Friday, March 10, 2017

The Daily Mail reviews Samantha Ellis's biography of Anne Brontë, Take Courage.
For Ellis, the general ignorance of Anne Bronte’s works is a source not so much of regret as near fury. But, as she sheepishly confesses, until a few years ago she, too, regarded Anne as ‘the other Bronte’.
A long-standing Emily and Charlotte fan, she thought of their younger sister as a pious and rather boring under-achiever. Now the scales have fallen from her eyes, she writes with the zeal of the convert keen to spread the word.
Ellis’s conversion took place when she came across the last letter Anne wrote before her death at 29 from tuberculosis.
She was supposed to be a passive woman who welcomed death as the gateway to a better life, yet here Ellis discovered someone ‘tough and courageous’, desperate to live on and accomplish everything she’d hoped for.
‘I have many schemes in my head,’ wrote Anne heartbreakingly. ‘I should not like them all to come to nothing, and myself to have lived to so little purpose.’
After that, Ellis turned to Anne’s two novels. To her surprise, she found them more brave and radical than anything her sisters ever wrote. [...]
Take Courage is no scholarly work — and not just because of its chatty style. For one thing, Ellis regularly turns her findings into a kind of self-help book, drawing lessons on how to live life by asking: ‘What would Anne do?’
For another, there’s not much pretence at objectivity. While Anne is always praised to the skies, Charlotte gets it in the neck for crimes ranging from jealousy of Anne’s prettiness to a terrible taste in real-life men.
Nonetheless, no one who reads this is likely to disagree that Anne has been in her sisters’ shadows for too long and the time has come to give ‘the other Brontë’ her proper due. (James Walton)
Coincidentally, writer Kate Forsyth reviews 'the 13 books she recently read and loved' on Booktopia, including
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
by Anne Brontë
I first read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall when I was in my late teens and discovering the lives and work of the Brontë sisters. It came third in my esteem, after Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. For some reason I have never re-read it, even though I’ve re-visited the work of her sisters many times. It might have been because I remembered it as being rather gloomy, with a pious self-righteous heroine and an unlikeable hero.
Talking the book over with a friend last year, she said that she thought it was one of the earliest examples of feminist fiction. I decided I had to read it again and I’m very glad I did. (...)
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was an astonishingly brave novel for a young woman to write in the early part of the 19th century. It’s a story about marital abuse, and Helen’s courageous action in leaving her husband would have been thought utterly shocking at the time. One of the biographers of the Brontës, May Sinclair, wrote “the slamming of Helen Huntingdon’s bedroom door against her husband reverberated through Victorian England.”
It is also a story about a woman who stood up for what she believed in, and who supported herself with her art. This was surely the unspoken dream of many young women bound within their society’s narrow view of a woman’s role in the world.
Finally, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall does not flinch away from depicting alcoholism, adultery, domestic violence, or attempted rape. It is clear-eyed and unflinching in its depiction of the realities of 19th century English life.
Most interestingly, for me, is the transformation of the character of Gilbert. In the first half of the book, he is confident to the point of cocky, and thinks nothing of toying with Eliza’s feelings, or of pressing his unwanted attentions upon Helen. He calls on her uninvited, he seizes her hand and tries to kiss it, he tries to pry into her past. His behaviour foreshadows the actions of Helen’s husband Arthur, who treats her with rough passion that escalates to violence, and his friend Walter, who tries to first seduce, then rape, Helen.
However, Gilbert changes once he has heard Helen’s story and understands how she has been abused in the past. He becomes more grave and gentler. Most interestingly, he swears to leave her be until she is ready for anything else. He does not write to her or hound her; he gives her the time she needs.
By the time they are at last united, he too has suffered from his long enforced separation from Helen and is far more worthy of her love. And the final scenes – when Gilbert races to stop her marriage to another – are compelling, page-turning drama.
I do have one small caveat about my new-found love and admiration of Anne Brontë – I’m afraid I skim-read most of the long speeches about piety and morality. I suspect they are why so many contemporary readers dislike the book!
The news section of the Stanford University website tells about English professor Claire Jarvis's book Exquisite Masochism: Marriage, Sex, and the Novel Form.
Jarvis’ book, Exquisite Masochism: Marriage, Sex, and the Novel Form, finds that dominant women often appear in erotically charged scenes. Scenes of this sort frequently have “masochistic” overtones with sexual desires left unfulfilled or denied outright.
By disguising eroticism as ornate description, turn-of-the-century novelists could hint at sexual frustration without coming too close to explicit depiction. Such masochistic scenes occur in the novels of Emily Brontë, Thomas Hardy, D. H. Lawrence and Anthony Trollope. [...]
Jarvis sees a uniquely Victorian eroticism in a passage from Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) when the servant Nelly Dean finds Heathcliff, the novel’s romantic hero, mesmerized by what is apparently the ghost of his former lover, Catherine.
As Brontë writes, Heathcliff’s face “communicated, apparently, both pleasure and pain in exquisite extremes: at least, the anguished, yet raptured, expression of [Heathcliff’s] countenance suggested that idea.” For Jarvis, tension between opposing sensations epitomizes the “exquisite masochism” of sexuality in turn-of-the-century England.
Victorian authors relied on all manner of innuendo to hint at erotic acts, said Jarvis, for whom “extreme attention to aesthetic detail” is “one of the key elements of the sexual, masochistic scene.” Hefty description slows the pace of action, allowing for the buildup of sexual tension between characters. “If you are reading a novel and all of a sudden the description becomes extremely ‘thick,’ you may be in the middle of an erotic scene.” (Emily Goodling)
Similarly, but in a lighter tone, YourTango discusses bad boys in literature.
"If you're a bit of a bastard, shagging aplenty."
