Psychoanalysis is incapable of curing the civilized discontent of Professor Sidney Kugelmass. He feels frustrated in his second marriage—to a woman whom he regards as an overweight oaf—and pressured by the alimony and child support that he must pay his first wife. He longs to transcend the banality of his existence and fantasizes doing so in an adulterous affair with a glamorous woman.
His opportunity comes with an unexpected phone call from a tinker in Brooklyn who dubs himself “The Great Persky.” Persky has constructed a cabinet that can somehow transport its occupant into the world of a literary work. All Persky need do is toss in a book, tap three times, and whoever is inside will find himself within that book’s fictional universe.
Kugelmass decides that he wants to pursue a romance with Emma Bovary. He pays Persky twenty dollars, and soon after getting inside the cabinet with a paperback of Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary (1857; English translation, 1886), finds himself in the Bovary house in provincial Yonville. Kugelmass and Emma spend a romantic afternoon alone together in the French countryside, which ends when he must return to meet his wife Daphne at Bloomingdale’s. Kugelmass goes back to nineteenth century Yonville many times during the next several months. He and Emma become passionate lovers.
Fascinated by Kugelmass’s tales of the world from which he comes, Emma is eager to visit it....
(The entire section is 420 words.)