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A Transcendent Novel

The Yorkshire Post reminds us of The Unthanks' Emily Brontë Song Cycle:
Emily Brontë will forever be remembered for her powerful gothic novel. But while Wuthering Heights continues to seduce readers, she actually started out writing poetry and it’s her poems that are at the heart of a new project involving The Unthanks.
The acclaimed folk band have taken a selection of her poems and turned them into songs. They will perform their new Emily Brontë Song Cycle for the first time in a concert at Leeds Town Hall a week today.
Yorkshire-born Unthanks pianist and composer Adrian McNally was commissioned by the Brontë Society to create a record, performed with bandmates Rachel and Becky Unthank, to mark the 200th anniversary of Emily’s birth.
Kitty Wright, Executive Director of The Brontë Society, feels it has been a hugely successful collaboration. “As well as writing that one stonking novel, Emily was a poet, she drew and painted, like her sisters, and she liked music and played the piano We wanted to look at her as more than just a writer and that came together with this project and the Unthanks were an obvious choice.”
McNally and his bandmates have worked on historical projects in the past, but he admits they hadn’t appreciated just how popular Emily is. “We weren’t aficionados in any great way and I think it was probably a good job we weren’t. Had we realised quite how revered she is, we probably would have been petrified.”
As it turned out, this distance enabled them to look at her afresh. He created the songs using Emily’s piano which is still housed in the Parsonage in Haworth, where she and her sisters lived and worked.
McNally found playing her rare, five-octave cabinet piano inspiring but also challenging, at least initially. “It requires the pianist to play lighter than they have ever played a piano. It took me a while to realise this but as soon as I did I developed a real affinity with the instrument.”
He wrote the songs in the piano room, penning the music for the whole song cycle in his first evening. “There’s so much of her poetry that is really rhythmic that the poems almost read like songs and they were ideal for putting to music.”
As well as the concert, the 
song cycle is available as a record and the band have also produced a free audio experience, that can be pre-booked at the Parsonage, so that visitors can go on a guided walk. “It means you can listen to Emily’s poetry set to music in those hills where she used to roam.”
Both McNally and the Unthank sisters now count themselves among Emily’s fans. “You feel like you’re reading words of integrity and truth from someone who perhaps never thought her words would be read, and I really admire her.”
The Emily Brontë Song Cycle, December 21, Leeds Town Hall. For ticket details call the box office on 0113 376 0318 or visit www.leedstownhall.co.uk
Culture Vulture interviews Adrian McNally from The Unthanks:
Commissioned by the Brontë Society to mark what would have been Emily Brontë’s 200th birthday, Adrian has transposed a number of her poems into music. The resulting Emily Brontë Song Cycle is performed by The Unthanks next week at Leeds Town Hall.
Adrian got to use the Brontë sister’s own actual instrument, a five-octave cabinet piano dating from the early 1800s. Composing after-hours at the Parsonage Museum in Haworth, he was chaperoned at all times by a member of staff.
“Everything at the museum is so precious that I was made to write under constant supervision,” he says. “It was deemed to be for my own safety, that if anything was damaged or went missing it couldn’t be me. Imagine songwriting under those conditions.” (...)
During the day Adrian worked up the songs using the German upright piano at nearby Ponden Hall. Now a working B&B, it is generally acknowledged as the inspiration for Thrushcross Grange, home of the Linton family in Wuthering Heights.
Working at Ponden Hall gave the degree of freedom he needed, particularly as he was being called upon to write songs, rather than simply arrange them as is more usual. Making the daily journey to and fro – as Emily might have done nearly two centuries ago – allowed a distinct resonance to emerge.
“I even got to sleep in the room with replica box-bed that Emily and her sisters used to sleep in at Ponden. They used to visit there a lot because it had a better library than their own apparently.
“If you pull back one of the panels, it reveals this tiny little window which Emily is supposed to have based Cathy’s ghost coming through the window to Heathcliff on.
“I’m not saying I got loads of sleep the first night,” he adds with a chuckle.
Freedom to Teach Collins gives ideas for teaching Jane Eyre:
Jane Eyre is a transcendent novel, I’ve read it as an 11 year old and through my teens then in to adulthood and it gets richer and more relevant with each sitting. It’s an incredible choice for the classroom as 170 years later it still has lines that floor me with their relevance to today’s society: ‘It is not violence that best overcomes hate – nor vengeance that most certainly heals injury’. Ask your students how this quote can be applied to today’s political climate or can they contextualise it against a situation they have come across recently? The novel is thematically rich and packed with literary devices so I’ve put together five discussion points you might like to use with your class; these would work well as speaking and listening assessments too, as well as five extension points that can  be set as homework or revision tasks. (Read more) (Joanna Fliski)
Can a sleepless night awaken creativity? in The Guardian:
Famous insomniacs include William Wordsworth, Emily Brontë, Vladimir Nabokov and Marcel Proust so could there be a positive side to sleeplessness.
This is the ambition that Emily Brontë voices in her poem “Stars”, when she begs the twinkling deities to hide her from the sun’s hostile light: “Let me sleep through his blinding reign, / And only wake with you!” Brontë is famed for having experienced visions at night. Greedily, she invoked sleeplessness as the source of her imagination. But even she eventually tired of night-waking. Ritually, she would walk around her bedroom each night, desperate to fall asleep. (Marina Benjamin)
And the source of all that apocryphal information is...?

