Saturday, June 30, 2012

Crappy Sillyness

The Telegraph and Argus has bad news for Haworth:

Haworth, home of the Brontës, comes in for some withering slights while Bradford is given a drubbing in nominations to find the worst places in Britain to live for a new book.
The new edition of Crap Towns is due for release next year to mark the tenth anniversary of the first publication of the tongue-in-cheek guide and the editors have been collecting suggestions from unhappy residents of villages, towns and cities across the UK. [...]
he editors will choose from the nominations which towns make it into the final 50. The nomination for Haworth, from someone describing themselves as “Branwell” (the only brother in the Brontë clan) reads: “With mislaid sentimentality we thank Haworth for giving us the Brontë sisters. Really we should be cursing the place for killing them so young. It was Haworth’s unsanitary conditions and hard living that did for them.”
And there are more up-to-date complaints: “The main street is flooded instead with tourists eager to sift through the sisters’ remains. Every other street and building bears their stamp: Heathcliff Mews, The Brontë Bridge, Brontë Cottage B&B, the beautiful (but sadly now derelict) Brontë cinema, the Branwell Brontë tea rooms (also defunct). Brontë biscuits, Brontë fleeces, Brontë flagstones, Brontë toffee. The town has become a theme park, profiting from the very lives it stole." [...]
Andrew McCarthy, director of the Bronte Parsonage museum, said: “I think ‘Branwell’ is trying to be amusing, so this isn’t something that we’re taking very seriously, especially since it will probably be seen by very few people and influence even fewer. It’s a fairly predictable and lazy take on Haworth.
“I think Branwell’s portrayal of Haworth is slightly disingenuous and it’s interesting to note that quite a few of the buildings bearing the Brontë name that he mentions are either no longer there or are made up. That makes me wonder if ‘Branwell’ is somebody who hasn’t been to Haworth recently, maybe a Southerner with a prejudice against the North.” (David Barnett)
We wholeheartedly agree with Andrew McCarthy when he says 'Branwell' is 'trying' to be funny. And failing too. The complete article can be read here.

ÜberBrontëite John Mullan is back with one of his '10 of the best...' in the Guardian. Conflagrations today:
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Jane hears an extra-sensory summons from Mr Rochester and returns to Thornfield to find it "a blackened ruin". Having set the house ablaze, mad Mrs Rochester got on to the roof, her long black hair "streaming against the flames". Rochester was blinded trying to rescue her.
YA author Gabrielle Williams picks the books that changed her for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
Kate Bush made Wuthering Heights required reading for every teenager worth her salt back in my day, which makes me think maybe I should get Kimbra and Gotye to write a song called Beatle Meets Destiny or The Reluctant Hallelujah (must speak to Penguin's marketing department so they can organise this). Wuthering Heights is darkly gothic - a masterly piece of writing.
Erica Wagner writes about summer reads in The Times:
However, rain aside, we’ve tried as ever to come up with a something-for-everyone list of reading matter, though it’s easier for me to imagine you curled into a window ledge with a downpour beating against the glass — just like our friend Jane Eyre — than stretched out on a sunlounger. Never mind: reading makes its own weather.
The Times also interviews the singer Estelle Swaray:
Because of e-mail and Skype, it lends itself to being able to court the person. You time talking and communicating as human beings, not just, ‘Well, I’m going to sleep with them tonight and never see them again’.” It’s like all the passionate letter-writing in Brontë novels, she decides. (Ben Machell)

Strange that this New York Times article of a few days ago is being reposted and echoed in newspapers all over the world, which instead opt for reposting the old HarperCollins Twilight lookalike cover for Wuthering Heights. See for instance The Christian Science Monitor or CBS News. At least The Economic Times and Smart Planet have got it right.

Something else much in the news lately: E L James and her Fifty Shades of Grey. Vanessa Thorpe wonders in the Guardian why it turns British women on.
After all, the plot is so singlemindedly titillating that it makes the unconventional "modern" relationships that leaven Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy read like Charlotte Brontë in comparison.
The Daily Mail discusses the trilogy as well:
The story, or what there is of it, is about a 21-year-old virgin called Anastasia Steele who goes to interview a hugely successful businessman for a U.S. student magazine. ‘My mouth goes dry looking at him . . . he’s freaking hot.’
So it’s not Lord Sugar, then. In fact, his name is Christian Grey, and, what’s more, he’s cultured. He has always wanted to go to England, he tells Anastasia, because ‘it’s the home of Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontë sisters, Thomas Hardy. I’d like to see the places that inspired those people to write such wondërful books’, he explains, as though the reader has all the time in the world. (Craig Brown)
And that of course leads to the forthcoming Jane Eyre Laid Bare, mentioned by The Joplin Globe.
Coincidentally - or not - Salon discusses men in books, calling Mr Rochester a 'brooding babe for the ages'.
Going further back, there is Charlotte Brontë’s smoldering Mr. Rochester. He is a prototype of the brooding, inscrutable male. According to Jane Eyre, he is “peculiar.” He is “very changeful and abrupt.” When the book first appeared, a contemporary reviewer remarked, “Imagine a novel … with a middle-aged ruffian for a hero.” I can’t help it, there is great appeal in this — all those fun layers of defenses to hack through. The thrill of potential rejection. Yes, he is a gruff, self-absorbed narcissist, but eventually he’s revealed to be loyal, passionate and suitably tormented by his dark nature. And he falls for Jane, who is both headstrong and plain! (Janet Steen)
Libros en la hierba (in Spanish) reviews Jane Eyre; The Orange County Readers Advisory posts about different books inspired by Charlotte Brontë's novel; Le Book Blog and Many Media Musings post about Wuthering Heights; Books and Chocolate reviews Agnes Grey; The Lost Entwife posts about Wide Sargasso Sea

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