Saturday, January 16, 2021

Sandra Gilbert, co-author of the seminal book The madwoman in the Attic, has written an article on Donald Trump--'The madman in the mansion'--for The American Scholar:
Nearly half a century ago, Susan Gubar and I wrote a book about the secret rebellion of 19th-century women—The Madwoman in the Attic—but now we have to confront what might be considered the mania of the patriarchy that had bound and gagged them. Our central madwoman was the Creole wife of Jane Eyre’s Edward Rochester, who was imprisoned in a dusty attic because she was too desirous, too rebellious, too indecorous. Her downstairs double, the repressed little governess Jane Eyre, harbored fever dreams too, but was trained by her culture to silence herself. Yet the male-dominated culture itself, even in Victorian England but more so in the gold mountains and concrete canyons of America, was mad in a different way.
Mad with greed and lust and “feral teeth.” Donald Trump incarnated that madness from the start, and on January 6 his rage-flushed face and angrily swerving, bullying shoulders rallied the lynchers from the dark heartlands. If there was female anger muttering in the attic of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, a very different kind of macho rage erupted as Trump asserted his paranoid belief that he won an election he lost, as he threatened Georgia’s secretary of state in an hour-long rant, as he scandalously urged his blinkered followers to actually attack the Capitol of the United States.
The Times quotes actress/director Emerald Fennell's somewhat disparaging words about Branwell:
(“The Brontës! The greatest!” she writes to me later. “All of them – except Branwell, obviously.”) (Carina Chocano)
That 'obviously' still breaks our hearts.

Coincidentally, LitHub shares the transcript of a recent podcast conversation with Finola Austin, author of Brontë's Mistress, on New Books Network.
C. P. Lesley: What drew you to writing not just about the Brontës but about the lesser-known members of the family, Branwell and Anne?
Finola Austin: I always loved 19th-century fiction, so growing up I read a lot of Victorian fiction. Charles Dickens—and the Brontës, of course—were among the first that I came across. Jane Eyre was the very first Brontë novel I read; in fact, I was so young it was read to me, before I read it alone. In my teens, I read the novels of the other Brontë sisters, Emily and Anne, as well as Charlotte’s other works. During my teens, I also read my first Brontë biography. It was The Dark Quartet by Lynne Reid Banks, and that’s where I heard about Branwell, the dissolute brother who was supposed to be the genius of the family but ended up being the only one not to become famous for his writing skills or his painting, another project he abandoned. [...]
CPL: From there we move immediately into Lydia Robinson’s story. It’s 1843. Where is she at this point in her life?
FA: I did a lot of research when I was setting out to write this novel. Where to start the novel was a real question for me. I made up a spreadsheet with all the known events in Lydia’s life and the lives of the Brontës. I could have started with Lydia as a child; I could have started with Lydia as a young woman going into her first marriage with Edmund. I also could have started when Anne Brontë comes to the house to become governess. But I ultimately decided to start with January 1843, which is the month that Branwell Brontë arrives in the house to be her son’s tutor.
The reason for that was twofold. One is that this is the inciting incident of the novel as I’ve written it: Branwell’s arrival forces Lydia to confront the realities of her life and, of course, to embark on this disastrous affair with Branwell. But two, I realized from researching what was going on in Lydia’s life. This was an incredibly vulnerable period for her. When the book opens, she’s just come back from her mother’s funeral. Her youngest daughter, Georgiana, has died just a few years before. So you see a woman who, at 43, has lost her youngest child; she’s just lost her mother; her father is senile, so she’s losing his support too; and as I’ve depicted it, her marriage has been extremely negatively impacted by the loss of that child. Lydia is completely unmoored, and her life is changing.
Stylist discusses 'why you can’t stop obsessing over your Regency romance boyfriend':
Caught yourself fantasising about Pride & Prejudice’s Mr Darcy, Bridgerton’s the Duke of Hastings, or men in breeches generally? You’re not alone! Here, we break down the psychology of our period drama crushes. [...]
Of course, though, Bridgerton’s Duke of Hastings is not the first leading man from a period romance we’ve all fallen hard for; far from it, in fact. 
Before him, we had the animal-like Mr Rochester, and the endearingly proper Mr Ferrars. [...]
I reach out to Professor Judith Hawley who, incidentally, instilled me with my own love of Jane Austen’s impossibly romantic novels when I listened to her lectures on 17th and 18th century literature at Royal Holloway, University of London.
“I think the Duke of Hastings owes more to previous adaptations of Austen, including Charlotte Brontë’s Mr Rochester, than to Austen herself,” she tells me, adding that “there is also more than a touch of Poldark in there.”
“Characters like this are appealing because they represent an obstacle to be overcome – a standard plot device in all romance, including Arthurian romances – and they are kind of feminist in that the woman gets to tame the man, even emasculate him, as Jane Eyre does with the blind Mr Rochester.
“And, with the whole world in lockdown, this version of courtship at a distance might have a particular resonance. It might also be appealing now as the antithesis of Love Island and that TV programme in which people get to choose partners by eying up their dangly bits [Naked Attraction].” (Kayleigh Dray)
Animal-like Mr Rochester?! Well, as least he didn't have 'feral teeth' like someone described above.

