Monday, October 06, 2014

Monday, October 06, 2014 2:04 pm by M. in , , ,    No comments
It was a matter of time that the legion of Rochester-lovers reacted to some of the accusations that Bidisha made in the latest installment of The Secret Life of Books. Carolyn Hitt in The Western Mail:
Reader, they harried him. Mr Rochester that is. The Gothic hottie got a very bad press in the latest episode of The Secret Life of Books, the BBC series that invites academics and personalities to revisit classic works with fresh, modern and critical eyes.
How very dare they? Talk about trampling on the adolescent fantasies of generations of females. How can you diss literature’s greatest craggy love god? (...)
While Austen’s fiction reflects the refinement of the Hampshire country gentry and the social mores of The Season in Bath, the Brontë sisters roughed it on the Yorkshire moors. Their romantic heroes are hewn from a more elemental environment. Heathcliff is rather too elemental for my tastes – you just know he’d be a bit smelly wouldn’t he – but Rochester cuts a dashing figure with an intriguing dark side. And presumably better personal hygiene.
Or at least that’s how it seems to the young and impressionable female reader. For Jane Eyre is one of the ultimate rites of passage works. Many women read it on the brink of puberty – indeed it is one of the few works of literature that can kickstart the hormones into overdrive. (...)
But after watching last week’s dissection of Rochester on BBC4 I fear another of my great romantic heroes has been given the toes of Playdoh treatment. Like me, the presenter of the programme, journalist and novelist Bidisha, was absorbed by Brontë’s Jane Eyre as a teenager.
But re-reading the story as an adult has left her increasingly uncomfortable. (...) Oh come on. It was written in 1847. Viewing the values of the first half of the 19th century in the first half of the 21st is always going to portray our literary forebears in a dim light. I lost patience with the thesis at the point a contributor said, with grim resignation, that “Charlotte Brontë was probably a Tory”. Who cares? It’s not as if there was the political choice in her day that we enjoy. The poor woman didn’t even have the vote. As for the suggestions of racism, again this is a book of its time not of our time.
My own theory is that Charlotte Brontë wrote this for herself, as an act of therapy, not to please a readership and certainly not to affront the liberal minded who wouldn’t be born for another century.
The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier talks about bluebells:
Emily Brontë wrote, “the bluebell is the sweetest flower.” Hyacinthoides or bluebells are prized for their spring charm, not-always-blue bell-shaped flowers and ability to naturalize. Bluebells thrive in moist, woodsy settings with sunlight and light shade.
H. hispanica, the wood hyacinth, is a 17th century Spanish heirloom that blooms prolifically, as does h. non-scripta, circa 1580, known as the English bluebell. It is scented with dark-violet blue flowers on just one side of a bending stem. Brontë also wrote that “she mourns the sweet bluebell.” Perhaps that’s because it can spread like wildfire, swallowing up shorter plants in its path. Best to plant is on its own or with equally thuggish, stout perennials.
It's good to remember that it's not clear if the Brontës (because not only Emily but also Anne wrote poems about bluebells) meant bluebells or harebells. Check this old post if you are interested.

BondyBlog interviews the film director Alice Diop:
Née à Vincennes (94) en 1979 d’un père ouvrier et d’une mère femme de ménage sénégalais, Alice Diop est la benjamine d’une fratrie de cinq enfants. A la cité des 3000 à Aulnay-sous-Bois (93), quartier « pittoresque » et « chaleureux » où elle a grandi, elle connaît une enfance «heureuse et protégée ». Son déménagement dans une zone pavillonnaire à l’âge de 8 ans la plonge pourtant dans un ennui profond. L’alternative ? L’évasion littéraire. Les sœurs Brontë, Jane Eyre, Au bonheur des dames… « Je ressentais déjà une nécessité de partir même si je n’en avais pas conscience ». (Claire Diao) (Translation)
Flicksided lists the greatest actors of all time.
In the case of Laurence Olivier, his performances as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and Richard in Shakespeare’s Richard III are some of the best committed to cinema, but you aren’t going to want to re-watch the films over and over. (Thomas Swan)
Two Jane Eyre sightings in The Times coverage of the Cheltenham Literary Festival: in John Sutherland's quiz and in a q&a with Howard Jacobson. Carti Audio (in Romanian) and Babbling Books posts about Jane EyreExotic and irrational entertainment discusses Elizabeth Gaskell's biography of Charlotte Brontë. The Gutenberg Press posts a Wuthering Heights-inspired poem.


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