Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Tuesday, January 09, 2018 10:50 am by Cristina in , , , , , ,    No comments
Thank goodness, the media are delving a bit deeper into the whole Lily Cole thing and not just relying on the negative opinion of one person. The Guardian goes as far as finding Lily Cole's appointment 'inspired'.
Last week, Brontë scholar Nick Holland threatened to resign from the Brontë Society in high dudgeon over the appointment of model and actor Lily Cole as creative partner for the bicentenary celebrations of Emily Brontë’s birth, a decision he described as “rank farce”. His objection, according to a piece he wrote for his website, was that Emily would have been appalled to have her celebratory year associated with “a supermodel”, and that this was all part of a relentless drive to attract a young audience by “being trendy” at the expense of the Brontës themselves. The attack reads very much like a relentless drive by Holland to attract publicity by being deliberately inflammatory; thankfully the pompous suggestion that a beautiful woman, especially one who has made a living from her beauty, couldn’t possibly do this role any justice has been swiftly and mercilessly knocked on the head by numerous writers and columnists.
The controversy is as old as the Brontës, as Cambridge graduate Cole pointed out in her dignified response. It reminded me of the fuss made in 1999, when the announcement that Jerry Hall was to be a judge for the Whitbread book awards was mocked as “blatant dumbing down” by then Booker prize organiser Martyn Goff. But the Whitbread was one of the first literary institutions smart enough to realise that if it wanted to reach a wider audience, it might be a good idea to branch out beyond the same small gene pool of writers, academics and critics, and that a sprinkling of glamour doesn’t hurt – it had Mary Quant as a judge as far back as 1985, and Bruce Oldfield the year after. [...]
And yet, I can’t help a tiny pang of sympathy for one of the points Holland made, buried beneath the blustering intellectual snobbery. “The person chosen for such an important role as creative partner [should have been] a writer,” he says. Leaving aside the fact that Cole’s project is to create a short film, and that the Brontë Society is working with musicians, visual artists and film-makers as well as writers on the bicentenary celebrations, I agree – it would be nice if there were a writer who could have brought the same reach and cachet as Cole. But who? Zadie Smith, maybe? I would love to live in a culture that celebrated writers as much as it elevated TV stars, models and singers, so that the literary world didn’t have to rely on borrowed glamour, but alas we don’t. Writers are not celebrities here in the way they often are elsewhere, and that says a great deal about our cultural values. The Swedish crime writer Camilla Läckberg appeared on Sweden’s version of Strictly Come Dancing a few years ago; it’s hard to think of any British novelist – with the possible exception of JK Rowling – who would be regarded by producers as having the necessary profile to qualify here.
I’m all for breaking down the preconceptions that would keep Great Literature ringfenced in the way Holland would like, the preserve of a qualified few, and Cole’s appointment is an inspired step towards that. But I’d also like to see the dismantling of boundaries cut both ways; perhaps, by the tricentenary, there’ll be a writer with enough kudos to draw the big crowds. (Stephanie Merritt)
Jezebel's Pictorial is not surprised at one more row within the ranks of the Brontë Society.
Hear that? It’s not the winter winds wuthering across the moors, but rather—once again—the sound of the Brontë Society riven by dramatic conflict. [...]
No offense to the Brontë Society’s mainstream popularity but this looks less like a log roll and more like an attempt to get some attention from glossy magazines and the internet more broadly, which seems worth a try to boost revenues for the organization and visitors to the Brontë Parsonage Museum. And why not? What’s it gonna hurt the literary reputation of some of the most famous authors who ever lived? Besides, Cole did put her modeling career on pause to attend Cambridge, so it’s not like they just snagged the first reality TV star they saw in the pages of US Weekly. [...]
You know who’d write something really funny about this? Jane Austen.
This has been The Brontë Society Drama Hour. Join us again next year for another round of extremely specific rancor. (Kelly Faircloth)
That last bit did make us laugh.

The Argus looks back on 'the best gigs, shows and events' of 2017 such as
The old ones are the best, as the saying goes. But perhaps in theatre this is only a half-truth. While everybody loves watching classic stories represented on stage, it’s also important that directors inject a new spirit into their productions. One show that absolutely delivered that was the National Theatre’s version of Jane Eyre, which played at Theatre Royal Brighton in July.
Innovative features were at the heart of this adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s novel; from the appearance of a live band to the skeletal, three-deck framework of a set, which enabled delightful choreography. Most impressive of all, though, was the haunting sight of Melanie Marshall’s Bertha.
A permanent fixture on the stage, she frequently chimed in with enchanting, foreboding songs to heighten the already tense atmosphere. A brilliant twist on what is, let’s be honest, an overdone story. (Edwin Gilson)
Glasgow Live features a busker singing Wuthering Heights (and joking about Brexit). As a Matter of Fancy posts about Jane Eyre. The Sisters' Room has an article on Emily Brontë by Maddalena De Leo in Italian.

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