Thursday, December 17, 2015

Lucy Mangan has written a lovely piece for The Guardian about the Brontës, with particular attention to her admiration for Anne.
I’ve just got back from a week’s filming in Haworth and its environs – its bleak, freezing, inhospitable, endlessly compelling environs – for a documentary about … yes, you guessed it: the Brontës. There were three of us presenting, each going in to bat for a different member of the family.
The novelist Helen Oyeyemi was Emily’s champion, the BBC stalwart Martha Kearney was Charlotte’s, and I was there to represent Anne. She’s the only Brontë sister I can really cope with. The others, with their Wuthering Heights and their Jane Eyres, are just … too much. T’Sturm und t’Drang are not my way, in life or in reading. Give me the quiet, forensic scrutiny of Agnes Grey, the eponymous heroine of Anne’s first book, based on her miserable experiences as a governess for two rich families full of semi-feral children. Or the slow, pitiless anatomising of the effects of alcoholism on a Victorian family, so accurate that The Tenant of Wildfell Hall could have been written yesterday.
No madwomen in the attic. No ghosts. No blinded, Byronic heroes. Anne’s protagonists are ordinary women coming to extraordinary decisions, and they end up with good men: farmers, curates – with working eyes but no grand estates – who must stand by until her heroines have rescued themselves.
But a curious thing happened as the week went on. I found myself increasingly in sympathy with Charlotte and Emily, that hitherto emotionally exhausting pair. It is impossible to walk across the open moors for long without starting to feel the stir of wild imaginings, a longing to fill it with stories big and bold enough for the job, and to people it with characters strong enough to infuse its unforgiving acres with life. It is impossible to sit in the parsonage for long – looking down on a rapidly industrialising mill town in one direction, eternally unchanging landscape to the other – and not feel your imagination whetted between the past and future.
By the end, the wonder really was that Anne managed to put all those temptations to melodrama and gothic insanity to one side and steer her own course. Or maybe we’ve got her all wrong; maybe Charlotte and Emily were the realists, writing what they knew, and she was the fantasist, wildly imagining ordinary houses, pretty gardens and emotions that can fill only a human heart and not the gaping maw of the Yorkshire moors.
Also in The Guardian, film director Peter Kosminsky is interviewed about his recent work directing Wolf Hall.
You’ve referred to Wolf Hall as the most daunting project of your career. Still the case? There are other things I’ve done that have been as challenging, but Wolf Hall was the most daunting because I had only done one piece of costume drama, Wuthering Heights, and it had been a spectacular flop. I thought I was a very odd choice for Wolf Hall and there was a little voice in my head saying: “You’ve tried that and you were crap at it.” I didn’t want to ruin it. [...]
You’re currently working on a Channel 4 drama on Islamic State. Is it a relief to return to a contemporary project or are you hankering after another period drama? The truth is I feel more confident as a result of having made Wolf Hall. It was a complicated and very difficult series to make and it has put a salve on a rather bloody open sore for me, which is what Wuthering Heights had always remained. It was probably the worst experience of my professional life. So, the fact that I’ve been able to tiptoe back into costume drama and not make a complete pig’s ear of it is a huge relief. If someone were to ask me to do another one, I wouldn’t be as anxious about screwing it up. (Chitra Ramaswamy)
The Yorkshire Post features Jolien Jazing's novel Charlotte Brontë's Secret Love.
During a lunch break ten years ago Brussels-based Dutch journalist Jolien Janzing sat on the steps of the city’s cathedral to eat a sandwich and got into conversation with one of the priests. That chat turned out to be quite significant as it eventually led to the publication of her second novel.
“The priest told me that in the 19th century Charlotte Brontë had been to confession in the cathedral. She wasn’t a Catholic and I wondered why she would do that,” says Janzing who had long been a fan of the Brontës, having first read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights when she was 11. “So then I started to read everything I could about Charlotte Brontë. I began my research about seven years ago and the book was published in 2013.” [...]
Heger also provided her with a kind of blueprint for her male protagonists. It is not difficult to imagine where the inspiration for Rochester in Jane Eyre or Paul Emmanuel in Villette came from, for example.
“Sometimes people ask me if I think those novels would have existed without Monsieur Heger,” says Janzing. “I think not those novels – she would have written other novels, but he was such a huge influence on her and the experience made her more mature. She must have learned so much in so little time and seen the world through other eyes.And she was so heartbroken when she returned home; that makes a writer write better – you have to have some experience in life.” For her research Janzing says she got a lot of help from the Brontë Society and she visited the Parsonage Museum in Haworth, but most of her research was done much closer to home. “The biggest part was done in Belgium with the Brussels Brontë Group and in the archives in Antwerp,” she explains. “I did worry that British readers might think this should have been written by an English writer, but I know the Brontës and I know Brussels so perhaps I was the right person to write about this part of Charlotte’s life.” The film rights to the book have already been sold – snapped up by producer David P Kelley after the novel was one of ten selected at the Berlin Film Festival this year as good potential movie projects – and Janzing is already working on her third novel. (Yvette Huddleston)
Natasha Tripney continues recommending Sally Cookson's Jane Eyre enthusiastically on The Stage.
Jane Eyre – National Theatre, London
It’s neither a new show nor a particularly festive one, but Sally Cookson’s sweeping take on Charlotte Bronte’s novel is very near the top of my list of shows of the year. It’s a brilliant bit of theatre making, inventive, imaginative, true to the spirit of Bronte without being slavish. The performances – Madeleine Worrall’s Jane and Felix Hayes’ Rochester – are superb, as is the whole company. The music is a delight; in fact the whole thing is pretty much delightful. There are a few tickets still available this week, so if you’ve not seen it, fix that: give yourself a present.
And  Niamh Francesca Flynn reviews the recent screening of the play.

