Saturday, April 16, 2016

Jane Eyre? Jane Squared.

It's a big anniversary year for literature (#Shakespeare400) but also with the bicenteniery of Charlotte Brontë's birth there has been a lot being written of about Jane Eyre - published in 1847 the face of female heroines forever changed. 

Jane is plain (described several times throughout) and the emphasis being on her character, soul and true nature rather than her looks is a breath of fresh air even today when characters are so much defined by their beauty.


Reading this article on the Guardian got me thinking of how and why I read Jane Eyre. It was first year uni - I had taken a token Modern Literature Class and Jane popped up in a week devoted to speculative/adaption literature in the form of The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and then the Wide Sargasso Sea. A little embarrassed I hadn't read the source text I read all three and woah - I think my brain expanded threefold. 


The Eyre Affair is fabulous. It is a complex and fun literary adventure story where it's heroine Thursday Next has to solve mysteries as a Literary Detective and in her parallel universe have to deal directly with characters from fiction. Reading it after Jane Eyre was wonderful as I felt I could access Jane and Rochester again in a new context that breathed new understanding into the original source. 

Wide Sargasso Sea was more difficult to fall for because it is a deliberately confronting and difficult text. It is a feminist-post-colonial story of Mr. Rochester and his first wife - how they married and how her world disintegrated into madness.

I wrote an essay on Wide Sargasso Sea - my first proper encounter with postcolonial theory - about Antoinette Rochester and the deep sense of alienation from place that the characters experience. An excerpt below: 

Jean Rhys complicates colonial definitions of place by identifying characters with opposing positions and then bringing them into open conflict. This personification of colonial relationship is presented through Antoinette and Rochester’s tumultuous marriage. England versus the West Indies colony becomes Rochester versus Antoinette. In aligning reader sympathies with Antoinette, Rhys is challenging the colonial principle of English ascendancy. 


I didn't do that well in Modern Literature, although now reading back over my essay it is well argued and solid in content. I wasn't suited though to the more "high-brow" side of lit and fell very comfortably into Creative Writing and Theatre Studies. The thing I most took away from the course was how the layers of a work can be expanded, dissected, pulled apart, rebuilt and act as a spring board to new work. It changed how I receive and make art.

This week I've read a lot of other people's reactions to Jane Eyre and the more insightful nearly always mention Wide Sargasso Sea. For many it taints the story of the plain and little lady and her dark Rochester. For me, whilst they are in dialogue with each other it is quite easy to separate the two from each other and The Eyre Affair

Truth is I find very little more romantic than Jane returning to her blind love and him whispering "Jane, are you altogether real?" She is Edward and that is why we love her so.


Friday, April 15, 2016

Listening to the words.

I'm reading quite a lot at the moment. A lot of it is re-reading but some of it is new. It helps me feel that I am not wasting time and feel more connected with the world. As I read though, sometimes something happens beyond the pages.

Patti Smith. She turns up in the pages of Viv Albertine's Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys a memoir of living dangerously through Punk and finding herself again years later reconnecting with her guitar. At one point Patti shows up and shows her up. By being there, being herself and truer to anything Viv feels she has ever been able to achieve. It's a turning point in her life and it makes me grin - not only because I love Patti Smith but because earlier in the book I was groaning that Patti Smith could have been a light for this raging girl who kept banging on about how there were "no female guitarists" and "no girls in bands." Damn straight there was. It's fitting that recognising that kick started Viv's need to make art.

Patti is all about Art.

I'd been kicking myself I didn't buy the paperback M Train when I was in Melbourne because it's not out here in the UK til at least June. So I re-read Just Kids (which I love). This time I fall a bit into Patti's music too. Because the night becomes the soundtrack to the turning of winter into spring. My housemate is leaving and in the week before she is gone she buys me it and I find M Train is waiting for me on the stairs. Knowing I would never source one online she gives me a gift I read on the tube back from Heathrow. This older Patti is a disenchanted delight. Her love of murder mysteries affirms my own.

I read a few chapters and then lose the darn thing, somewhere in my room. I know it's around but it isn't anywhere on the surface and considering I lose my wallet, then have two weeks temping it doesn't seem important to find. Like its author M Train will come to me when needed.

So I read Good Omens which reconnects me with laughter and then I take up The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Man, Murakami is such a mind-blowing writer. Re-reading this book is even weirder as rather than just going with it I find myself questioning. Questioning especially the women in this book and why they are all beautiful vessels for Mr. Wind-Up-Bird or other men and are never quite their own person. I read it during my commute and the violence makes me feel sick and scared for what we have become. I resurface though like the narrator as if a cat has returned to me and I am waiting for my love. Ultimately my brain reconciles the world and the words into something I can carry forward without falling down a well to find an answer.

I try not to twitch at the sound of the spring birds calling.

