Saturday, October 29, 2016

Francine Prose publishes a nice article in the New York Review of Books about the Morgan Library exhibition Charlotte Brontë. An Independent Will:
What the Brontës Made
Even those who think they know all there is to know about the Brontë family will likely be surprised by many of the documents and artifacts included in “Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will,” currently on view at New York’s Morgan Library. Many of these revelations have to do with size and scale, with the contrast between the breadth and depth of Charlotte Brontë’s imagination and her physical delicacy, between the forcefulness of her and her siblings’ prose and the neat, astonishingly miniscule handwriting (not unlike Robert Walser’s microscript) in which she, Emily, and their brother Branwell penned their early work.
The first thing we see, on entering the gallery, is a glass case containing one of Charlotte Brontë’s dresses and a pair of her shoes, objects that make us acutely aware—more effectively than any description or photograph of these items could—of how diminutive (by modern standards) this strong and resilient woman was. Tiny books and magazines, including a copy of a satirical play about the art of writing, The Poetaster, that Charlotte wrote when she was fourteen, offer a view of the way in which the Brontë children saw writing as an imaginative game; to them, these miniature, handmade volumes—meticulously printed, and in some cases illustrated with watercolors—were, essentially, toys. Included also is the manuscript of a poem that Emily Brontë wrote when she was nineteen, a work of three hundred words, divided in forty-six lines, on a page that is only ten centimeters tall. (Read more)
BachTrack reviews very positively both John Joubert's Jane Eyre opera premiere and the performance of the soprano April Frederick:
Joubert's music has frequently drawn on great works of literature, and the choice of Jane Eyre as an operatic subject perfectly suited his wont as a composer to explore the human condition "in line with the Enlightenment idea of theatre as a 'School of Morals'" – an ethos of which Brontë herself would have approved. Woods describes the opera as "a score of translucent beauty, in which the music is not only worthy of the original text but seems absolutely of and from it". Indeed, the wonderfully affinitive word-setting lends a great emotional potency to Brontë's epic drama; the use of speech inflections in the vocal lines, the rhythmic stresses, the musical motifs of the characters: all are meticulously crafted, compellingly drawing the listener in to the progressive psychology of the musical narrative.
Joubert's style is essentially one of diatonic lyricism, but the score's vividly colourful and lush palette made powerful use of syncopation and dissonance in evoking atmospheres of tension and portent as well as illuminating the dichotomies within Brontë's characters, notably in the depiction of the conflicted Jane, through wide leaps and use of the leitmotif 7th in her soprano line. April Fredrick navigated the angularity of the title role with steel in an astonishing and luminous performance; a more impassioned embodiment of the character was hard to imagine. (...)
 In the presence of the composer, there was added poignancy in the standing ovation, and a feeling that something of real value had taken place: an important contribution to the repertoire, deserving of a place on the world opera stage.  (Pamela Nash)
Do not miss, by the way, April Frederick's blog where she describes vividly her experience creating and performing her role.

