Friday, January 06, 2017

The Evening Standard reviews Samantha Ellis's Anne Brontë biography, Take Courage:
Anne Brontë is the source of one of my most embarrassing memories from school. I came to her novels and poetry as a bookish pre-teen, having first devoured Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre by her starrier sisters, Emily and Charlotte. When my English teacher — whom I was desperate to impress — saw I was halfway through Anne’s dark, shocking second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), he confessed he’d never read any of her work.
I upbraided him: “How can you be an English teacher when you haven’t read Anne Brontë?”
Cringe! Did I even understand the themes of domestic abuse and alcoholism in the book? Could I really relate to the intense religiosity of Anne’s poetry? And had I learned nothing from her first novel Agnes Grey (1847), the story of a long-suffering governess teaching ghastly brats?
I share my Anne Brontë story because it’s the kind of bookish personal reflection that Samantha Ellis has made her stock-in-trade.  (...)
Ellis does not approach Anne’s life as a salacious biographer, nor is there any attempt to be dispassionate. Rather, she is communing with Anne at each important stage of her life, right up to her death in 1849 at the Scarborough seaside when she told her older sister: “Take courage, Charlotte, take courage.”
Her attempts to make Anne “relatable” might drive academics to distraction but the approach does yield insights. Ellis is at her best when she is furious and direct about the tragedy of Anne’s short life and the ways she has been dismissed as sweet, virtuous and dull. (...)
Take Courage is a timely reappraisal — and if Ellis sends readers back to Anne Brontë, she’ll have performed a valuable service. (Johanna Thomas-Corr)
By the way, the caption of the picture in the article is at least, reprobate. To say "TB or not TB", is not a witty joke in the case of an article like this, it is to miss the point completely.

The mumbling affair continues its round of tabloids. Now in The Mirror, Jan Leeming seems to have problems understanding actors and remembering dates:
Former BBC newsreader Jan Leeming has accused her previous employers of allowing actors to mumble in their dramas.
She said she complained to the Beeb over the Sally Wainwright drama To Walk Invisible, which told the story of the Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne and their brother Branwell, on Boxing Day. (Tom Bryant, Peter Robertson).
Maybe it was another show where they mumble as To Walk Invisible was broadcast on the 29th.

