Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Gladys Huntington's MADAME SOLARIO: A Teen's Sexual Affair with Her Step-Dad

We came across The Public Theater's "What Do We Need to Talk About?", first in the Highbrow\Brilliant section of New York Magazine's The Approval Matrix (May 11-24, 2020) and then in Alexandra Schwartz's New Yorker review of the play (May 18, 2020). 

Here's part of The Public Theater's plot summary:

"The Apple Family, last seen in 2014, return, though not over the dinner table, but via Zoom. This hour-long play picks up with them during their now suspended and quarantined lives. They talk about grocery shopping, friends lost, new ventures on a hoped-for horizon—all at a time when human conversation (and theater) may be more needed than ever before."

As you can see, it doesn't appear that the play is relevant to this blog, but for some reason we were drawn to it, we watched it on YouTube, and, lo and behold, here we are. 

Alexandra Schwartz relates in her review of the play:

"A second shift [in the play] happens when Barbara, who's a high school English teacher, tells the group that she's assigned the Decameron to her students, and suggests, à la Boccaccio, that each member of the call tell a story to entertain the others." 

And here's the beginning of Barbara's story: "I came across a novel [Madame Solario by Gladys Huntington]. Published anonymously. In the 50s. It had been a huge success a bestseller. The writing compared to Henry James. As well as being scandalous. The woman at the center of the novel has a secret. When this character [Madame Solario] was 15, she began a sexual affair with her 50-year-old and very wealthy stepfather [Count Kovanski]. At this time, her mother, his wife, was in their house, up in her bedroom, dying."

We haven't read Madame Solario yet, but we did write about The Decameron in The Allure of Nymphets. Here's an excerpt: 

In Boccaccio’s The Decameron, in the seventh story on the eighth day, the scholar Rinieri explained to the young and beautiful Elena the benefits of having an older lover over a younger one:

“You women are always falling in love with younger men, and yearning for them to love you in return because of their fresher complexions and darker beards, their jaunty gait, their dancing and their jousting; but when a man is properly mature, he has put such matters as these behind him, and knows a thing or two that these young fellows have yet to learn.”

“Moreover, because a young man will cover more miles in a single day, he seems to you a better rider. But whereas I admit that he will shake your skin coat with great vigour, the older man, being more experienced, has a better idea of where the fleas are lurking. Besides, a portion that is small, but delicately flavoured, is infinitely preferable to a larger one that has no taste at all. And a hard gallop will tire and weaken a man, however young, whilst a gentle trot, though it may bring him somewhat later to the inn, will at least ensure that he is still in good fettle on arrival.” 

Lastly, Gladys Huntington's Madame Solario reminded us of The Diary of a Teenage Girl - the graphic novel and the film. 

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