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  • Lauren Naturale 4:00 pm on 2015/07/10 Permalink
    Tags: bookish attractions, , , , , heart of darkness, joseph conrad, madame bovary, the jungle, ,   

    5 Literary Theme Parks You Wouldn’t Want to Visit 

    It’s too easy to make fun of Dickens World. Who could look at the stuff of Dickens’s fiction—lonely orphans, child thieves, penniless cripples, domestic abuse that culminates in murder—and think, theme park? Located at the Chatham Dockyard in Kent, the park promises to guide visitors through the world in which Charles Dickens lived and wrote, but no one ever clamored for a Great Expectations Water Ride, and TripAdvisor reviews suggest it doesn’t exactly cleave to the spirit of the books (“We were the last group of the day and the wonderful Bill Sikes was our guide; full of energy and information about Charles Dickens and the people and places of his time”).

    On the other hand, Dickens World makes a kind of sense: there are some books you inhabit while reading, fictional universes so broad and sharply realized, their borders extend beyond a single story. You feel as though the setting doesn’t end with the plot; you could keep exploring it forever. Under these circumstances, a Dickens-themed amusement park is almost reasonable. Almost. And there are certainly worse literary candidates for theme parks, including these five.

    One Flag, No Adventure (Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert)
    It’s like Sleep No More, but without the murder. Visitors are ushered into the courtyard of an abandoned hotel and given silly-looking hats. The courtyard is tacky and covered with straw, but the building itself is gothic, elegant; you can’t wait to get inside. After an hour, an employee brings everyone lemonade in mason jars, and the actors arrive to subject you to the worst rustic-chic wedding you’ve ever experienced. Follow them indoors—from the Gangrene Room to the Glamorous Party You Can Never Visit Again, there’s always something new to explore! When you’ve finished checking out both rooms, you’re led back into the courtyard. Spend the rest of your afternoon following other promising-looking actors to the doors of the hotel in the hope they’ll let you back inside. (They will make fun of your hat, but that’s part of the experience.) Eventually, accept that you are never getting back into the hotel and start buying overpriced souvenirs out of boredom. At the exit, thrill to the park’s one true ride: the Suicide-a-Whirl, an exhilarating spinning roller coaster designed to make you vomit uncontrollably. Is it motion sickness, or was that lemonade laced with rat poison? There’s only one way to find out.

    Vanity Fair (Vanity Fair, by William Thackeray)
    The main attraction at this obscenely expensive theme park is the Waterloo Charge, a ride that begins with a 90-degree vertical drop and spirals further out of control from there for an extreme thrill experience. It’s not unusual for passengers on the Waterloo Charge to faint, so make sure you have a designated non-roller-coaster-riding friend around to guard your unconscious body from the pickpockets who hang around waiting to prey on the groggy and disoriented. Beyond Waterloo, there’s little you can’t do here, assuming you have the cash—the drinks, gambling, and Punch-and-Judy show are popular favorites. Don’t miss the chance to get your picture taken riding an elephant!

    Charles Marlow’s Wild Ride (Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad)
    [This attraction has been closed indefinitely]

    The Jungle (The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair)
    Watch the sausage being made! Nothing combines the fun of a living history museum with the chaos of a late-night pub crawl like The Jungle. Enjoy rides like the Slaughter-Go-Round and the Entrail Slide. Take a shot before going on each ride. Take two. Wander the Historic Meat-Packing Plant, and take another shot. By the time the Socialist Slingshot sends you hurtling into the air, you’ll be so plastered meaningful social change will actually seem possible. Avoid the concession stand.

    A Good Ride is Hard to Find (Flannery O’Connor: Collected Works)
    There’s only one attraction at this tiny Georgia theme park, but if you’re willing to look past the heat, the bugs, and the exorbitant admissions fee, you will be rewarded with some twists and turns—especially twists, as the track spirals into a double corkscrew without any posted warnings. Pregnant? Heart condition? Afraid of roller coasters? No one’s going to warn you not to get on this ride. That’s not how it’s done in the South. Take your chances, and hopefully you won’t puke on your neighbor or require medical attention (the nearest doctor is an hour away, anyway). Once you get past the initial shock of two 180-degree twists you never signed on for, you may have a great time. On the other hand, this ride has a history of breaking down, and in recent years several passengers have been stranded upside-down at the top of the second loop, awaiting rescue. Don’t fret. Someone will come and get you down. Eventually. Probably. If you’re lucky.