This letter in The Telegraph & Argus is a bit ambiguous about the production:
To Walk Invisible, as seen on the gogglebox, was one of the highlights of my Christmas viewing.
Having said that, I thought as a whole the offerings could have been better.
Obviously, the Brontë sisters in this TV presentation made me think of the godly atmosphere enhanced by the moorland experience.
To Walk Invisible to me also means To Walk With God.
As an ex-Brontë Society council member, I am very well versed in all things Brontë.
But well done Sally Wainwright for doing a first-class job of showing this jewel in the crown of a local family. (John Ackroyd)
Joe Clay in The Times is more explicit:
Sally Wainwright’s biopic of the Brontë sisters is a remarkable piece of drama. There are tremendous performances across the board, from Finn Atkins as the dowdy and bookish (yet extremely ambitious) Charlotte, and an astonishing turn from Chloe Pirrie as Emily, an awkward, severe and brooding presence. With their father’s health and eyesight failing, and brother Branwell (Adam Nagaitis) an alcoholic, drug-addled, self-centred wreck, the sisters realise that they need a plan to keep them from poverty, so they focus on their God-given talent: writing. Throughout, Wainwright’s script sings — it is never mawkish or melodramatic, which is quite an achievement considering the subject matter.
Business Zone looks to the Brontë sisters from a different perspective. As entrepreneurs:
Every authentic entrepreneur I've met, who start and successfully run their own business, has the Bronte sisters' high level of self-awareness and hard work. They were bang up to date with the 'technology', limited though it was, of the publishing industry and what readers would buy. They were brilliant at creating and promoting their personal brand to gain entry to the market - Acton (Anne), Currer (Charlotte) and Ellis (Emily) Bell would be assumed to be three brothers, by prospective publishers, not three sisters.
They played to their strengths and passions which gave them the necessary persistence to keep going in the face of terrible, debilitating domestic circumstances and rejection of their art. Like Dickens, they were afraid of debt and the debtors' prison, so happily did not borrow. They wanted to create something out of nothing that they could be proud of. That is true entrepreneurship.
Above all, they knew what they were doing, and what they could be remarkable doing, to capture a slice of the market for novels. They'd written hundreds of poems and little books throughout their short lifetimes. They read widely both to learn their craft and understand readers' demand. They knew Emily's writing was remarkable, genius even, so they needed to lead with her difference. They test traded and proved that poetry could enhance their credibility but would not earn them a living.
It had to be a novel writing joint enterprise and Emily would need to write a novel too. They swapped ideas on the novels they could write and what readers would like. They researched publishers and drew up a hit list. They expected rejection of their handwritten manuscripts - a tiresome, time-consuming business - and moved immediately to the next on the list. When eventually, of the three novels from the three Bells, two were accepted they took some pragmatic decisions without diluting their original aims. (Tony Robinson)
The New York Times interviews the writer Rachel Cusk:
Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? (...)
I think “Jane Eyre” is probably the foundational heroine of ungirlish girls whose belief in happy endings insanely persists.
The Chichester Observer mentions Thomas Bewick on an article about water birds:
Among Bewick’s admirers was 16-year-old Charlotte Brontë who wrote a poem in appreciation of the master-engravers’ illustrations. Lord Tennyson wrote a tribute to the artist in his own copy of Bewick’s History of British Birds. Ruskin likened the artwork to that of Holbein and Turner. (Richard Williamson)
The Millions on poets' bedrooms:
Other poets have turned to nocturnal walking: Emily Brontë walked around and around her dining room table for hours until sleepiness overtook her; Walt Whitman, in “Hours Continuing Long,” tells of a sickening unrequited love that brings him “Hours sleepless, deep in the night, when I go forth, speeding swiftly the country roads, or through the city streets, or pacing miles and miles, stifling plaintive cries.” (Andrew Kay)
Well, not exactly (and not really, in general) but we get the point.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette discusses a program from Carlow University addressing female writers:
Madwomen in the Attic, a writing program at Carlow University that embraces generations of women, got its name from a book and is the catalyst for more books by female authors.
Carlow University program addresses 'cultural invisibility' of female writers. (...)Madwomen is a reference to the feminist text, “The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and The Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination.” The 1979 book, released the same year as the founding of the Madwomen group, referred to the dismal literary portrayal of women and, specifically, the “mad woman” locked in an attic by her husband in the Charlotte Bronte classic, “Jane Eyre.(Jane Miller)
The Annie Wright School in Tacoma seems to take another path. One where gender determines which kind of literature you should read. We cannot stress how much we regret and how deeply wrong we consider this kind of decisions:
When asked about curriculum differences at the new boys’ school, assistant head of schools Susan Bauska gave the example that 9th grade boys will not read “Jane Eyre.” Instead, boys will be presented with “non-fiction, graphic novels, and other literary novels that encourage boys to read more.” (The News Tribune)
This is just one step from boys reading about football and girls about shoes... because that encourages boys and girls to read more. Even if this is true, which it is not, are these the kind of readers/citizens we want to generate?

iNews has some optimistic literary quotes, including this one from Jane Eyre:
“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”
Vue Weekly reviews Mary Green by Melanie Kerr:
Looking beyond Austen, Mary’s early neglect and mistreatment is also reminiscent of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and her rags-to-riches London society debut echoes Frances Burney’s Cecilia, a novel of the Georgian era known to have influenced Austen’s work. (Kerr’s publisher, Edmonton’s own Stonehouse Publishing, will release an edition of Burney’s first novel this year.) (Laura Frey)
Salem Statesman Journal has a review of hotdogs with a Jane Eyre mention:
The red and white stand next to Forever 21 facing the small village of pretzel vendors and cotton candy carts was calling me, and like Jane Eyre hearing Mr. Rochester's voice in the moors, I ran back, hair flowing, mustard still crusted to the corners of my lips. (Brook Jackson-Gliddn)
A water closet anecdote as told in The Huffington Post:
You know that phrase “I fell to my knees”? I am not one for routine attacks of the vapours, Brontë-style, but this time I literally couldn’t stand up, such was the relief. (Tony Hargis)
Luccia Gray's Rereading Jane Eyre posts very fittingly today about her novel Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall; The Sisters' Room (in Italian) describes a visit to Scarborough following Anne Brontë's steps. The Dunham Thespians share a performance of Jane Eyre, adapted by Laura Kinsella, at Dunham Massey Village Hall, Cheshire, UK in April 2016.


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