HEROES AND VILLAINS

[written January 2014]

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★★★★☆

The Times described Heroes and Villains as ‘an unashamed fantasist, a fabulist of daemonic energy’ – and it really is. This is an incredibly loaded book and every time I’ve tried to review this I’ve ended up word-vomiting a bad fragment of one or one hundred failed essays that could be written about it. This time will be no different (but I’ve hit the ‘well, let’s just get it done’ try). I think the difficulty is down to the fact that rereading the novella I was more aware of what was trying to be achieved here, and I possibly ended up thinking TOO much about it (to the tune of 9 sides worth of unreadable notes) rather than feeling as much this time around. Regardless of all that, this is weird Angela Carter all over: worlds, characters and experiences that are rendered in narrative brutal, dreamy, a door hard to open for some of the prose written as much as it’s an open field of beautiful synesthetic imagery in other places.

‘Sometimes I dream I am an invention […] On the nights I have these dreams, I have been known to wake the entire camp with my screams.’
To me Heroes and Villains is a loose companion piece to The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman and The Passion of the New Eve because of the renegade Doctor Frankenstein figures in each novel who all create a kind of invention that they envisage will bring the world to rights as they see fit. Carter underpins each work with overt symbolism and ideology that is questioned by the protagonists, subtly de-clothed in narrative and also critiqued in how connotations of traditional symbols/thought beliefs are sometimes misguidedly reinforced by the Doctors in their attempts to subvert the order. In Heroes and Villains where there is the possibility in a post-apocalyptic world to start afresh without names, rituals or beliefs of old, it just seems impossible. The people are still so informed by signs and symbols of a destroyed civilisation to escape the ‘crumbling anachronisms’ which still endure (whether understood as they are by Marianne, or not in the case of some Barbarian members) and are carried on.

The world presented in this particular novella relies on dichotomies: the Professors cannot live without the Barbarians ‘the other’, needing these tribe to define themselves as upholders of reason and progress; an argument between Donally and Jewel regarding Marianne only serves to reinforce the matriarchal myth of Eve or her foil, the demonic Lilith. I read this great essay (‘Deconstructing the Womb’) which from what I remember said that Carter is wary of using myths to celebrate one’s identity or an experience – she sees it as a potential trap. For example, Marianne as ‘Eve at the end of the world’: using matriarchal myths to elevate the status of womanhood – it doesn’t subvert far more than what it serves to reinforce the view of women as vehicles for future descendants. She uses Marianne’s character, a History Professor’s daughter who “broke things to see what they were like inside” to expose the cracked veneer of the academic world she comes from which assesses and studies the environment around (to the point of madness), as well as mocking the sham superstitious beliefs of the Barbarian tribe when she becomes involved with them. Nevertheless there’s the overwhelming sense of fatality felt by Marianne who is seen by the makeshift-shaman Donally as the tribe’s ‘little holy image’ alongside his protégé Jewel (who is more than compelling whilst he struggles in his role as a social experiment). It’s hard to tell if Marianne jokes about becoming the Tiger Lady of the tribe, because surely she would see it’s kind of the same tyranny Donally imposed: the status quo will essentially remain the same, all there is changed is the face and flavour.

If Marianne is made to feel like Miranda, Donally as Prospero, his son taking the surface role of Caliban (but a good fool underneath), then Jewel is a ‘furious invention’ indeed. Too educated for the tribe, yet educated in the wrong way to ever cross worlds like Marianne and Donally to live amongst the professors. He is the only one to survive Donally’s manipulations and teachings, the previous girl and boy died in the progress of being tattooed with stripes. It is because of this that Donally sees Jewel as a son, more of a son than “the half-wit” he has biologically; Jewel is a masterpiece of an invention which he brands and continues to define, limit (for one he refuses to teach Jewel how to read) and destroy in fear of a rebellion, and in turn, as an usurper son, Jewel tries his luck at destroying Donally too.

