Posts Tagged ‘Charlotte Bronte’
January 18, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Orson Welles and Hemingway had a vexed friendship, if friendship is even the word—their first encounter came to blows, after all. In interviews, Welles tended to speak respectfully, if not kindly, of the writer. But now, a 1973 screenplay by Welles, Crazy Weather, has come to light. Set in Spain, the story features a Hemingway-esque tourist with a macho, ersatz approach to the Spanish culture: “The protagonist in the script, Jim Foster, is travelling to a bullfight with his Spanish wife, Amparo, when they encounter a nameless youth who taunts Foster about his misogyny, flirts with Amparo and later sabotages their car tires. Despite having a Spanish wife and spending years living in Spain, Foster speaks the language only in ‘limited and rather stilted’ form, and is continually mocked for his cliched idea of Spain.”
- What do women want in a mate? And what do men want? For years, I’ve looked to late-night phone-sex ads and flimsy self-help books to answer these timeless questions; Adelle Waldman looked to literature instead. “The ideal mate, for Jane Austen’s heroines, for Charlotte Brontë’s, for George Eliot’s, is someone intelligent enough to appreciate fully and respond deeply to their own intelligence, a partner for whom they feel not only desire but a sense of kinship, of intellectual and moral equality,” she writes. “Straight male authors devote far less energy to considering the intelligence of their heroes’ female love interests; instead, they tend to emphasize visceral attraction and feelings. From Tolstoy, whose psychological acuity helped to redefine what the novel is capable of, to unabashed chroniclers of sex like Saul Bellow and Philip Roth to contemporary, stroller-pushing, egalitarian dad Karl Ove Knausgaard, men have been, in a sense, the real romantics: they are far more likely than women to portray love as something mysterious and irrational, impervious to explanation, tied more to physical qualities and broad personal appeal than to a belief—or hope—in having found an intellectual peer.”
- Elena Ferrante’s English translator Ann Goldstein talks about her process and being haunted by Ferrante’s work: “With The Days of Abandonment, partly because it was the first one and partly because it is so haunting, and it’s so concentrated, I was very upset by it. There were things in it that I think everyone recognizes. Like the scene with the key where she thinks she’s locked herself in—I have trouble with keys. And with something like that, she’s writing your nightmare. Those things really did upset me and haunt me. I identified with the narrator—one naturally identifies to some extent with an ‘I’ female narrator going through something that you recognize whether you’ve gone through it or not … When I started translating the first Neapolitan novel, My Brilliant Friend, I had not read the other ones, of course, because they weren’t written yet. So it wasn’t until I got to the end of the last one that I knew the whole story. That was a strange experience: to be reading something, or translating something, that I didn’t really know the end of.”
- Camille Henrot’s latest exhibition featured a series of hotline phones, all designed to show the vagaries and confusions of language. “I picked up and heard a male voice,” Michael Barron writes, “who, friendly enough and definitely assertive, had me run a gamut of bizarre questions, such as ‘If your dad has fathered more than nine children, press 0 / If your father has eaten any of his children, press 1.” “I always felt like language was a way to dominate people,” Henrot told him in reference to the hotlines. “You want to go to the end of the options. That’s the way we—me and the poet Jacob Bromberg—wrote and structured them. The first one we wrote, ‘Hello & Thank You’—the one that was presented at the Lyon Biennial—was so massive, with a maze of multiple choices. Navigating the whole thing from beginning to end would’ve taken over four hours.”
- Attention, shoppers: have you been feeling guilty about buying used books? Probably not. But if you have been, stop.
December 8, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Sam Sacks opens his review of our anthology The Unprofessionals with a litany of all that’s been co-opted by careerism in literature: “Consider the extraliterary responsibilities expected of authors who have had their novels accepted for publication: Develop an active presence on Facebook and Twitter (and, for the truly motivated, on Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest); create an accompanying web site, video trailer, and soundtrack; go on a book tour, naturally, but also participate in a variety of reading series in anticipation of and well after the publication date; take part in panels and signings at book expos; give interviews to blogs and podcasts and write personal essays about your background, your development as a writer, and your process of creation; not only review other books but join the great merry-go-round of blurbing … ” (He also calls The Unprofessionals “a showcase for serious literature.”)
- The tropes and psychology of anorexia have always been embedded in literature, Katy Waldman tells us: “Anorexia mirabilis—the saintly loss of appetite—signaled an embrace of Christ-like abnegation and suffering … And guess what? The archetype of the fasting mystic had a daughter. Equally lovely, equally slender—in her the delicacy of spirit won out once more over the coarseness of tissue. She rebelled against her mother by applying her native rigor not to prayer, but to an artistic sort of femininity. Think Jane Eyre, ‘delicate and aerial,’ or Elizabeth Gaskell’s Ruth, ‘little’ and ‘beautiful lithe.’ Consider Dorothea Brooke from Middlemarch, her ‘hand and wrist … so finely formed that she could wear sleeves not less bare of style than those in which the Blessed Virgin appeared to Italian painters.’ That Mary reference is not coincidental—like her mom, the new anorexic was pure and asexual. Yet she was also a creator, driven and intense … The economic and social realities of nineteenth-century England conspired to idealize female slenderness.”
