Saturday, October 31, 2015

Another good reviews of Claire Harman's new Charlotte Brontë biography in The Guardian:
Some life stories are so canonical that they don’t bear retelling, so much as demand it. That’s why every 20 years or so, we want – and get – a new biography of Charlotte Brontë, that patron saint of every bookish brown mouse who has ever screamed silently to the world “one day you will notice me and be dazzled by my sun”. The tale of how a poor, plain, provincial girl turned a lifetime of material and emotional lack into the thrilling art of Jane Eyre and Villette is so consoling that it is impossible not to ask for it again and again.
Each retelling, of course, gives us a slightly different Charlotte Brontë, one who Janus-like faces back to her own time while also speaking to the biographer’s own. Elizabeth Gaskell writing in 1857, two years after Brontë’s death, was determined to rescue her friend from any suggestion of constitutional “coarseness” – many critics had condemned Jane Eyre as an unladylike book, even a wicked one. (...)
In the pragmatic 1990s, Juliet Barker worked hard to clear away the consequences of Gaskell’s well-meaning gothicisation by rebuilding the Brontës’ story on solid historical grounds. In particular Barker challenged her portrayal of Patrick Brontë as a storybook ogre. Charlotte too was transformed from a sequestered tragic heroine into a chippy spinster who carefully stage-managed her rise to literary fame by persistently pushing herself and her work, even the duff stuff, before the public.
Writing to celebrate the forthcoming 200th anniversary of Brontë’s birth, Claire Harman pursues a golden mean. Her protagonist is both fervent dreamer and cool realist, imaginative artist and clear-eyed professional. (...)
As a highly experienced biographer, Harman has too much integrity to suggest that this idea of her subject as a proto-modernist is entirely fresh. Nor does she even hint that she has uncovered any new documentary sources about her. Instead, she wisely concentrates on rounding out and deepening aspects of the author’s life that have been previously scanted or skewed. Particularly fine is Harman’s reading of how the tortuous, sexless love affair between Héger and Brontë could ever have been allowed to reach such heights – or depths. Previous biographers have tended either to castigate Héger as a married flirt who led Brontë on, or they have painted her as a disordered spinster, randy with celibacy, quite capable of spitefully destroying a man who refused to make love to her. (...)
Harman’s sane, unshowy retelling is exactly right for the bicentenary next April. It never insults the reader’s intelligence by pretending that it has new, startling truths to impart. Instead it gathers up the best of what has been written before and deals tactfully and decisively with the sillier aspects of Brontë mythology. The result is a retooled classic biographical narrative, shipshape and serviceable for the next 200 years. (Kathryn Hughes)
The St Helen's Reporter reviews Jolien Janzing's Charlotte Brontë's Secret Love novel:
In a superb translation by Paul Vincent, Janzing recaptures this little-known and intriguing chapter in Charlotte Brontë’s life and her secret love affair with the man who would inspire her to write The Professor, Villette and Jane Eyre.
Taking us deep into the heart and mind of one of England’s best-loved novelists, Janzing explores the people, the emotions and the experiences that would form the bedrock of both the woman and the writer. (...)
Imagination and knowledge are harnessed with impeccable precision to weave an extraordinarily insightful and credible story packed with wisdom and empathy, and offering a dazzling portrait of two geniuses in the making.
A captivating encounter with the remarkable Brontës… (Pam Norfolk)
The Sydney Morning Herald has a review of The Women's Pages by Debra Adelaide:
As every author knows, books are protean creatures that change in the writing, and the best result from the alchemy of ideas, hard work and magic. Debra Adelaide's fourth novel began with her passion for Wuthering Heights and evolved into the story within a story of a contemporary woman writing a novel about an older woman forging an independent life. A short story before it became a novel, it is about a web of births, deaths, marriages and separations, as well as the creative process itself.
Adelaide can't remember when she first read Emily Brontë's only novel, published under the pseudonym Ellis Bell a year before she died aged 30. "It might have been when I was at school, but it wouldn't have been a school text because we didn't read anything interesting like that. "It's one of those novels you can endlessly reread but not feel you've got your head around," she says. "It has such an intriguing structure and what has always interested me is not the novel itself so much but how it's been received by the reading community in the century and a half since it was published in 1848.
"People have an idea it's about Cathy and Heathcliff and their wild, passionate romance that commences in childhood when they escape from home each day and run across the moors. But in fact when they're older they almost never see each other."
The misconception comes partly from the many "awful" films of the book, including the most famous with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, which focus on the love story and ignore all the other narrators. There have also been innumerable spin-off novels, mostly bad romances. Obsessed by the subculture, Adelaide has seen them all. (Susan Wyndham)