    What literary theme park would you cross off your list?

  • Kate Willsky 3:30 pm on 2014/10/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , madame bovary, matchmaking, , , , , , ,   

    Perfect Celebrity Love Matches for Our Favorite Fictional Characters 

    Gustave Flaubert's Madame BovaryIn third grade, I was in love with JTT (who wasn’t?) but I also dreamed of running away with the Artful Dodger. For readers, there’s little distinction between speculating on the love lives of famous actors and of famous literary characters. But since characters’ romances are sealed within the pages of their books, they aren’t subject to Bey and Jay level scrutiny. But nothing can prevent us from wondering who, for example, Walter Berglund would pair off with at the Golden Globes after party, or who Katniss Everdeen might take to the Teen Choice Awards. Here are 12 iconic literary characters and who we think they’d date on the celebrity scene:

    Emma Bovary (Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert)
    Poor Emma Bovary serves as a tragic example of why fairy tale romances are just that—fairy tales. She needs a man who can indulge her Prince Charming fantasy but also help her focus on the more meaningful and substantive things in life. Only Brad Pitt, with his classic good looks and world-saving ways, can reign in this fickle beauty.

    Dmitri Karamazov (The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
    This passionate and impulsive antihero is tricky to match. He’s guilt-riddled, a philanderer, and maybe a murderer, but he’s looking for a simple, goodhearted gal who will stand by him if he gets locked up forever. Oh, and she also needs to have major sex appeal (Grushenka sets a pretty high bar). Only one wholesome-at-heart sex kitten with humble beginnings fits the bill: Katy Perry. If she can handle Russell Brand, Dmitri’s brooding and baggage will be a breeze.

    Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger)
    Introspective, jaded Holden needs a partner who has shaken off the yoke of angsty adolescence, but still has substance beneath the smiles. Enter Maisie Williams, whose curiosity and intelligence make her a good foil to his dark outlook. She’s also a world traveler, and knows enough about winter to tell Holden what the heck happens to the ducks when it comes.

    Jo March (Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott)
    Tomboyish and quick to anger, Jo needs someone playful enough to indulge her goofy side, patient enough to tolerate her temper, and smart enough to engage her intellect. I see down-to-earth goofball—and Brown grad—John Krasinski being the real-life Jim to her Pam.

    George (Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck)
    He’s a bit of an impatient hothead, but George has unshakable loyalty and will always be true to the one he loves. He’s a blue-collar guy, seeking an unpretentious lady who can help soften his rough edges, and there’s no better match for him than Carey Mulligan. She’s proven her ability to handle a man with a temper, and her sunny outlook provides a perfect counterpoint to George’s grumbling.

    Catherine Linton (Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë)
    The passionate, status-conscious, selfish Catherine requires not only all-consuming love with a man as intense as she is, but also money and prestige, and lots of it. As the son of a business mogul and model, Julian Casablancas, the grungy, ponderous frontman of The Strokes, marries the depth of Heathcliff with the moola and stature of Edgar.

    Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey)
    As the machinelike enforcer at an Oregon psychiatric hospital, Nurse Ratched is cold, controlling, and immune to human appeals. She won’t be charmed easily, nor will she be quick to let down her guard and be vulnerable with a man. It’ll take something stronger than electroshock treatments to break her cold exterior: this smile. George, she’s all yours.

    Meursault (The Stranger, by Albert Camus)
    Only a woman who has thought through all the big questions—and believes in the answers she’s come to—can handle the misanthrope who narrates Camus’ iconic existential tale. One look at Helena Bonham Carter’s hats tells you she’s seen the absurdity of existence, and rather than take it as a sign that All Must End, she uses it as a free pass to treat life as a playful-if-meaningless adventure. I see many long walks on the beach in this couple’s future.

    Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling)
    While she may harbor some childhood affection for her buddy Ron, let’s be real, Hermione needs somebody a bit more sophisticated. A renaissance man, one with an insatiable desire to learn, as well as an ability to laugh at himself when she inevitably corrects him. Accio: James Franco!

    Leopold Bloom (Ulysses, by James Joyce)
    This sensitive, neurotic, intellectually curious man needs a partner who can answer his questions and indulge his interest in science and how things work. Natalie Portman, having been published twice in scientific journals and being as interested in learning as she is in being a movie star, could be more than just a rebound after Leopold ends things with unfaithful Ms. Molly.

    Which modern-day celebrity would your favorite fictional character pair off with?

