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about

Inspired by Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, originally performed in the Bushwick Book Club at the Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn, NY, on February 1, 2012.

The characters who populate this book are small, petty people, and even Emma, the heroine, is unsympathetic—her contempt for her dull, complacent husband, her intelligence polluted by sentimental tastes and superficial desires, her dreams shaped by trashy novels. She gets involved in an affair, and then another, and creates an elaborate structure of lies to cover it all up, and then she gets in trouble with money, mortgaging everything to creditors in order to pay for the affairs--fake piano lessons, hotel rooms, gifts for her lover. It’s inevitable that it all come crashing down on her head. But once it did, and the book was finished, I found myself feeling tender toward Emma in spite of myself. She brought it all on herself, it’s true. But what were her alternatives? Not only could she not change anything about her life, she wasn’t even in a position to know what another (more intellectual, more independent) life might have looked like. It can be fatal to be born in the wrong place at the wrong time, to have vague desires it isn’t possible to meet, not to be able to change your circumstances. So my song ended up being sympathetic to her plight after all.

www.bushwickbookclub.com

lyrics

Poor Emma
She never had a chance
Longing to live in town and dance
A polka every night
She knew it wasn’t right
Poor little woman
Gasping for love
Like a carp on a kitchen table
She wanted a lover
Who knew how to play
On her weakness for words sentimental

Just what was making her unhappy
Where was the enormous calamity
When you’re a woman you make your own bed
And you lie in it lie in it up to the day that you’re dead

Poor Emma
Dressed with no place to go
She could run away but even so
There’s no other life
She’s always a wife
Bored little woman
Pining for pleasure
She wonders why she ever married him
She buys fancy things
And she changes her hair
She decides she will take up Italian

But nothing gives her satisfaction
She wants to feel drunken with passion
When you’re a woman you make your own bed
And you lie in it lie in it up to the day that you’re dead

She tries to transcend
The monotonous days
With the dedication of an addict
There is no escape
From her dreary fate
But the drug of adulterous habits

Poor Emma
Wasted on country life
The velvet she covets cuts like a knife
She’ll beggar herself
She’ll squander her health
Poor bitter woman
No one will save her
She’s gone beyond any man’s power
Her almond-shaped nails
And her dove-colored silk
And her mouth full of arsenic powder

What was it that was always missing
Maybe if she had to earn a living
When you’re a woman you make your own bed
And you lie in it lie in it up to the day that

What was it that was always missing
Maybe if she had to earn a living
But nothing gives her satisfaction
She wants to feel drunken with passion
Just what was making her unhappy
Where was the enormous calamity

credits

from Songs About Books (selections from the Bushwick Book Club), released August 10, 2013
Ellia Bisker - vocals, ukulele, piano, creaky desk chair

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Sweet Soubrette Brooklyn, New York

Sweet Soubrette features the songwriting, vocals and ukulele of Ellia Bisker, whose dark, edgy love songs have won fans' hearts and critical praise since the release of debut album Siren Song. She is joined by a talented backing band, often featuring as many as 8 musicians onstage. Sweet Soubrette's third album, Burning City, releases November 24, 2013. ... more

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