Writer Jenny Offill didn't like Jane Eyre as she admits to The Guardian.
The book I think is most overrated
My daughter had to read Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre over the summer and I gamely agreed to read it with her. Oh my god, I thought I would keel over from boredom. All the long monologues about truth and virtue. The endless part where she might marry her tedious cousin and become a missionary. The only interesting part was the wife in the attic but for that bit you can read Jean Rhys’s infinitely superior novel, Wide Sargasso Sea.
Not a period drama crush in the shape of animal-like Mr Rochester for Ms Offill then.

The New European features author Anaïs Nin.
“Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell were always telling me, you have to write the traditional novel,” she said in 1970. “Edmund Wilson said, why don’t you write like the Brontës? He sent me a whole set as an example. But I had a feeling a woman had something else to say.” (Charlie Connelly)
Swindon Advertiser recommends 'Wiltshire based novels that everyone should read' and of course there's
The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde
Jasper Fforde's debut novel was released in 2001 and takes place in an 'alternative 1985'. 
So taken by the book, Swindon Town Planning Office got in touch with Fforde in 2007 to name some of the town's streets after characters from the novel.
Some of the streets inspired by the book include Thursday Street, Mycroft Road and Havisham Drive. (Nicole Baddeley)
We never knew there were actual streets named after characters in the book. Now that's cool.

A contributor to The Yorkshire Post thinks that 'Whether it is Bridget Jones’s Diary or the Brontës, we need comfort reading right now'.
Other books I turn to for solace include Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights – neither are, admittedly, cosy or lighthearted in their subject matter, but that’s not the point.
It’s the engagement with the brilliant storytelling and the sense of security that comes with knowing what is going to happen next that makes them the very best comfort reads. [...]
At the earliest opportunity I’m off to toast some crumpets and snuggle up for a girls’ night in with Bridget, the Snork Maiden, Scout and Nelly Dean.
I encourage you to seek out your own literary old friends and enjoy their company. Happy reading. (Yvette Huddleston)
A contributor to The Irish Times recommends The Tenant of Wildfell Hall:
Anne Brontë is the least known of that great family of novelists but her Tenant of Wildfell Hall tackled contemporary social problems, especially the unequal position of women, more openly and fearlessly than either of her more famous sisters. (Brian Maye)
Apparently some people worry over 'the look of their on-screen libraries' and need help with them. From Financial Times:
Penguin Random House offers themed “credibility bookshelves”, free to download from its website. “Literary Heavyweight” features Zadie Smith and Ta-Nehisi Coates, while “Classics Collector” is heavy on Austen and Brontë. Hopefully, Gove and co have downloaded a few for their next appearance. (Mark Ellwood)


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