Thursday, March 22, 2018

Historia Magazine features Ill Will author Michael Stewart.
Speaking to Stewart on the phone, I’m keen to congratulate him on the fearlessness with which he’s tackled one of literature’s iconic characters. It is, after all, a bold move.
‘Or stupid, really stupid!’ Stewart laughs, ruefully. ‘Of course, I’m apprehensive. Who knows how people will react. Of course you’re going to ruffle some feathers. A lot of people won’t buy my explanation, but I think when you’re writing you’ve got to push all that to one side and just crack on with it.’ [...]
‘It really started with a 1995 essay that John Sutherland wrote called Is Heathcliff a Murderer? The first sentence in that essay is, “When Heathcliff runs off in the storm he is uncouth stable boy, when he returns three years later, he is a gentleman psychopath.” What interested me was that opening sentence. I was thinking for a long time about what had happened to Heathcliff in those three years.’ Warming to his subject, Stewart points out that the novel itself offers up several mysteries about Heathcliff’s origins and the circumstances of his first appearance at Wuthering Heights, brought from Liverpool by Mr Earnshaw. ‘Why would a farmer go to Liverpool, which was not a market town, in the middle of his busiest season? Why did he travel on foot when he had horses in the stables? Why wouldn’t he use the coach that went from Yorkshire to Liverpool for a small cost? I started to think, this is a covert act. This is somebody who doesn’t want to be seen. He’s going to Liverpool for a very specific purpose; he’s not hanging around, he’s not sightseeing. Then, about three years ago, Huddersfield University gave me a six-month sabbatical and I decided it was time to sit down and research the book.’ [...]
‘I was interested in the world immediately outside Wuthering Heights, because what Emily Brontë does so well is that claustrophobia, that intense prison that she creates. But then I wanted to take Heathcliff to Manchester, where the Industrial Revolution was really taking place, and to Liverpool to see the social implications of the slave trade and the American War of Independence. The Enclosures Act of 1773 meant people were being made homeless and turned to theft or begging, but you’re also seeing the end of the era of highwaymen as the turnpikes and canal system were being developed.’
A rich canvas then, and Stewart clearly has a handle on the bigger picture, but which came first, Heathcliff’s backstory or the research?
‘Oh, definitely the latter. All I knew was I would take him to Liverpool and he would try to find out who he was. I read a lot of social history, and tried to convert that into narrative. Written history is often the story of the wealthy and it doesn’t record the reality for the working class, which is much harder to discover.’
Stewart’s political awareness, and his desire to tell that working class story, comes through in the book. Told through Heathcliff’s eyes, the narrative doesn’t shy away from the grim realities of the age, made all the more shocking by the use of dark humour, a decidedly modern tone and dialogue that wouldn’t be out of place in a Ken Loach drama.
‘I didn’t want to write pastiche,’ Stewart explains. ‘At this point in history, to try and imitate something from the past would be a bad idea! But also, I wanted to try and restore the coarseness of Wuthering Heights. The book scandalized Victorian society. It was called savage, violent, and seen as an immoral book. We’re told by Joseph and Nelly that Heathcliff uses filthy language. Joseph washes his mouth out with lye. Emily couldn’t write those words because it was against the mores of the time and it wouldn’t have got published. But I can. It’s interesting that Shakespeare could use those words – words like the C word – and I can today, but Emily couldn’t.
Talking of the C word, a few early reviewers have commented on the liberal use of profanities, especially on the tongue of Heathcliff’s young companion, a foul-mouthed orphan girl, more worldly than her years. She is, appropriately, named Emily.
‘Drama is about conflict, so I needed a companion to create that,’ Stewart says of her invention. ‘But I wanted to make it clear that Cathy is his object of lust and I didn’t want anything to blur that, so she had to be prepubescent. It started off with me thinking, what would Emily Brontë be like as a girl?  She’d be a right pain in the arse! But once I started writing the character, she turned into something quite different.’ [...]
We compare stories of hikes to Top Withens (the supposed setting for the Earnshaw dwelling), and, getting lofty for a moment, debate the centrality of landscape to Wuthering Heights. For me, it’s an integral part of that novel, but Stewart points out that Brontë’s descriptive passages amount to less than a page of text. ‘I thought, I’ve got an opportunity to put that in. But also, I’m interested in the new nature writing, which is very popular at the moment. I read a lot of that with interest and what occurred to me is it’s mostly very apolitical. For me, the landscape is a political space. I walk my dog across the moors all the time and I get stopped by landowners and farmers. The idea of a permissive landscape is a relatively new one. Even in the most barren places, on the steepest hills, you still see boundaries. I wanted to reflect that political space.’
As a local, Michael knows the landscape well, but that didn’t stop him completing a three-day walk from Top Withens to Liverpool, following the route that the fictional Mr Earnshaw might have taken. ‘I did it in character, sort of method research. I had a Dictaphone and I wrote that section as I walked, so in a very direct way it affected the writing. When you’re walking through a landscape like Yorkshire, you’re walking through history. It’s something we have here in this country; a connection to the past in the landscape, which is a great resource for a writer.’
That connection between history, literature and landscape is clearly a passion for Stewart. He’s spearheading a project that will see new work from contemporary female writers carved onto four ‘Brontë Stones’ and placed in locations the Brontë siblings knew well. I ask him about the impetus behind the project. ‘I live in Thornton, opposite the Brontës’ birthplace and I’ve been fascinated by them for most of my life. First of all, I wanted to put Thornton on the map. Their happiest days were in Thornton and as soon as they got to Haworth, everything went wrong. Haworth was blighted with tragedy. Thornton shows a different side of that story.’ [...]
And what of Emily? After spending so much time in the world of Wuthering Heights, what does Stewart make of her now?
‘Emily to me is still a mystery,’ he admits. ‘Part of me writing this book was me trying to get into her head and understand what made her tick, but I still find her an enigma. The Emily Stone will be in a very barren spot on Thornton Moor, overlooking Haworth – I hope Emily would have liked that.’ (Katherine Clements)
An article on the Brontës' juvenilia in The Yorkshire Post:
The fantasy worlds of the four Brontë children included the creation of little magazines, detailed drawings, and intricate maps, showing just how thorough and real these words were to them all, and why they subsequently had such a deep effect of the novels of the three sisters. The stories created from these fantastical worlds were written in dozens of miniature books, manuscripts of these stories including titles such as A Peep into a Picture Book and The Spell, showing the intricate craftsmanship which went into these fantasy worlds. These manuscripts were the size of matchboxes and bound by thread, becoming secretive, private worlds belonging only to the four children. The depth and breath of the Brontë family’s imagination is clear, not only in the world of romantic realism, but in the realms of fantasy and science fiction. The deeply creative imaginings which emerged from their fantastical worlds influenced the rich narratives of the classic stories, which subsequently made the three sisters profoundly famous, and which continue to be perpetuated to this very day. (Helen Johnson)
Also in The Yorkshire Post some information on the events that will be part of Scarborough's Seaside Literature Festival (April 11-15)
A new drama set in the town hall council chamber will also be shown, alongside radio, screen and theatre stars taking to the stage. This event will also explore the science of food, feature a dancer in the art gallery, musicians in the library and St. Mary’s Church will open its doors to the tales of Anne Brontë. (Helen Johnson)
The Nerd Daily recommends the Brontë sisters among other 'Historical Female Authors You Should Check Out'.
The Brontë Sisters
The Brontë sisters consist of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë, all of whom penned their own books during the nineteenth century. Charlotte Brontë is the author of Jane Eyre, while Emily and Anne wrote Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of the Wildfeld Hall. Their family was close friends with fellow female author, Elizabeth Gaskell, whom [sic] eventually wrote the first biography of the family. (Tasya)
While Denizen recommends '10 classic novels everybody should read at least once', including
8. Wuthering Heights
Emily Brontë’s only novel has become a much-loved classic in English literature. A cataclysm of revenge and hatred is spurred on by the contrast of passionate love, creating a tortuous tale that is just as gripping over 150 years after it was published. (Mina Kerr-Lazenby)
Inspired by the recent snow, Washington City Paper recommends some 'Fiction Books About Epic Snow Storms'.
Or dig in to Jane Eyre. In the middle of Charlotte Brontë’s novel, Jane is reading alone by the fire, a blizzard roaring outside her humble cottage, when John River comes unexpectedly to her door with news: Jane is not poor, but the heiress of her long-lost and now-dead uncle's fortune; Jane is not unloved, but the object of a search undertaken by her dear Mr. Rochester; Jane is not without family, but actually the cousin of this very Mr. Rivers, who is covered in snow and he explains his discoveries to a bewildered Jane. (Alexa Mills)
Bustle shares '17 One-Star Reviews Of Classic Novels That Completely Missed The Point Of The Books'
1.'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Brontë
Found on Goodreads: "Ugh...just because it was written yonks ago by a depressed girl living on the Yorkshire Moors does not mean that it is good. What makes a classic book: The quality of the writing or the passage of time? I would rather slowly bite poke my eyes out with my Kindle than to read this again. Or to read anything else by ANY of the Brontë sisters." (Charlotte Ahlin)
Not a fan, eh?

