Wednesday, November 28, 2012

'So painful and moving a saga that no respectable biographer has failed it'

Robert Gottlieb recommends biographies of classic authors on The Daily Beast's Book Bag.

The Brontës
The six children of the Reverend Patrick Brontë, all of whom predeceased him, two of them writers of genius. Their isolated life on the moors; the painful attempts at teaching and governessing; the disaster of the one boy, Branwell, brilliant and dissolute; the amazing success of Jane Eyre; the relentless loss of life to tuberculosis (although Charlotte died of complications connected to childbirth)—it’s so painful and moving a saga that no respectable biographer has failed it. The classic is the life of Charlotte by her close friend the brilliant novelist Elizabeth Gaskell; the most complete version is the series of individual volumes by the scholar Winifred Gérin. But don’t worry—you really can't go wrong.
Charlotte died of complications connected to pregnancy, not childbirth, though. And we are saddened to see him leaving Anne (we suppose) out of the 'genius' picture.

Robert Gottlieb used to be the editor of The New Yorker and today The New Yorker's Page-Turner discusses bad endings.
Many of the world’s best novels have bad endings. I don’t mean that they end sadly, or on a back-to-work, all-is-forgiven note (e.g. “War and Peace,” “The Red and the Black,” “A Suitable Boy”), but that the ending is actually inartistic—a betrayal of what came before. This is true not just of good novels but also of books on which the reputation of Western fiction rests. [...] Ditto “Wuthering Heights.” After the scalding passion of Catherine and Heathcliff, who cares about the amorous back-and-forths of their uninteresting children? Yet this occupies half of the book. (Joan Acocella)
Clearly many script writers would tend to agree with that.

This columnist from the Williston Herald is quite a Brontëite:
One high school summer, I carried stacks of books home from the library with an ambitious (and irrational) resolve to read all the “classics” and discovered Austen, Orwell and Dickens. From the horrifying twist at the end of “Rebecca” to Cather’s pioneer life, I refined my tastes and discovered that I prefer the Brontës’ moors to Hemingway’s grappa. (Jenna Ebersole)
Not everybody is as fond of the Brontës or the moors. See for instance this callous letter from a reader of The Telegraph and Argus concerning the wind farm plans:
Sir – I’d like to express my support for the decision to allow expansion of the wind turbines above Haworth.
I see the objections by the Brontë Society to be quite bizarre. They appear to want to keep Haworth close to what it was early in the 19th century.
However, the area is already so different. There was no railway at the time Wuthering Heights was set. Should we close that down? And Heathcliff first appeared in the area after having walked from Liverpool – most likely along the canal. Should we ban all but horse-powered craft from any local canals?
The area cannot just exist on the tourist trade.
Geoff Collier, Apsley Terrace, Oakworth
20 Minutos' La Urna (Spain) likens the relation between Spain and Catalonia to Wuthering Heights and its 'matryoshka' structure. Respiring Thoughts, Marmarmarmarina (in Russian) and Espacio Libros (in Spanish) all post about Jane Eyre while Thoughts and Stuff and Pusinko (in Portuguese) write about the 1983 adaptation of the novel. Just One More Page... reviews Agnes Grey. Roger N. Taber shares his poem Time on Haworth Moor.

Comments :

2 comments to “ 'So painful and moving a saga that no respectable biographer has failed it' ”
ksotikoula said...
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Just passing by to say that the Marmarmarmarina blog (mentioned in the end is not written in Greek). I believe it is Russian, but it certainly is not Greek. ;)

Cristina said...
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Oops! Thanks for that. What a silly thing to do!

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