More reviews:
Joubert’s music is harmonically attractive and his orchestration subtle. There is also wit, with echoes of the operatic music of Janáček, Britten, Stravinsky and Wagner (to name but a few) evident fleetingly, and intentionally so in their contexts. It would certainly bear repeated listening – and indeed some of the scenes for the two protagonists could be excerpted.
The parts of Jane and Rochester are imaginatively written. Jane’s lines start out being rather declamatory where she announces her departure from Mr Brocklehurst’s school. As she grows in self-confidence and her romantic nature is revealed her lines become far more impassioned. April Fredrick captured the development of the character well, and made all the words tell. Her voice is warm and attractive across a wide range and the resolve of the character shone through. David Stout’s brooding Rochester was also impressive, and his incisive and mellifluous voice was shown at its appreciable best. He and Fredrick blended well, particularly in the final reflective encounter with its open ending. The other singers all performed their limited roles well – Mark Milhofer standing out as Richard Mason and the Reverend Rivers in two nicely delineated cameos. Kenneth Woods conducted with aplomb, and the recording is much looked forward to. (Alexander Campbell in Classical Source)
Highlights of Joubert’s score for me included the two interludes that separate the three scenes of Act I. Written in Brittenesque manner. The first was suggestive at times of the role of Grace Poole (not an included character) and the strange noises coming from the top floor of Thornfield Hall; the second, after the fire, provided the perfect transition between speculation as to the destinies of Jane and Mr Rochester, and the forthcoming events in the garden. Indeed, as the attraction between the two main characters blossoms, the tension in the music gives way to a sumptuous obligatory love duet – simple, transparent and highly effective. (Geoff Read in Seen and Heard International)
The Wall Street Journal reviews Not Just Jane by Shelley DeWees:
A few years ago, Shelley DeWees realized that the bookshelf symbolizing her love of British literature had some gaps: “I had virtually no idea what existed between Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre; or, for that matter, between Jane Eyre and Middlemarch; or Middlemarch and Mrs. Dalloway. . . . There had to have been other British women writing and publishing alongside [the authors she knew], and I decided to find out who they were, what they wrote about, and why their work was missing from my bookcase and from our cultural curricula.” (...)
It is highly probable that anyone still reading this piece has never heard of most, or possibly any, of these women, but some might have read (or seen television adaptations of Braddon’s “Lady Audley’s Secret” (1862) or Dinah Mulock Craik’s “John Halifax, Gentleman” (1856). Ms. DeWees is indignant at this state of affairs. To her, it seems unfair that Austen and the Brontës, “a sisterhood of reclusive, scribbling parsons’ daughters,” are still read, when these seven writers are not “canonized.” (...)
She praises Dinah Craik’s very fine novel “Olive” (1850) at the expense of “Jane Eyre” (1847), perhaps not realizing that it was written as a “conservative” response to Charlotte Brontë’s book: The crippled heroine Olive exhibits quiet Christian patience, unlike the almost “heathen” (as she calls herself) Jane. (...)
In my 30 years of specializing in this period, I have in fact read 16 works by these women, and I have learned a good deal. But I have also learned something about what makes Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot—well, Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot. Ms. DeWees doesn’t consider that precisely what she so admires about the women whose work she champions is what dates them. These women were better than average at describing political crises, fashionable causes, and the frustrations of women facing serious social and legal barriers—consequently, as those particular political crises passed and women had more choices and fashions changed, their work was superseded. It no longer speaks directly to us.
Insofar as Austen and Brontë wrote about how to identify the right person to marry, one of the most important decisions we still make, their novels remain timely. But in fact they were not writing solely or even mostly about marriage but rather about the interior struggle to forge an authentic identity in relation to the world. As long as there are women and men involved in that quest, the witty, judicious, profound, passionate voices of these great, great authoresses will speak to us. (Alexandra Mullen)
The Independent talks about the new TV series Good Girls Revolt:
As a result of the pressure brought to bear by the lawsuits, they also got to participate in writer training programmes, although some women were still so insecure after years of being second-tier staffers that they would turn in their work for review under pseudonyms.Lucy Howard became Emily Brontë. But she would leave Brontë behind. (Hank Stuever)
It's kind of funny that Emily Brontë was used as a pseudonym when the real one published under pseudonym her only novel.

The Times on John Banville's words on writers making bad fathers:
From Shakespeare’s King Lear and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights to Mr Wormwood in Matilda and Jack Torrance in The Shining, literature is full of terrible fathers. But do writers also make bad dads?
John Banville, the Booker Prize-winning Irish novelist, has faced a backlash from fellow authors for declaring that they do, asserting that most would “sell their children” for a good turn of phrase. (Kaya Burgess)
Also in The Times Melissa Harrison writes about the year's turning and mentions Emily Brontë, and John Sutherland reviews The Dark Circle by Linda Grant:
Romanticised as the poets’ disease (Keats, Emily Brontë, Orwell, et al), tuberculosis principally ravaged the unsanitary lower classes, cramped in hutch and hovel housing, sharing beds (...)
The Cap Times reviews The Handmaiden by Park Chan-Wook:
The film starts off with a setup familiar in Gothic fiction, from “Jane Eyre” to “Crimson Peak.” (Rob Thomas)
The Globe and Mail reviews the English translation of Pilátus (Iza's Ballad) by Magda Szabó:
This sort of psychological and emotional access is, short of clairvoyance, otherwise unimaginable with another person; even our loved ones we can only know so well, but Jane Eyre tells us everything. (Pasha Malla)
Technique explores how it is to learning to love reading again:
Slowly, I have made my way back. I started with long-form journalism and slowly moved forward. I am midway through “Wuthering Heights” (which I basically skimmed when I was supposed to read it in high school) and five chapters into Franz Kafka’s “The Trial.” (Harsha Sridhar)
Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish) interviews the writer Jamaica Kincaid:
Jamaica Kincaid: Jag brukade leka att jag var Charlotte Brontë (...)
Jag ville inte att mina föräldrar skulle veta att jag skrev. Jag trodde inte heller att jag skulle lyckas, men jag ville så gärna skriva. Jag hade gjort det sedan jag var liten, bara sju år. Då låtsades jag att jag var Charlotte Brontë och skrev hennes böcker. (Maria Schottenius) (Translation)
VLT (also in Swedish) also talks about the Caribbean writer:
I nya "Se nu då", som är Jamaica Kincaids första roman på tio år, handlar det om familjens upplösning. Med långa ironiska meningar och referenser till Jane Eyre, Outkast och grekisk mytologi skildrar hon paret Mr och Mrs Sweet. Han är en uppburen kompositör medan hon "kom med bananbåten". Distansen mellan dem växer, liksom Mr Sweets förakt. (Translation)
L'Intellettuale Dissidente (in Italian) puts David Lynch and Emily Brontë together in the same article:
Se per alcuni l’urto creativo prende forma da uno stato di animo malinconico, per altri la fonte della creazione è da rintracciare in un ascolto perpetuo al richiamo operato dall’inquietudine.
“Solo gli inquieti sanno come è difficile sopravvivere alla tempesta e non poter vivere senza”.
Quella della scrittrice e poetessa inglese Emily Brontë, si leva come una delle descrizioni più fedeli di tale stato di animo. (Isabella Cesarini) (Translation)
Can you imagine a Wuthering Heights reimagined by David Lynch?