The Yorkshire Post talks about the current musical installation Linger by  Ailís Ní Ríain, Linger:
The contemporary arts programme at the Brontë Parsonage Museum is a wonderful thing. Presenting a range of responses to the work and lives of the famous literary family, from artists and writers living and working today, it continues to refresh the lasting legacy of the Brontës’ extraordinary creativity.
The latest artist to feature in the programme is Irish contemporary classical composer Ailís Ní Ríain who has created a music installation for the museum, Linger, consisting of six new piano pieces composed for and performed on Emily Brontë’s piano. Each piece reflects the essence of a different room in the Parsonage and invites visitors to stay a while in contemplation.
The project, Ní Ríain explains, is two-fold. One aspect is the installation in six rooms of the Parsonage and the other, launched alongside it, is a 13-track CD which Ní Ríain describes as “a kind of Brontë concept album”, including the six compositions and other original work featuring performances by leading new music improvisers Seth Bennett, Sylvia Hinz and Kelly Jayne Jones.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – considered to be one of the first feminist novels, way ahead of its time, and controversial for its candid portrayal of addiction through the protagonist’s husband’s alcoholism – provides the inspiration for an additional four soundscape pieces, extracts of the text of the novel read by an actor and a song performed by Bradford-born singer-songwriter Tasmin Archer who had a huge hit in 1996 with Sleeping Satellite.
“I wanted one song on the album and everyone thought I would go for a classically trained singer but I wanted Tasmin and eventually I managed to track her down,” says Ní Ríain. “I wrote the song Safe at Last for Tasmin – it is taken from the scene in the novel when the main character and her child leave her alcoholic husband – and she sings it brilliantly.”  (Yvette Huddleston)
Mallory Ortberg's Texts from Jane Eyre is published this month in the UK. The author presents her book in The Guardian:
'Heathcliff whr r u': literary classics by text message
To text or not to text… that was never the question. But what if Hamlet or Jane Eyre had got their hands on a mobile phone? Mallory Ortberg introduces her series of literary masterpieces reimagined for the 21st century (...)
Take Jane Eyre. Mr Rochester is an impulsive, intensely brooding, by turns romantic and terrifying figure; I’m convinced he is also the type of person who would regularly text in all caps and send message after message without waiting for a reply.
Stage designer Cecilia Carey discusses her work for the NYT's Wuthering Heights adaptation on WhatsonStage:
I was excited to try something really different for Wuthering Heights as it is such a well known novel. The presence of nature felt hugely significant in Steph Street's adaptation and we also needed an arena for these adrenaline fuelled teenagers and ‘chorus' to shift in and out. Black ‘soil' was integral to the barefoot cast feeling the ‘ground' and the effect on their movement.
Lyndsay Lohan is the new Bertha Mason, according to Vanity Fair:
Imagine we are all Jane Eyre. Rattling around the haunted heath house that is America, pining after our own Mr. Rochester—some sense of love, justice, fairness, freedom. Who, then, is our mad Bertha, laughing in the attic of our American life, setting small fires, tearing at wedding veils in the whispery dark of the night? I’ll suggest it’s Lindsay Lohan, fiery mistress of the nightclub. (Richard Lawson)
Apparently anything with a Hall on the name suggests Brontë according to this article in the Yorkshire Post:
Names often conjure up images and Dowthorpe Hall just south of Skirlaugh in the East Riding sounds like something out of a Jane Austen or Brontë sisters novel, or if you’re from around these parts either Winifred Holtby or Val Wood. (Chris Perry)
The Irish Post talks about the premiere of the latest James Bond film, Spectre. The controversial figure of Kevin McClory is recalled:
A distant descendant of the Brontë sisters (via his paternal grandmother), McClory bore a few Heathcliff-like features himself. The son of two Irish theatre performers, he was an enigmatic, Machiavellian character determined to succeed somehow in show business. (Stephen Martin)
CityJournal discusses the legacy of Trollope:
During his lifetime, his reputation was overshadowed by that of Dickens, Eliot, and Thackeray, who were honored as the great novelists of the day. The Brontës, Hardy, and, of course, Austen, were also up there in the pantheon of notable nineteenth-century writers. (Melanie Kirkpatrick)
Cuepoint on the musician Carrie Brownstein:
We can add prose writing to Brownstein’s already lengthy list of accomplishments: she writes like a punk rock Brontë sister, with the gloomy mists of Washington and Oregon her tragi-romantic backdrop instead of the bleak Yorkshire moors. (Jennifer Boeder)
Entertainment Weekly reviews the New York performances of the stage adaptation Thérèse Raquin by Helen Edmundson:
It’s while her character is largely wordless that Knightley brings Thérèse’s inner life most vividly to the forefront with her unsettlingly intense gaze and sharp-angled physicality – her passion can’t be fully restrained by her buttoned-up, Brontë-sister exterior. (Stephan Lee
Also in The Sydney Morning Herald we find a review of Noonday by Pat Barker:

Inserted into the mix, channelling the dead, is a hugely fat, half-charlatan but not entirely fraudulent medium, Bertha Mason (apparently named after Rochester's first wife, the "madwoman in the attic" of Jane Eyre). She takes up many pages, but held little interest for me until I discovered she was modelled on someone real, Helen Duncan, in 1944 the last woman tried under the Witchcraft Act of 1935. (Anne Susskind)
It's a shame that this scene has not been included in the new X-Files series. Brian Phillips on Grantland:
Mulder does not audition for, and does not win, the role of Mrs. Fairfax in a community theater adaptation of Jane Eyre.

Some Crimson Peak, of course:
I suggest you think of it less as a standard entry in the "haunted house" drama such as Thir13en Ghosts (either version), The Haunting, or The Shining, and think more Emily Brontë, even Alfred Hitchcock, than Stephen King, though there are thematic resonances with the works of all three. (James Scott in Free Times)
La historia está llena de referencias que no son sino el imaginario colectivo-cultural que hacen de Del Toro un autor completo. Encerrada en esta cinta hay referencias a Hitchcock (Rebecca, Notorious), al cine de Roger Corman, la literatura de Charlotte Brontë, al mito vampírico más clásico y por supuesto, la auto referencia a la obra misma del mexicano, principalmente Cronos y El Espinazo del Diablo. (Alejandro Alemán in El Universal) (Translation)
Mientras escribían “La Cumbre Escarlata”, Del Toro y Robbins tomaron inspiración de las novelas “Cumbres Borrascosas”, de Emily Brontë, “Grandes Esperanzas”, de Charles Dickens, “Rebecca”, de Daphne du Maurier, y “Dragonwyck”, de Anya Seton. (Hidalgo Neira in ReporteIndigo) (Translation)
A Bíborhegy nem horror, annak nem elég félelmetes. Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy, A Faun labirintusa) valójában egy csodaszép, ugyanakkor néha meghökkentően gótikus románcot készített, amelyben nem azért vannak szellemek, hogy ránk hozzák a frászt, hanem hogy a múlt bűneire emlékeztessenek. Gondolja azt, hogy a Jane Eyre rémálomszerű verziójára váltott jegyet, és hagyja, hogy a túláradó érzelmek által keltett gyilkos örvény, illetve és a hihetetlen látványvilág elragadja. (Varga Dénes in Origo) (Translation)
 Traditionally, the gothic story is a generational statement couched in camp. Early gothic novels were obsessed with secret family relationships (often incest, an evergreen trope of the genre since Matthew Lewis’ 1796 thriller The Monk) or with childbirth and moral inheritance in a swiftly changing world (Frankenstein). Later novels tackled psychological trauma as much as plot twists: Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Turn Of The Screw, and Dracula built a forensic profile of the damned. (Genevieve Valentine in A.V. Club)
Cumbres Borrascosas, Rebeca, Jane Eyre, La casa Usher de Corman-Poe, los fantasmas japoneses, ¡hasta la macheta carnicera de Joan Crawford en Lucy Harbin!, Guillermo del Toro lo ha reunido todo en su mejor película desde El espinazo del diablo. (Eduardo Galán Blanco in La Voz de Galicia) (Translation)
Cualquiera que disfrute de las novela góticas del siglo XIX, como Cumbres borrascosas, encontrará algo con qué deleitarse. (Concepción Moreno in El Economista) (Translation)
La cumbre escarlata tiene cierto parentesco con Cumbres borrascosas, sobre todo en la ambientación: un páramo desolado, el viento constante, negros nubarrones, la constante caída de las hojas de los árboles, la casa oscura y misteriosa, mucho romanticismo. Me recordó esa única novela de Emily Brontë llevada varias veces a la pantalla. (Lucero Solórzano in Excelsior) (Translation)
Soft Revolution (Italy) posts about Jane Eyre:
Jane Eyre è un libro pieno di paradossi. Sia l’autrice che la protagonista escono dal canone della donna sottomessa vittoriana, la prima pubblicando i suoi romanzi sotto falso nome, la seconda trovando la propria indipendenza come una donna economicamente e sentimentalmente autonoma – almeno per un po’. (Marta Corato) (Translation)
Al-Ahram (Egypt) interviews an Alexandria college professor, Jaidaa Gawad Hamada:
Hamada doesn’t have a favourite writer or a most cherished book. However, she has moods or a predisposition to read particular books at particular times. “Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is probably one book I never grow tired of." (Ameera Fouad)
Avvenire (Italy) talks about the Balthus Rome exhitibion;  Leonardo (Italy) sings the many beauties of Wuthering Heights. A Syrian refugee in Germany who loves Wuthering Heights in Berliner Zeitung. The Times interviews the singer Kirsten Adamson and mentions Wuthering Heights. The Times's Magazine discusses if Victoriana will really a trend for autumn this year, Jane Eyre gets a mention.

And finally, this is arguably the greatest (Brontë) blunder ever:
Consequently, intellectually endowed women like the Brontë sisters — Charlotte, Emily and Anne — circumvented these conservative attitudes by adopting pen names.
Jane Eyre was first published in 1847 under Charlotte’s pen name, Currer Bell. Subsequently she adopted the pseudonym Jean Rhys. (Joyce Nyairo in Daily Nation (Kenya))


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