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I designed my Sim’s face and hair and clothes rapidly. I would say I made her in my image, but I didn’t. I made her in Charlotte Brontë’s image—probably because I was in college and I was supposed to be writing a paper on Villette but was instead in the spare room of my apartment, makin’ worlds. (Laura June)The Washington Post discusses writers and having (or not having) children.
As a writer—a vocation that demands long hours of uninterrupted solitude—I have sometimes thought to myself that I’d be more accomplished had I chosen to be childless. In “The Most Important Thing,” Sigrid Nunez recalls having the same realization, which in her case upended the seeming inevitability of becoming a mother. “No young woman aspiring to literary career could ignore the fact that the women writers of the highest achievement, women like Jane Austen, the Brontës, George Eliot, and Virginia Wolf, did not have children,” she observes. (Randye Hoder)And yet Charlotte Brontë's story is unfinished. She died while pregnant so we will never known what her writing life would have been like had she had a healthy pregnancy.
The book, “Re Jane” (Penguin Books), is for sale beginning May 5. Park will appear at BookCourt, 163 Court St., Cobble Hill, on May 6 at 7 p.m. and at WORD Brooklyn, 126 Franklin St., Greenpoint, on May 20 at 7 p.m.Dead Darlings interviews the author:
“Re Jane” takes the heroine on a journey from Queens to Brooklyn to Seoul — and back. For Jane Re, a half-Korean, half-American orphan, Flushing, Queens, is the place she’s been trying to escape from her whole life. Sardonic yet vulnerable, she toils, unappreciated, in her strict uncle’s grocery store and politely observes the traditional principle of nunchi (a combination of good manners, hierarchy, and obligation).
Desperate for a new life, she’s thrilled to become the au pair for the Mazer-Farleys, two Brooklyn English professors and their adopted Chinese daughter. Inducted into the world of organic food co-ops and 19th century novels, Re is the recipient of Beth Mazer’s feminist lectures and Ed Farley’s very male attention. But when a family death interrupts Jane and Ed’s blossoming affair, she flies off to Seoul, leaving New York far behind.
Reconnecting with family and struggling to learn the ways of modern-day Korea, Jane begins to wonder if Ed Farley is really the man for her. Jane returns to Queens, where she must find a balance between two cultures and accept who she really is.
Perfect for readers of Ruth Ozeki, Chang-rae Lee, Allegra Goodman, and — of course — Charlotte Brontë, “Re Jane” is a bright, comic story of falling in love, finding strength, and living not just out of obligation to others, but for one’s self.
DD: In Ed Farley, you have playfully subverted the Byronic model of Rochester in Jane Eyre. Can you talk about the choices you made in rendering Ed’s character?Torontoist interviews Lynn Crosbie about her book Where Did You Sleep Last Night which 'imagines Kurt Cobain reincarnated into the body of a young amnesiac named Celine Black'.
PP: Ed Farley is a half-Irish, half-Italian native Brooklynite. He gave up his own academic ambitions in favor of his wife’s career. I think Ed stays true to Rochester’s initial gruffness—he’s got outer-borough grit and a lack of polish. But he also says it like it is, which is hugely attractive to Jane and, hopefully, the reader as well.
DD: Exploring Jane Eyre parallels a little further, can you contrast Jane Re’s decision to leave Brooklyn following her romantic entanglement with Ed Farley with Jane Eyre’s sudden departure from Thornfield Hall?
PP: The moment where Jane Eyre flees Thornfield is such a powerful one. Incidentally, it was the same image on the cover of my first copy of Jane Eyre. If Jane had taken the easy way out, she would have stayed and lived the pampered life of a kept woman. But she had too much morality and a sense of self-respect to resort to that. I wanted my Jane to stay true to that—so she has to leave Brooklyn.
DD: As a crucible of personal development in childhood and adolescence, Jane Re has her uncle’s grocery in Queens. Jane Eyre has Lowood Institution. Did you have your own Food or Lowood growing up in New York?
PP: My parents own a grocery store in Brooklyn, so I grew up with the language of produce, HVAC, and invoices. “Lowood Capital Partners” didn’t really exist for me—I think that was the point. I’m a little younger than Jane, but when I started college I thought everyone got cushy offers like Lowood. By the time I graduated, the economy tanked and everyone was competing for unpaid internships. (Marc Foster)
This book is littered with pop-culture ghosts besides Nirvana, some dead and many alive: Céline Dion, Joy Division, Lou Reed, Lana Del Rey. It has an intimidating concordance at the end. But these references don’t come across as lists so much as tastes that are integral to who these people are. Do you think we cobble ourselves together out of the things we like? I thought of being that age and what my life was like, and I would have been soaked in whatever music was going on, in popular books, in popular figures, in the language of the time—simply from going out all the time. If they’re musicians, that’s going to be an even deeper concern: they are a part of what’s going on. There’s a lot of pop mentioned, but I mean it to be absolutely a part of their lives.Imogen Russell Williams mentions looking 'covetously' at the Folio Society's edition of Jane Eyre in The Guardian. Flavorwire considers Jane Eyre a 'ur-feminist novel heroine'.
Céline is a little different, as are Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand. They’re definitely a bit campy, which has something to do with the drugs Evelyn and Celine are on: they get a little grandiose on heroin, and campy when they’re high. I was trying to explain this to someone who thought I was using Céline Dion as a joke, and I really wasn’t. There’s that song based on Wuthering Heights…
“It’s All Coming Back To Me Now”? Yes! I do mention Heathcliff in the book, but the book is not a translation in the Anne Carson sense. I wanted to do that sort of thing through a different filter: I’m covering Céline Dion covering Wuthering Heights. Not through the whole book, but there’s a certain extravagance to it that suits these characters, who are very decadent in the way that they live, the way that they desire, and the way that they love each other. And I thought, who better than the great diva Dion to express that? (Angelo Muredda)
Laurian Gridinoc, a computational linguist, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Fellow, and developer at Hyperaud.io, showed me some inspiring uses of technology his company has developed. Check out this BBC prototype. It divides the browser into two panes. On the left you play Elizabeth Klett's Librivox recording of Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre" as audio with synchronized text. You can select phrases, sentences, or paragraphs; copy them into the right pane; play the newly remixed audio (with synchronized text); and export the remix. (Jon Udell)The Brussels Brontë Blog has a detailed post on the recent Brontë weekend. Absolutely Gothic posts about Cathy Earnshaw. Bookbub publishes 6 Powerful Lessons We Learned from ‘Jane Eyre’.