Thursday, February 05, 2015

A few thoughts on tables in The Telegraph and Argus inspired by the recent arrival of the Brontës' table at the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
If the walls of Haworth's Brontë Parsonage could talk, there'd be enough material to rival any novel written by the famous literary family.
Encouraged by their father, the siblings devoured poetry, novels and newspapers which fired their imaginations, turning their draughty moorside home into a hotbed of creativity.
Inspired by charismatic figures from history, literature and their present, the sisters wrote about the human condition far beyond their own experiences. Their diaries reveal that they wrote at a drop-leaf table which they walked around each evening, reading out what they'd written that day. It was a significant part of their daily routine, which Charlotte is said to have continued after surviving her sisters.
Now that drop-leaf table is back at the Parsonage, 150 years after it was sold following Patrick Brontë's death. The table came home after the Brontë Society secured a £580,000 grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and is on show to visitors following the museum's winter break.
Nothing tells a story quite like a table where generations of families have gathered to share food, discussions and snippets of their lives.
Around the time the Brontës were walking around their table, reading handwritten versions of what were to become world-famous classics, a family in a corner of the East Midlands was gathering around another Victorian table. This was a dining-table passed down generations of my maternal family until the 1970s, when it was given to my parents by my gran. It's the table we used for special occasions, such as Christmas dinners, and in between it was strewn with the paraphernalia of family life, such as my mum's arts and crafts clutter, my brother's Subbuteo set and my homework. (Emma Clayton) (Read more)
Harper Lee's comeback is still  sparking discussions. Such as this one on 'elusive manuscripts' in The Guardian:
This game of hunt the lost MS (manuscript) is great fun. Antiquarian booksellers I’ve spoke to would love to unearth a lost Austen (the unfinished Sanditon doesn’t count, as it has already been published), a book by one of the Brontës, a Dickens (did he leave anything unpublished apart from The Mystery of Edwin Drood?) or an Ian Fleming – the real thing, not one of those literary lookalikes that keep being knocked off. (Stephen Moss)
Speaking of Dickens, The Herald (Scotland) picks ten books to mark his birthday (7 February 1812).
Shirley, by Charlotte Brontë
The romantic plot is gothic and mawkish in the extreme, but the writing lifts this tale of a hard-pressed mill owner who cannot marry for love from the banal to something deeply atmospheric and memorable. Its popularity led to Shirley becoming a girl's and not a boy's name. (Susan Barr)
More book selections as Bustle recommends '14 Books To Read During Rush Hour To Keep You Engrossed, Because You Need A Distraction'. Among them is Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, which the columnist
was sure [...] would be a bland imitation of Jane Eyre. (Mariana Zepeda)
Bustle also has 'Valentine's Day Dates For 12 Literary Couples, Because Why Shouldn't Everyone Get In On the February 14 Fun?'
Cathy and Heathcliffe (sic) from Wuthering Heights
Neither of these two is what could even remotely be described as “romantic,” and their relationship is frankly terrible. So it’s a safe bet that no stage of their twisted relationship would have involved dinner reservations, roses, or chocolates. If anything, they most likely would have used the day as an excuse to play more head games with each other and odds are decent that the evening would have exploded into verbal, emotional, or physical violence by the end of the night. So, that’s cheerful. [...]
Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre
How to celebrate Valentine’s Day when you live in a creepy gothic mansion where there once literally was a madwoman in the attic? Jane would probably be much to practical to want some sort of grand Valentine’s Day affair, but secretly, she would have wanted Mr. Rochester to plan something, and he undoubtedly would have obliged — probably with something that would allow them to have long, in depth conversations the whole time. (Emma Cueto)
BlogHer suggests '15 Valentine's Day Gifts for your Bookworm'.
3. Romantic bookish jewelry - $19.51
This adorable necklace from BookFiend has an engraving of one of my favourite romantic quotes ("Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same") from the author of Wuthering Heights. The chevron pattern is replaceable (there are six other options), and you can even pick the colour of the Swarovski accent. (Chasingwords)
The Denver Post writes about the fact that 'online daters' are hiring private detectives.
Of course, romantic partners with secret second lives well predate the Internet, though largely in fiction. In "Downton Abbey," Anna learns that her beloved Mr. Bates is still married and spent time in prison (for a crime his wife committed) -- not from Bates but from his mother.
Victorian novels are famous for such intrigue. In "Jane Eyre," we learn that Jane's amorous employer, Mr. Rochester, has a wife. Furthermore, said wife is living on an upper floor of the grand house, insane and chained.