The Telegraph reviews Sincerity by Carol Anne Duffy:
What is rhyming? “Nailing a hunch to an instinct,” writes Carol Ann Duffy, soon to quaff her last butt of sack as poet laureate. It’s a very good line indeed, and there are plenty more like it here.
Despite the title, Sincerity offers endless ironic masks, often from history. We meet Charlotte Brontë, Shakespeare, Queen Victoria, Richard III and a “luckless loutess of a troubadour/ offstage, as it were, mending her lute” while the Magna Carta is signed nearby. (Tristram Fane Saunders)
Los Angeles Times presents the play Sisters Three, now at the Inkwell Theater in Los Angeles:
Sisters Three’ by Inkwell Theater
The essentials: After a suicide, four siblings are three. They’ve always been deeply connected, having grown up somewhat isolated and interacting within a self-created alternate world. In tragedy’s aftermath, the oldest of the three, a famous food blogger, withdraws to a no-technology commune. The other two resolve to draw her back, with the youngest creating an elaborate social media strategy to document it. The story, set in a U.S. university town, is inspired by the sibling dynamic among the Brontë sisters and their brother.
Why this? This is the third new play L.A. will see this year by local playwright Jami Brandli, following “Through the Eye of a Needle” and “Bliss (or Emily Post Is Dead!).” The latter, a riff on four heroines from ancient Greek tragedies, was a Times Critics Choice. The new “Sisters Three” is by no means biographical, but the Brontës’ symbiotic ties intrigued Brandli, who set off in new directions to tell a story about “the lengths to which family will go to bat for each other.” The world of publishing looms large, but it’s on the internet, giving rise to another theme: “the struggle to find genuine meaning in our current society that places a lot of value on a curated social media life versus a person’s real life,” she says. And, because Brandli loves Christmas, it’s set on Christmas Eve. Above all, it continues her mission to, as she puts it, “bring female narratives to the stage.” The sisters here are “extremely complicated, and they all have their own journey,” she says. “They are not a supporting character in somebody else’s story” — a quality, she believes, that helps explain her career’s momentum this year. Inkwell Theater, the presenter here, develops and produces new plays. It workshopped “Sisters Three” two years ago. (Daryl H. Miller)
The Weekly Standard and last lines of novels:
The last lines of Wuthering Heights and Vladimir Nabokov’s Bend Sinister both feature moths, the nocturnal lepidoptera instinctively associated with the gathering darkness. Emily Brontë’s is a restful farewell: “I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.” Whereas Nabokov bursts in on his dystopian denouement with a scene of himself and an ill-fated moth on his window screen. “A good night for mothing,” Nabokov, an expert collector, concludes. (Alice B. Lloyd)
India Today reviews the novel Unhappy Families by Khadija Mastur:
Known as the Brontë Sisters of Urdu, Khadija Mastur and her sister, Hajra Masrur, were involved in the powerful literary grouping known as the Progressive Writers' Movement first in Bombay and later when they moved to Pakistan. (Rakhshanda Jalil)
Slate lists the best audiobooks of 2018:
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. Emilia Fox and Richard Armitage take turns reading tales that accentuate the erotic, unruly, and atmospheric possibilities of Carter’s source material, and they make the most of it. Fox’s delivery is dulcet to the brink of breathiness (but no further), and Armitage broods and pines as magnificently as Heathcliff himself—except when he cuts loose as a bawdy, flamboyant Puss in Boots. (Laura Miller)
The Times describes a restored Tudor house in Hastings:
Hendy ushers me through the rooms, as immaculately composed as still-life paintings. In a fireplace, a line of tiny Victorian farm children’s sabot clogs from a French brocante suggest an absent family. Birds’ nests, dried toadstools and taxidermised crows and magpies lend an intriguing maleficence. The result is Grimms’ fairytale meets Romanian folklore meets Wuthering Heights-on-Sea. (Gemma Bowes)
Also in The Times, an obituary of the actress Patricia Simmonds (née Gilder) who played Emily Brontë in the 1951 BBC production, The Brontë Family.