- Not unrelatedly: Upon first publication, the Brontë sisters’ novels were reviewed variously as “vulgar,” “brutalizing,” “pernicious,” “godless,” and “venial”—probably because critics believed the authors were men. For Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, as they chose to be known, male pseudonyms meant freedom: “It allowed their imaginations to trespass in the darkest crevices of the psyche and return with tormented monsters like Heathcliff, the Ahab of the moors, and dynamos like Miss Eyre. Their pseudonyms strengthened their moral resolve, emboldening them to speak truth to that most tyrannical seat of power: ordinary society.” For Charlotte, the revelation of her true identity came at a steep cost, and she did her best to forestall it: “Charlotte insisted on the charade of separating Currer Bell from Charlotte Brontë in public, as Thackeray found out to his cost. He hosted a party for her at his house, and as he was leading her to dinner on his arm (she came up to his elbow), he addressed her as Currer Bell. ‘I believe there are books being published by a person named Currer Bell,’ she snapped back, ‘but the person you address is Miss Brontë—and I see no connection between the two.’ After dinner she sat in a corner and refused to mingle; Thackeray fled to his club.”
- From the annals of good old-fashioned fraudulence: In 1974, a little-known writer named Émile Ajar won the Prix Goncourt. Ajar was actually “the Lithuanian-born Free French aviator, onetime French consul general in Los Angeles, and award-winning novelist Romain Gary … Gary’s novels are autobiographical, and much of what he claims to be memoir is made up, complicating any attempt at unraveling the true from the false … In France, which celebrated the centennial of Gary’s birth last year with conferences, exhibits, and the publication of his last interview, Le sens de ma vie, none of his thirty-plus novels, memoirs, and essays have ever gone out of print. In the United States, few of them still are … He was far more successful as a storyteller than as a stylist. But his propensities make it difficult to find a place for him in French literary history, where he does not fit into that story that others have told.”
- Tired of bookstores where only some of the books are recommended by the staff? Head to Aaron Hicklin’s shop, One Grand, in Narrowsburg, New York, where everything comes with institutional approval. “His concept was to present collections of volumes handpicked by various creatives—including Tilda Swinton, Michael Stipe, Lena Dunham, and Edmund White—in response to the question, ‘If you were stranded on a desert island, which ten books could you not do without?’ … Hicklin aims to make bookselling more selective and personal—in other words, everything that Amazon is not—by attaching familiar names to titles and having them explain why those books have shaped them.”
November 13, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Flogging! Embezzling! The public humiliation of a churchman named John Winterbottom! These and more await you in an unpublished story by Charlotte Brontë, discovered in the “much-treasured” pages of the family copy of Robert Southey’s The Remains of Henry Kirke White. There’s a new poem, too: “The pieces have been dated to 1833, when Charlotte would have been around seventeen … Historian Juliet Barker, author of the biography The Brontës, said that ‘the book alone is a valuable acquisition because of its rare associations with Mrs Brontë ’ … According to the Brontë Society, the Southey title is one of Maria’s ‘rare surviving possessions,’ after a box containing all her property was shipwrecked off the Devon coast shortly before she married Patrick Brontë in 1812. It also features Patrick’s Latin inscription, reading that it was ‘the book of my dearest wife and it was saved from the waves. So then it will always be preserved.’ ”
- Today in national parks and the macabre: “For years, I’ve been an avid reader of what I call the Death in … books. It’s not quite an actual series—there are four so far, from three different publishers—but the Death in … books all do the same thing: They chronicle accidents, murders and mishaps in several of America’s most treasured national parks, giving us Death in Yellowstone, Death in Yosemite, Death in the Grand Canyon, and Death in Big Bend. The Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon books purport to chronicle every single death (excluding illness and car accidents) from the mid-nineteenth century onward, sorted into chapters by type: flash floods, bear maulings, murder, falls, poison gas and so on … The Death in ... books are morbid documents, and their authors’ defensiveness about that only proves the point. But what’s so wrong with being morbid?”
- “One thinks, usually, of drizzle being the opposite of thick, and of being lazy and gentle rather than sudden and sweeping. Still, an admirable deployment of the gerund.” That’s Christian Lorentzen, dismantling one of seventeen opening lines from new books. (In this case, the line is from Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies: “A thick drizzle from the sky, like a curtain’s sudden sweeping.”) Look away, children.
- Sixty-five years after its publication, the childbirth scene from Barbara Comyns’s Our Spoons Came from Woolworths still has everyone talking—and it resonates with contemporary literature: “Winding up in a public hospital, Sophia [Spoons’s heroine] is prodded, rebuked, and shamed for her body’s involuntary actions. It’s a setting in which women giving birth are seen either as docilely on track, or deviant … [This] brings to mind Maggie Nelson’s query in … The Argonauts, about the process of childbirth: ‘How can an experience so profoundly strange and wild and transformative also symbolize or enact the ultimate conformity?’ … Ferrante, for one, has said that her heroines don’t suffer so much as struggle. Comyns enacts the opposite: arguably, her characters suffer. Sophia exits each chapter of her life and enters a new one clearly exhausted, clearly in pain, and yet we don’t see her thrashing much. Her narration is triumphant proof that she has made it through, but the way out is seeded with resignation.”