The Irish Times interviews Caterpillar Poetry Prize judge Chrissie Gittins:
What books did you love as a child? Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Otterbury Incident, The Borrowers, Jane Eyre, Greek and Roman Myths, and substantial quantities of Enid Blyton. Poetry didn’t really kick in till secondary school, when I was bowled over by the War Poets.
Noisey interviews musician Greta Kline/Frankie Cosmos.
You’re forced to confront the reality that you’re “a thing” in addition to your thoughts. That you’re visible. There’s this really good moment in Jane Eyre. She sees a ghost across the room and realizes its a mirror and its her own pale face looking back at her. That moment has always stuck with me because I have it all the time. Where I’m like, oh my god, that’s me? What is me? (Colin Joyce)
A.V. Club recommends watching the 1939 film adaptation of The Hound Of The Baskervilles, which
boasts a supernatural legend about a mysterious murderous beast, set against the backdrop of a lavish ancestral estate and moors spookier than Wuthering Heights. (Gwen Ihnat)
The Impression features Loewe’s Fall 2018 collection.
Jonathan Anderson evoked the literary past for Loewe’s Fall 2018 collection.  The assortment of vintage day-wear, midi dresses, and duffle coats draws inspiration from seminal works like Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. On the runway, spectators were gifted with Loewe hardcover designed editions of the classic novels, grounding their experience in the textual. In fact, a stark, paper-white runway draws the eye toward a dark-wood mantle and fireplace, equating the show to the act of reading by the fire. (Eric Arroyo)
Bride Magazine features a Yorkshire wedding shoot inspired by Wuthering Heights. The Brontë Babe posts about Branwell Brontë. On The Brussels Brontë Blog, Eric Ruijssenaars writes about the post in Brussels at the time of the Brontës' stay.

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