Ara (in Catalan) reviews Jane, le renard et moi;
Perquè la Jane del títol no és altra que Jane Eyre, l’heroïna de Charlotte Brontë: “És el millor llibre que he llegit a la vida, i això que només vaig per la meitat”, ens explica l’Hélène, que devora unes pàgines que li serveixen d’escut i consol contra la crueltat dels altres nens. (Xavi Serra) (Translation)
Le Temps (in French) reviews The Sacrifice by Joyce Carol Oates:
En quelques chapitres, «Sacrifice» concentre tout l’art de celle qu’on appelle «la quatrième sœur Brontë»: une moraliste à la fois visionnaire et terriblement efficace, capable de partir d’un simple fait divers pour donner à voir les failles et les blessures les plus douloureuses de l’Amérique. (André Clavel) (Translation)
Le Devoir (in French) talks about Les Bons Débarras, theatre adaptation of the 1980 film by the director Frédéric Dubois:
Le metteur en scène poursuit : « Ces personnages continuent aussi de nous dire, et c’est extraordinaire, que la poésie est là, à côté de nous, et que si on abdique, on ne la voit plus. On a besoin de poésie ! Manon lit Les hauts de Hurlevent ; elle va y chercher tout un vocabulaire, une manière de voir le monde. Les bons débarras est en fait presque un calque du roman d’Emily Brontë. Ce que cela nous dit, c’est que, s’il n’y a pas d’équilibre entre le quotidien et le sublime, on meurt. » (Translation)
Observator Cultural (in Romanian) is happy to present a new Romanian translation of Jane Eyre:
Nu mai puțin celebre sînt Charlotte Brontë și Jane Eyre, eroina romanului ei din …1847. Nu aș fi zis. Dacă stau să mă gîndesc cum arăta literatura română la acea dată, devin visătoare. Dar mă duc cu gîndul la pereții Voronețului și ai Suceviței, la turlele Dragomirnei, la apus de soare, sau la coloanele în torsadă de la Văcăreștii Mavrocordaților, și echilibrez impresiile de moment. Jane Eyre: aproape 600 de pagini ale unui roman, cu o dedicaţie pentru Thackeray! – nu cred că am știut pînă azi; se poate trăi și fără aceast detaliu, se poate trăi fără multe, şi fără Jane Eyre… Dar parcă devine mai luminoasă și de suportat viața, oricum ar fi ea, după lectura unei cărți bune şi încurajaţi de forța, încrederea în bine și frumos, devotamentul, răbdarea și frumusețea lăuntrică ale unei femei precum Jane Eyre. Emană energie pozitivă, cum se spune azi, debordantă. O ediție nouă Jane Eyre (Editura Litera, 2016, o traducere mai veche de Paul B. Marian și D. Mazilu, o alta nouă de Mirella Acsente, în ediția din 2015, de la Editura Corint, ar merita o confruntare, măcar pentru un seminar dedicat traducerilor) se găseşte acum în librării. Într-o colecție, „Cele mai frumoase romane de dragoste“, care poate stîrni zîmbete superioare. Abia aștept să recitesc Roșu și negru,Amantul doamnei Chatterley sau Mîndrie și prejudecată. (Cristina Manole) (Translation)


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