it can certainly save us. From what? From endless yearning, from boredom when we achieve our goals because they fail to satisfy, from what seems the banality of the everyday. We need to be ready for the everyday and fully embrace it. After all, more things are just more things, and everywhere is somebody’s everyday.
Saving Madame Bovary is a dazzling juggling act of literature (Flaubert, Jane Austen’s Emma—the “other” Emma, Aldous Huxley, and E. F. Benson, among others), sociology (our obsession with brand names), and applied philosophy (what is the nature of the everyday?). The result, in addition to an exhilarating read, is a book that helps people focus on something other than a Gucci bag or a Rolex, whose aura quickly fades, leaving us wanting something else.
Bruce Fleming is an English professor at the U.S. Naval Academy. With degrees in philosophy and comparative literature from Haverford College, the University of Chicago, and Vanderbilt University, he has published more than a dozen books as well as written for the Antioch, Yale, and Sewanee reviews, AGNI magazine, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Christian Science Monitor. He also has been on CNN, C-Span, NPR, and the BBC. He lives outside of Annapolis with his his wife and two sons.