A few days after I finish The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle I find M Train. It's fallen down the back of my bed into a small crack where I had not thought to look. I return to a different world and let Patti tell of her search to reconnect with the world. In this search she picks up Murakami and completely immerses herself in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. The bird, the house with the well - all the spaced out mindlessness her depression becomes focused on what happened to the house and on making connecting the bird to her own internal reality. The journey she has with these words and this book takes her to Japan, it leads her to buying a new house and it ultimately releases her into a future. Having just finished this book myself gave an incredible depth to reading another's experience of the same words and processing the same story. Accidentally sandwiching the two books gave a much more interesting reading of both.

I find it difficult to believe in fate. To believe in things that are meant to be, but a little part of me would like to think a bit more like Patti. A bit more that some things happen for a reason and the way and order that it happens can give new meaning to life. That we can make our own paths in our own ways to find our ownselves.

In the meantime I'm going to try and listen to the words.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Thirteen Thoughts on Thirteen.

Contains spoilers across the season. It’s all up on iplayer so why not go binge – the (only) advantage to BBC3 being online is that content stays up a lot longer!


Jodie Comer as Ivy Moxam

  1. The actress who plays Ivy (Jodie Comer) is really great at showing her both broken but hopeful of what her new world might bring. She’s mesmerising and her performance carries the show. The way she is 13 and 26 at the same time is so moving and seeing her grow into a new sense of herself is fascinating.
  1. Ditto her sister. What a great performance and character. And Ivy’s best friends Tim and Eloise. You really feel their loss and how their worlds are wrenched back into realignment when Ivy comes home. There is a great supporting cast of young actors here. Ticking the BBC3 box there!
  1. Five episodes was a brave decision – that mostly paid off. The entire show didn’t really stick to a narrative that paced predictably so it worked, even though it felt a bit clipped – it doesn’t feel cut short. We saw a situation for a period of time and that’s that. Apparently there isn’t likely to be a sequel and for the most part I think the arcs were resolved enough that the narrative wasn’t left hanging but it still felt real.
  1. The police procedural side of this show feels way off the mark. There is no way any police investigation would be run like it is run in the program. There is next to know psychological support for Ivy; she is returned home very quickly – without in house protection; the fact she has clearly been recently physically assaulted is ignored and OH MY GOODNESS SHE IS A VICTIM, STOP IMPLYING SHE IS COMPLICIT WITH HER ABSUSE. WTF? Also getting the female cop to say all this shit about Ivy choosing to be with her abuser does not make it an acceptable point of view. I actually think the whole cop side of the show was the weakest element – it actually often made me furious while I was watching. That I stuck with Thirteen is testament to Ivy and really great performances.
  1. It was a good choice to keep the Scottish accent. Always keep a Scottish accent!
  1. The situation that Phoebe is abducted is completely different to what happened to Ivy so why everyone is so fixated on working out how it happened is such a waste of time. Obviously Mark White has only kidnapped another girl because Ivy escaped. Why isn’t there any decent psychological profiling going on in this police department?
  1. Thank goodness the other little girl was ok. Poor little Phoebe getting dragged into Ivy’s nightmare. That scene where she steps out of the lift was such a relief and a really nice shot of what we are feeling as an audience in the cop’s face. (Incidentally a cop that has barely said two words in the show before gives great face here).
  1. The writer of the show (Marnie Dickens) has been quoted saying she wasn’t interested in exploring the pathology of the villain – but it would have been nice to have had a little more explanation of his behaviour. Crackpots don’t just come out of nowhere – they are made. It would have been nice to have a smidge more exploring the lines of the abuser/captive relationship grey area explored – especially as we have the cops bashing around like idiots proclaiming ‘YOU CHOSE TO GO BACK TO YOU ABUSER THAT ONE TIME HE LET YOU OUT SO IT’S YOUR FAULT.’
  1. Any other policemen in this department do anything useful? One flirts badly. Another doesn’t have an active role until he saves Phoebe. No, because unlike every other police drama ever these people don’t actually work a case and evidence they just seem obsessively nasty and obsessed with Ivy. Oh I’m sorry she lied about things – she’s been locked up since she was 13; witnessed her captor/lover murder her only friend and had a miscarriage – woo! But really she’s just lying to annoy you. Take it personally! Asshats.
  1. Man, Tim’s wife comes off like such a bitch about the entire situation – and so does Craig. These “other halves” who cannot deal with the return of a lost loves come across as so petty in comparison to what Ivy and the people close to her have endured. I’m sorry, but get a grip.
  1. Ivy’s parents were beautifully written and performed. Their relationship with each other and their children and the pain and anger they have nurtured over the years she was away was really heartbreaking and rewarding to watch. What was one of great things about this was how Ivy tore them down from their pedestal from when she was a child and forged a new stronger relationship with them.
  1. The costume styling of this show was very real. I liked how the costuming reflected character and felt personal to each person. The moment where Ivy is given a piece of clothing early on is really nice – it’s a shame it isn’t followed through with more – but it did make me smile every time she wore the item throughout. For someone so disconnected from the world it gift many times over.  
  1. I want the Moxham kitchen. #kitchenenvy
 I know half of this list is singing the praises of the performances and the other half is bagging out the procedural – it is the major problem of the show, but I do feel it is worth watching and at 5eps, well, it’s no 5 season commitment.