Suffice it to say, these heroines weren't living in the information age. It's really hard these days to hide a shady past or a living spouse. (Froma Harrop)
The Smart Set discusses reading and crying:
Let’s say you’ve decided to reread Jane Eyre 20 years after first encountering it in an undergraduate survey course. You vaguely recall the outlines of the plot (sorely oppressed orphan girl lets rich guy fall in love with her but only after he’s symbolically emasculated) and you remember some of the critical arguments about it. You might still have that term paper you wrote about Charlotte Brontë lying around somewhere. “The Triumph of Gendered Identity: Symbolic Emasculation in Jane Eyre,” it was called. But here you are, working your way through this canonical “text” (as you would have called it back then) and finding it a lot odder but also somehow more majestic than you had remembered. And in fact some of the critical debates come back to you with a certain force. Maybe you see more clearly the similarities rather than the differences between put-upon Jane and murderous Bertha, the original madwoman in the attic. Or maybe — if your professor was really old school — you finally see how those image clusters of warmth and cold, of plain versus rich fabrics, reinforce thematic intensities. So now you’re reaching the end and you find yourself getting more out of this reading than your 20-year-old self did. This time around you have a deeper awareness of cultural and intellectual history, not to mention a heightened sensitivity brought about by more life experience, alas, than you ever bargained for. And as you turn the page from chapter 37 to 38, you come upon these words: “Reader, I married him.” What are you going to do — carefully weigh Brontë’s critique of patriarchy against her acceptance of assorted Victorian bigotries or scribble a note about the abrasion of a second-person address disrupting a first-person narrative? No, you’re going to do the right thing. You’re going to brush away a tear.
Well, we all read differently, but I can’t help thinking that if you fail to choke up at least a little over chapter 38 of Jane Eyre, you’re reading the wrong book. The issues in that novel that require the deepest thought — for example, the achievement against considerable odds of a marriage that allows for autonomy and growth — are refracted through emotional storm and stress. Jane Eyre is a very smart book, one much concerned with other books and how and why we read them. One of the things it understands is that, in literature, the way to the brain is through the heart.
And what’s wrong with the heart? Why shouldn’t a novel as daring as this be experienced viscerally as well as intellectually? To read Jane Eyre with studious dispassion would be to refuse the experience it offers. Surely reading itself is one of the primary experiences of life. Jane Eyre isn’t merely about experience; it is experience, namely, your own while you’re reading it. And Charlotte Brontë isn’t just a name. She’s the other half of that uniquely intimate relationship known as author and reader. Anyway, she’s still harrowing my soul 160 years after she died. Even after I’ve properly “contextualized” Jane Eyre with all the critical acumen I can bring to bear on a novel carrying cultural assumptions alien to my own, I still feel as if the book has been reading me. And if I had to choose between a hardheaded appraisal of Brontë’s contribution to the English Bildungsroman and an instinctive involvement with Jane’s existential struggles, well, I think I'd have a good cry. (Stephen Akey)
Grazia (France) interviews writer Augustin Trapenard and asks him about a book he has never returned:
Emily Brontë, expérience spirituelle et création poétique de Jacques Blondel. Etrangement, on ne me l’a jamais réclamé. (Patrick Thévenin) (Translation)
IndieWire's Women and Hollywood discusses 'Hollywood’s Current Female Troubles' and suggests looking at the past.
Also competing: Bette Davis at her redemptive peak in Dark Victory; Greta Garbo doing comedy with rare flair in Ninotchka; and the stunning Merle Oberon as Emily Brontë’s gothic heroine Cathy in Wuthering Heights. (Susan Wloszczyna)
Now, this is intriguing and something to actually look forward to, as reported by Atlanta In Town:
7 Stages [Theatre] has also been working with Theatre du Rêve and their production of Jane, The Fox and Me, an adaptation of a graphic novel about bullying behavior, inspired by another classic, Jane Eyre. (Collin)
Jared Della Rocca has mixed feelings with Jane Eyre in The Bennington Banner:
While I've come to enjoy the female-authored works of the early 19th century ("Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë, "Persuasion" and "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen), I will admit that I'm a little glad to be done with them.
Individually they're all masterful works portraying female protagonists whose wit, intelligence, and sense of their place in society would be better suited 100 years later. But the characters are frequently numerous and interrelated within each book and it becomes hard to untangle the webs of one book, and not get it mixed with another. I had to look back to remember whether a female character being proposed to by her cousin to join him in India was from "Persuasion" (because he was so persuasive) or "Jane Eyre" (and thus she was the character.)
Another play, Book Club, is reviewed by Times-Standard:
A newbie to the book club, Alex (Alonso Yabar) a comparative literature professor drunk on the pop culture canon dares to challenge Ana's insistence on masterpieces over mass appeal. Alex argues cogently that "Twilight" is simply "Wuthering Heights" with vampires and that only a snob would ignore the world unfolding right now in favor of some 19th-century narrative ideal. (Karen D'Souza)
The Spectator looks into the success of BBC Arabic.
[Tarik Kafala, the current head of BBC Arabic] recalls, ‘We grew up listening to the BBC in Arabic,’ not just for its news but also for the music and the programmes devoted to medieval Arabic poetry and science. When he first came to work at Bush House, the iconic building on the Aldwych in London that for 70 years was home to the BBC World Service, he was involved in recording classic dramas by Shakespeare, an adaptation of Wuthering Heights, a version of Look Back in Anger, all in Arabic. (Kate Chisholm)
Beware of spoilers in this recap of season 3, episode 2 of The Americans made by The New York Times' ArtsBeat.
Does anyone believe Oleg had planned to pull the trigger? Was he tempted when Stan declared his love for Nina? Surely killing an F.B.I. agent would be a bad career move for someone like who must daily balance his inner Heathcliff with his need to win approval from his apparatchik Papa. (Helen T. Verongos)

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