Dagens Nyheter (Sweden) has a lengthy article on Charlotte Brontë given the recent Swedish translation of Villette, the release of Claire Harman's biography and next year's bicentenary.
Samhörigheten mellan den olyckliga, exalterade kärleken och skrivandet syns naturligtvis i själva förälskelseprocessen – så lite verklighet som kan förfinas till en så stark inre känsla. Men också i de parallella processerna: de första utkasten till ”Jane Eyre” skrivs i Bryssel. Fyra år senare blir den hennes genombrott.
Eller, det är på ett sätt fel att tala om den olyckliga förälskelsen och romanskrivandet som utbytbara val: det finns en längtan efter erotisk förlösning som rent tankearbete inte kan ge. Men avtrycken av det som hände i Charlotte Brontës själ under vistelsen i Belgien blev ändå till sist ett val: tala eller tiga om dessa avtryck? Hon skrev, och hon skrev med sitt fulla geni: ”Villette”. (Malin Ullgren) (Translation)
Slate has just announced the project A Year of Great Books and interviews Laura Miller, who is in charge of it.
Asking you to pick a single favorite book seems cruel. We’ll be reading six this year, so: What are your six favorite novels? Any serious reader’s favorite novels are in a state of constant flux, and I find it impossible to weigh contemporary fiction against 19th- and early 20th-century works. Sticking with the classics, right now I’d say Jane Eyre, Bleak House, Emma, The Portrait of a Lady, and Jude the Obscure. (Gabriel Roth)
The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian has an article on magical realism:
In the French Antilles we must include Chamoiseau’s oral history Texaco along with his elegy to Creole storytellers Solibo Magnifique and Maryse Conde’s retelling of Wuthering Heights—Windward Heights, and how could we ever forget Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea. (Simon Lee)
This columnist from Alaska Highway News writes about her dislike of e-cards for Christmas.
Does it seem like I am difficult to please? Perhaps I am, but there are some time honoured holiday traditions that simply cannot be replaced with technology. Trust me, E-cards are sad excuses for a proper holiday greeting. I equate them to listening to a classic like Jane Eyre on an audio book narrated by a Kardashian with plenty of vocal fry — it just seems wrong. (Judy Kucharuk)
Yesterday marked Jane Austen's 240th birthday and a couple of sites mentioned the Brontës in articles about her. Daily News Egypt used her to reflect about marriage in Egyptian society.
In a society prone to deem the success of a woman’s life according to the children she produces, Jane Austen’s “spinster” life might be regarded as a failure. Neither Austen nor her heroines were rebellious, compared to Brontë’s characters for example; nevertheless, they transcended all the barriers bound by her time. (Sherif Abdel-Samad)
While MPR News lists several famous people who dislked her work, Charlotte Brontë being one of them.

Apparently, yesterday also marked the anniversary of the creation of the Brontë Society as seen on its Facebook page.

The Telegraph and Argus covers the story of the opening of a branch of the Yorkshire Building Society in Howard House, Bardford, and reports that
Room names include Priestley, Alhambra, Centenary Square, Lister, Brontë and Salts Mill. (Chris Holland)
The Brontë Parsonage Museum Facebook page warns visitors that Linger, Ailís Ní Ríain's series of original compositions, is entering its final weeks in the museum. Do visit if you can, but if you can't make it, remember she wrote a lovely guest post about it for us. Monologue Blogger posts a sort of Wuthering Heights summary in the form of a Heathcliff monologue.


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