- A note to the bagpipers: listen, let’s not beat around the bush. There are times when ordinary, run-of-the-mill bagpiping will suffice, and there are times when life calls for extreme bagpiping. Those are the times I want to hear about. I’m talking about bagpiping on the beaches of Normandy during D-Day. I’m talking about bagpiping in Antarctica with a penguin beside you. I’m talking about bagpiping on the International fucking Space Station.
April 21, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
From Charlotte Brontë’s letter to her friend Ellen Nussey, April 2, 1845. Brontë and Nussey exchanged hundreds of letters; this one, written about two weeks before Brontë turned twenty-nine and two years before the publication of Jane Eyre, finds her in a laudably bitter frame of mind, inveighing against marriage and men.
I see plainly it is proved to us that there is scarcely a draught of unmingled happiness to be had in this world. ——’s illness comes with ——’s marriage. Mary T. finds herself free, and on that path to adventure and exertion to which she has so long been seeking admission. Sickness, hardship, danger are her fellow-travellers—her inseparable companions … Yet these real, material dangers, when once past, leave in the mind the satisfaction of having struggled with difficulty, and overcome it. Strength, courage, and experience are their invariable results; whereas, I doubt whether suffering purely mental has any good result, unless it be to make us by comparison less sensitive to physical suffering … Read More »
February 26, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- “A rare first edition of Thomas Bewick’s History of British Birds belonging to Frances Currer, the woman believed to have inspired Charlotte Brontë’s pseudonym of Currer Bell, has come to light.” That’s fine news. But it gets better: Currer’s edition includes “an engraving which depicts someone urinating out of a cowshed [which] was considered rather coarse by some contemporaries and was bowdlerized in some copies but is untouched in this.”
- Since Hitler’s death in 1945, Germany has barred any and all reprinting of Mein Kampf. But that ban is soon to expire, and the first new German edition of the book in some seventy years is on its way. “The new edition is a heavily annotated volume in its original German that is stirring an impassioned debate over history, anti-Semitism and the latent power of the written word … Rather than a how-to guidebook for the aspiring fascist, the new reprint, the group said this month, will instead be a vital academic tool, a 2,000-page volume packed with more criticisms and analysis than the original text.”
- Galleries are great for displaying and selling your art—but they’re getting better at losing it, too. We live in a Golden Age of misplaced artworks. “As art prices rise, gallerists are less likely to keep all the art consigned to them on their own premises, because of safety and insurance costs … There’s also been a boom in mega-big-box galleries that have multiple locations in one city, or around the world, occasioning traveling exhibitions. Add to this the fact that many pieces, on inventory lists at least, look nearly identical, and you see the problem.”
- Today in insidious, nihilistic capitalist ploys: “Faced with a cadre of young workers who say they want to make a difference in addition to a paycheck, employers are trying to inject meaning into the daily grind, connecting profit-driven endeavors to grand consequences for mankind.” KPMG, an accounting firm, launched a new video encouraging employees to see themselves as “bricklayers or cathedral builders.” One employee said “it got him thinking about the lack of meaning in his day job.”
- Alice Munro on Dickens’s A Child’s History of England: “This was the first book I ever read … in the sense that I had a private vision of what I was reading about—unexpected, incommunicable, painfully exciting.”
July 23, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- On the Booker longlist: Joshua Ferris, Joseph O’Neill, Richard Powers, Siri Hustvedt, Howard Jacobson, David Mitchell, David Nicholls, and others. Notably excluded: Donna Tartt.
- Earlier this month came news of Charlotte and Branwell Brontë’s tiny books; now it’s the Brontë sisters’ school progress reports. In the early nineteenth century, a minister at Cowan Bridge noted that Charlotte “writes indifferently … knows nothing of grammar, geography, history, or accomplishments.”
- Do you seek a bland font, a middling font, a dutifully average font? Try the Universal Typeface, “a constantly evolving, algorithmically produced font created by averaging hundreds of thousands of handwriting samples submitted to BIC’s website. Anyone with a touchscreen can help shape the Universal Typeface by linking their phone or tablet to the website and writing directly on the touchscreen—the lettering is quickly transferred to the Universal Typeface algorithm. As of this writing, more than 400,000 samples have been collected from around the world, and the resulting alphabet is … well, sort of boring.”
- Wallace Shawn discusses playwriting and his new take on Ibsen’s The Master Builder: “If a man can presume to make a list of men who contributed to the feminist view of life, you’d have to put Ibsen at the head of the list. But he’s laying out on the table some of the worst male fantasies. I mean, he was a very daring writer, and he dared to be sort of sickening. He dared to create these characters who were sort of dreadful.”
- “The jukebox musical can be an embarrassing phenomenon: a living, breathing pop-music wax museum. It can be pandering and disingenuous, fostering a dynamic that the Times has called ‘ovation-by-coercion.’ It can repackage your happiest memories as a Vegas revue … Our instinct is to sigh about it, but we shouldn’t. The form is evolving.”