El Mundo (Spain) has a travel article on Haworth, the Brontës and Brontë country. Not a bad article in general, just some random wtf moments though:
 «Es esta en verdad una hermosa región. No creo que me hubiera podido fijar en toda Inglaterra en un paraje tan del todo apartado del mundanal ruido; es un perfecto paraíso para misántropos...». Sr. Lockwood. Cumbres borrascosas. Emily Brontë amaba la soledad, la soledad de los páramos de Haworth, una localidad perdida en el West Riding de Yorkshire que apareció en el mapa gracias a la fama de la escritora y de sus hermanas. Charlotte, la mayor, aún vivía cuando llegaron al pueblo los primeros turistas, lectores que ansiaban ver el lugar donde las autoras se habían criado y visitar el Parsonage, la rectoría o casa parroquial en la que residía el reverendo Patrick Brontë con su familia. En la mesa del comedor aún hay manchas de tinta. A Emily se le atascaba siempre la plumilla. A veces estudiaba en la cocina una gramática de alemán, mientras amasaba el pan, papel y lápiz en mano, por si se le ocurrían unos versos entretanto. Poesía recién horneada, olía a tarta de manzana. Pero las delicias que le inspiraban estaban tras la ventana, en los páramos martirizados por inviernos largos. Aquí el verano sólo vendrá para hacer una visita corta de formalidad, lo llenará todo de brezo color bermejo y se irá.
Pero hiciese el tiempo que hiciese, Emily salía al campo a pasear, por un sendero cicatero que empieza justo detrás de la casa-museo. Estaba mal visto que las mujeres fueran solas a caminar, pero vecinos y ovejas se tuvieron que acostumbrar a verla pasar, como una sombra (extra)vagante que el sol perfilaba alta, flaca, encorvada, alargándose sobre los pastos. Llevaba las mismas botas pesadas que hubiera calzado Ellis Bell, el pseudónimo masculino con el que compartía iniciales para firmar sus escritos, porque tampoco se aconsejaba que una señorita se perturbara ejerciendo una carrera literaria. Llevaba un taburete pequeño (ahora hay bancos para sentarse en el camino) y un secreter portátil de palisandro tamaño caja de zapatos expuesto en el museo. (Read more) (Mertixell-Anfitrite Álvarez) (Translation)
The Vision (in Italian) and pseudonyms:
Lo stratagemma del fingersi uomini funzionò particolarmente bene in campo letterario, dove l’attribuzione di un’opera poteva molto più facilmente essere elusa che nelle arti figurative. Il caso più famoso è quello delle sorelle Brönte (sic) – Charlotte, Emily e Anne – che assunsero rispettivamente gli pseudonimi di Currer, Ellis e Acton Bell. Come scriverà Charlotte nel 1850 nella premessa a Cime tempestose, composto dalla sorella Emily: “Non volevamo dichiararci donne perché, – senza che a quel tempo sospettassimo che il nostro modo di scrivere e pensare non è quel che si chiama ‘femminile’ – avevamo la vaga impressione che le autrici fossero più inclini ad essere viste con pregiudizio”. Dopo il grande successo di Jane Eyre, Charlotte e Anne si presentarono di persona dall’editore Smith, Elder & Co. (che si era convinto che tutti i romanzi fossero stati scritti dall’inesistente Ellis Bell) per rivelare la loro identità. L’editore restò sorpreso, ma preferì continuare a pubblicare i libri con nomi maschili per non scioccare il pubblico. Fu Charlotte, l’ultima superstite, a riabilitare il cognome Brönte (sic) per tutte le sorelle. (Jennifer Guerra) (Translation)
Le Point Afrique (in French) reports the Maryse Condé's acceptance speech of the New Academy Literature Prize. Decking the halls in Oakwell Hall in The Telegraph & Argus. Diario de Almería (Spain) compares a local politician with Jane Eyre. A local Finnish TV station (Yle Areena) broadcasts Jane Eyre 2011 (Pohjalainen reports). Il Refugio di John Silver (in Italian) reviews Jane Eyre.


This post first appeared on BrontëBlog, please read the originial post: here

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A Transcendent Novel

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