Monday, April 13, 2009

"With profound apologies to Charlotte Brontë and a deep curtsey too"

David Sillito reports for BBC News about the ongoing performances of Tamasha's Wuthering Heights. You can watch the report here:

A theatre adaptation of English literature classic Wuthering Heights has given the Emily Bronte tale a Bollywood spin.
And remember you have still a few days (until Friday, April 17) to enter your name in our contest to win two free tickets for the London performances.

Amanda Craig writes in The Independent an article about how difficult it is to write a (good) novel set in the present versus the somehow (easier) approach that presents a period or pseudohistorical novel. Although the article at times is a bit self-indulgent it poses interesting questions:
Indeed, writing about the present is the hardest thing of all to do. You might think it easy because there are so many good writers on newspapers and magazines around, and at its best – in the work, say, of the late Studs Terkel – journalism approaches what fiction can do to illuminate the human condition. Yet to seize the present moment is like trying to capture the moment when a fried egg turns from liquid into solid, as in Velazquez's painting, Kitchen Scene with Christ in the House of Mary and Martha. What is it now that will have resonance in 50 or 100 years time? What will there be to bring our times to life for the future reader? What are we most concerned about, in the way that Dickens was concerned with education, Charlotte Bronte with the position of governesses or Tolstoy with the structure of Russian society? A good contemporary novel is a perfect time-capsule that will transport its reader a hundred years hence into the preoccupations, tastes, opinions and spirit of the moment that it was written. Yet such novels – unless they are delivered to us from the developing world – are rare. What has remained consistently respectable and desirable are novels set in the past.

It is interesting to bear in mind that many of Charlotte Brontë's novels were 'period novels' even when they were first published. It is obvious in the case of Shirley and less obvious, but also true of, Jane Eyre or Villette, which take place years if not decades before they were written. Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights was also a 'period drama'. Only Anne Brontë's novels can be considered more or less proper contemporary dramas.

The Daily Mail has just one another of those Tanya Gold articles full of clichés and feminist misogyny (an apparent oxymoron, not so apparent when you read Gold's articles). This time we are luckier as there are fewer Brontë references. The article? Well, it seems that the crisis is killing the metrosexual type and recovering the good-old-beer-belly type... or something like that.
I have always fancied men like him. Even when I was a tweenager, I yearned not for Rick Astley, but for Orson Welles as Mr Rochester in the Forties version of Jane Eyre.
Yes, he was fat - he apparently had to take a steam bath every night and wear a corset to squeeze him- self into his costume - but he stomped around Thornfield like a dog with toothache, his cloak flapping in the wind.
Another article about Stephenie Meyer's Twilight which quotes several of its references:
In addition to all of this, the Cullens are much richer than Bella’s dad. Edward’s dad is a doctor who seems entirely in charge of the local hospital. When Edward brings Bella home to meet the folks it turns out that the Cullens live in a postmodern palace in the woods. Their house is hung with posh paintings. Its uncarpeted stairs fairly clatter with the footsteps of Mr Darcy, Mr Rochester and Heathcliff. Outside James Dean is revving up the car. (Ann Marie Hourihane in The Irish Times)
We read on E!online how the Gossip Girl characters Chuck and Blair can be considered:
There is a touch of classic literature to their coupling—Cathy and Heathcliff, Beatrice and Benedict, Scarlett and Rhett. (Jennifer Goodwin quoting Team Bluck)
Verlorene Werke reviews Jane Eyre (in German), Shannon's Blog posts about Wuthering Heights, Läser&funderar briefly posts about Agnes Grey (in Swedish). Finally Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover posts a very interesting review of the recently published Jean Rhys's biography: The Blue Hour by Lilian Pizzichini. Concerning Wide Sargasso Sea:
The small excerpts of letters used here show a different side to Jean and she wrote to Maryvonne regarding the Wide Sargasso Sea "If I could finish it before I peg out or really turn into some fungus or other! I think of calling it the First Mrs Rochester with profound apologies to Charlotte Bronte and a deep curtsey too. I suppose that won't do (I'm supposing that you have studied Jane Eyre like a good girl)". I see these letters have been published and I must see if I can get hold of them next time I visit the library as this glimpse of Jean has made me want to find out if I can like her a little better.
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