Big crisis! Meg went to see a local theater production of Wuthering Heights and now she has a massive crush on the guy who played Heathcliff. She sent him flowers.
Meg's husband David is understandably peeved.
"Why him?" he wants to know.
"It's nothing serious," I assure him. "The whole thing's just a fantasy."
I happen to know the actor a little — we used to work together — and I can guarantee that he's not Heathcliff in real life. He will never throw Meg over his saddle and sweep her off to the Yorkshire moors.
"I get that," David says. "What I want to know is, why do you people always go for total bastards?" (By "you people" he means "women" — not just "my wife and her looney friends.") He has a point.
Since the day I hit puberty, I have always fallen for the bad guy. I know I'm not alone in this.
Dracula is a blood-sucking monster. Captain Hook is a child murderer. Richard the Third is a con artist, the Sheriff of Nottingham is a fascist and Heathcliff is a textbook sadist in top boots and a flouncy shirt. But show me Jason Isaacs or Alan Rickman in full spate and I swoon like an ingenue. Whoever swoons over Jonathan Harker or Edgar Linton? Hardly anybody, I bet. (Freya Shipley)
The Guardian reviews the CD release of John Joubert's Jane Eyre opera, giving it 3 stars out of 5.
John Joubert remains best known for choral music, but the composer, 90 this year, has written no fewer than eight operas. Jane Eyre, which he worked on as a side-project for 10 years and completed in 1997, remained unperformed, apart from in a problematic one-off reduction, until the Birmingham concert last October from which this recording was taken. Setting Kenneth Birkin’s libretto, he mercilessly selects just six scenes from Charlotte Brontë’s novel, writing music that is warm and glowing yet astringent, too. He establishes Jane’s rebellious streak right at the start, giving her a short but impassioned musical motif that recurs in her love duet with Rochester and at their eventual reunion. Inevitably, the distillation of the novel into its most dramatic episodes makes the overall tone somewhat overwrought. Any lack of studio polish is overridden by the flow conductor Kenneth Woods brings to the score, and by the principal singers, especially April Fredrick, who gleams in the title role. (Erica Jeal)
The Daily Mail also reviews The Silent Fountain by Victoria Fox, which is found to be
Feverish, claustrophobic and superbly written, this tale — a new direction for writer Victoria Fox — draws heavily on Rebecca and Jane Eyre. (Wendy Holden)
Springfield News Leader recommends books with nuns in them, including
Charlotte Brontë’s “Villette,” which follows heroine Lucy Snowe as she travels to the fictional city of Villette to teach at a girls’ school, features multiple sightings of a ghostly nun whose body may be buried on the school grounds. (Konrad Stump)
Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland) discusses the influence on the tale Beauty and the Beast.
«La belle et la bête» weist – obwohl hundert Jahre früher geschrieben – bereits Muster der romantischen «Frauenliteratur» auf, in der Männer als furchteinflössend, kalt und grausam erscheinen. Werke von Autorinnen wie Jane Austen, Emily und Charlotte Brontë sind klassische Beispiele dafür. Von ihnen stammen beispielsweise «Pride and Prejudice», «Sense and Sensibility», «Wuthering Heights» und allen voran «Jane Eyre». Auch diese Geschichten sind seit je beliebte Vorlagen für Verfilmungen. (Eva Illouz) (Translation)
Patheos' Eidos discusses Napoleon and Josephine and describes them as
Wuthering Heights played out over all of Europe: a selfish, moody Heathcliff with a more sensuous Catherine. The Brontë novel is correct: if you cannot restrain passion, it will burn up everything. Napoleon and Josephine burned up Europe. (John Mark N. Reynolds)
Revista GQ (Spain) recommends reading and savouring classic novels:
Bueno, pues coged a las hermanas Brontë, a Dumas, a la Austen, a Balzac, a Dostoievski, a cualquiera de aquellos autores a los que no pudisteis abrazar en su momento y hacedlo ahora. Y tomaos todo el tiempo que sea necesario. No se trata de una competición. (Manuel López-Ligero) (Translation)
Vogue publishes an excerpt from Marilyn in Manhattan: Her Year of Joy by Elizabeth Winder.
Marilyn may have needed Amy’s fashion expertise, but she’d been perfecting her beauty routine since her starving-model days—setting her own hair, coating her cheekbones with Vaseline, lanolin, and olive oil. Away from iron-lacquered Hollywood, Marilyn cultivated a natural style. Lipstick went from Russian red to pale pink. Contoured cheeks gave way to soft peachy blush and light flicks of mascara. Going for an even paler blonde look, she paired Amy’s effortless chic with Wuthering Heights–meets–Jean Harlow hair.
Stereogum shares radio DJ Zane Lowe's thoughts on Lorde's new song Liability.
I love the song so much and it feels so starkly truthful to me. And I think everyone knows what that’s like, to just feel like a fucking liability. It’s interesting because the viewpoint is such a youth to the writing. And I love that because I am 20 and I’m an idiot determined to keep writing from that place. But the song sounds so traditional. It’s this piano song which is very new territory for me. And I really had this moment of… I was like, a lot of teenage music is kind of expected to sound the same. And I was like, you know what, I could be Paul Simon in this moment. I could be Joni Mitchell or Kate Bush, these people who were very young. I don’t listen to Wuthering Heights and think “oh that was a young person”. Even though the the lyrical perspective, you know there is this kind of this melodrama to it. I was aspiring to that level of young and old all kind of combined. (James Rettig)
This is how Bendigo Advertiser sells a house:
The main bedroom has a ceiling fan, full length built-in robes, and timber floors too. The bedrooms look like Jane Eyre’s home, where she might wander in and recline languidly on the bed after writing her books all morning.
They may be thinking of Jane Austen but that could still be a weird/silly description of her.

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