  • Ginni Chen 5:00 pm on 2014/06/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , ignatius reilly, , jay gatsby, jean valjean, , lisbeth salander, madame bovary, miss havisham, , , , , , , ,   

    If Famous Literary Characters Had Online Dating Profiles 

    9780802130204_p0_v1_s600It seems like all my friends are looking for love online these days. Whether they’re searching for the One or just the One Right Now, they all know that perfecting their online dating profile is a big deal. Your profile has to be honest about who you are, but not too honest. It has to make you seem quirky, memorable, and unique, but not too weird. It has to sell, but only to the right people. It’s the difference between an outright online rejection and a life-changing date with your soulmate. It’s a lot of pressure to put on a single piece of writing.

    So to take some of that pressure off, let’s see how some of our favorite fictional characters would fare at online dating in this day and age:

    Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
    Profile Photo: Profile of his face looking out over the water, a greenish glow in the distance
    Location: 22 miles from NYC
    About Jay: I’m a go-getter, a self-made man. I work hard, play hard, party even harder. I like to throw big parties, the bigger the better, the more the merrier. I may have nice clothes, nice cars, and 99 bottles of Dom, but deep down I’m just a sensitive, small-town guy. I’m a dreamer, I don’t drink, and I treat girls right. I’ve been burned by love before, though, so let’s take it slow.

    Ignatius Reilly (A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole)
    Profile Photo: Scowling at camera near a hot dog stand, traces of mustard on chin
    Location: New Orleans
    About Ignatius: If you’re reading this, then you’ve fallen for the mockery I’m making of this depraved modern mating ritual. Send forth a welcoming missive and I’ll grace your feeble mind with the musings of my godlike one. I’ll read aloud my lengthy indictment of our debased times and tantalize your pyloric valve with an impeccable cheese dip. Must love dogs, food, movies, Batman, and Boethius. Must deplore mainstream society and the prevalent tasteless culture.

    Miss Havisham (Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens)
    Profile Photo: Sitting in an armchair in a wedding dress
    Location: Satis House, England
    About Miss Havisham: My adopted daughter Estella told me it was time to “get back in the game,” so here I am. Seeking an honest, reliable, and independently wealthy man who won’t swindle me. I’m a homebody and I don’t go out ever, so you’ll have to come visit me in my manse. There’s plenty of cake here, though.

    The Cat in the Hat (The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss)
    Profile Photo: Hat, bowtie, balancing lots of items while riding a unicycle
    Location: Seussville
    About The Cat:
    I’m the Cat in the Hat and I speak in rhyme
    Let’s go on a date and have a good time.
    I’m great with kids and I’m always fun
    Just hoping that you might be The One.

    Emma Bovary (Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert)
    Profile Photo: A montage of various duck-face selfies
    Location: Rouen, France
    About Emma: I love shopping, dancing, going to the opera, gossiping, and having fun. Haute couture and romance novels are my faves. Hate being poor and bored. Love meeting new people and I especially LOVE falling in love. I’m married, but it sucks and I’m looking for romance and excitement elsewhere. If you’re the Prince Charming I’m looking for, message me. Also, please be rich. xoxoxox.

    Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy, by Stieg Larsson)
    Profile Photo: None
    Location: Stockholm, or anywhere in the world
    About Lisbeth: I know your address. I know where you went to school. I know everything about you and everything you do. I’m a hacker extraordinaire with a dark side, an even darker childhood history, and a vigilante sense of justice. I have a soft spot, though, and I’d like to share that with someone special, guy or girl. If you exploit my soft spot, be afraid. Be very afraid…

    Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)
    Profile Photo: Laughing with sisters and holding a book
    Location: Meryton, England
    About Elizabeth: Mama has beseeched me to venture online to better acquaint myself with eligible, well-appointed bachelors. Her mind ever points towards marriage opportunities, whereas mine delights in the ridiculousness of this online dating endeavor. Dear Suitors, I am a good walker.

    Jean Valjean (Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo)
    Profile Photo: Charcoal sketch by Émile Bayard
    Location: Paris, France
    About Jean: Who am I? Who am I? Can I pretend I’m not the man I was before? Some see me as an ex-convict who broke parole, but I’m truly a good guy who just took a few wrong turns. I am now a successful business owner, an adoptive father, and a humanitarian. I’m well read, God-fearing, and boy can I sing!

    What other literary characters would you like to see with online dating profiles?

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