There’s a part early on in the novella where Marianne asks Jewel if barbarians die of madness, because there is a number of cases where madness has led to suicide and homicide in the towns of the Professors. Jewel answers with a list of physical diseases that the Barbarians die of instead. In some ways that hit me most this time, because I remember in my house that my parents and those around in the neighbourhood at that time didn’t recognise depression as an illness, they just saw it as a middle-class triviality – I guess they saw it as when you’re busy surviving, there’s no time for luxuries like living, I don’t know (because there was a lot of madness there as well). Anyway, the first time you read a book you forget these little lines, but reading the ending with the above conversation in mind, it made it very poignant and depressing. Here’s this boy: ‘everywhere I go I’m doomed to be nothing but an exhibit’ who can’t really find a place in either world, so he falls back on what Donally has made of him whilst fighting Marianne in how she ‘converts him’ by looking at him. There is a lot more you could say regarding orientalism in terms of Barbaric tribe/Jewel, and nothing that Carter romanticises stupidly either in my opinion. Any ‘exotic’ description is immediately pulled down by Jewel or made so overt it becomes a parody. I’d like to see some essays written on that actually.

The ties between Donally, Jewel and Marianne become ludicrous at points: all detest the other to the point of wounding each other in some way (whether branding, rape and forced marriage, infidelity and the possible betrayal of tribe), but are magnetically attracted for one reason or a complete lack of reason. The relationships between all three is best described as such:

‘They arrived at the green road and stood looking at one another, in a sudden last uncertainty as to where their true allegiances lay, for the young man and his tutor had the strange attachment of years between them, the girl and her husband the bemused attraction a sense of fatality and the girl and the magician the bond of a common language. And the girl and the young man, also each suffered from the loss of a father.’

Dialogue:
The dialogue reigns supreme here in my opinion. I showed a bit of dialogue to a friend of mine who found it incredibly unrealistic and I’ve read this opinion a couple of times now “Carter just can’t do dialogue”, but I love it. Honestly. The prose in this book is already riddled with words that all seem to be there for reason and some level of meaning, nothing is left to chance, this is only reflected in the dialogue. Some of which I get, some of which I don’t, but like the sound of (because we’re all prone to fancy like that). One of my favourite exchanges:

‘Who do you see when you see me?’ She asked him, burying her own face in his bosom.
‘Do you want the truth?’
She nodded
‘The firing squad.’
‘That’s not the whole truth. Try again.’
‘Insatiability,’ he said with some bitterness.
‘That’s oblique, but altogether too simple. Once more,’ she insisted. ‘One more time.’
He was silent for several minutes.
‘The map of a country in which I only exist by virtue of the extravagance of my metaphors.’
‘Now you’re being too sophisticated. And besides, what metaphors do we have in common?’

The closest I’ve ever got to this in real life is “I’ll decimate you” “Not before I devour you.” – I think if I asked someone the same question as above and they replied back with “the firing squad” I’d be compelled to do something ridiculous like marry them – this also goes for Oscar Wilde/Sarah Bernhardt “Mind if I smoke?” “I don’t care if you burn” exchange.

Bonus Material: Donally’s Aphorisms

  • BOREDOM IS THE HANDSOME SON OF PRIDE
  • ONENESS WITH DESTINY GIVES STYLE AND DISTINCTION
  • MISTRUST APPEARANCES, THEY NEVER CONCEAL ANYTHING
  • MEMORY IS DEATH
  • OUR NEEDS BEAR NO RELATION TO OUR DESIRES
  • THE WORLD BECOMES A DREAM AND THE DREAM, A WORLD
  • I THINK, THEREFORE I EXIST; BUT IF I TAKE TIME OFF FROM THINKING, WHAT THEN?
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THE DIARY OF FRIDA KAHLO

[written September 2013]

The Diary of Frida Kahlo

★★★★☆

Who would say that stains
live and help one to live?
Ink, blood, odor.

Oh, Frida, Frida, Frida. What else is there to say? This is beautiful.

There is nothing more precious than laughter
and scorn – It is strength to laugh
and lose oneself. to be cruel and
light.
Tragedy is the most
ridiculous thing “man” has
but I’m sure that
animals suffer,
and yet they do not exhibit their “pain”
in “theatres” neither open nor
“closed” (their “homes”).
and their pain is more real
than any image
that any man can
“perform” xxxx or feel
as painful. ____________________________

What I love most about her journal is what I hate most about my journal keeping. She was very liberated; it truly was an outlet without heed to form, perfection or cleanliness: she clearly didn’t give a fuck if one entry stained another. I’m really anal about the journal I have at the moment and the letters I write to people, which I’m sure does little for anything created (a bad ‘control’ habit I’ll break out of soon hopefully). I put it down to the handwriting lessons received as a child: we were given cheap jotter books and very inky fineline pens that would clumsily splodge, stain and seep through pages if you lingered on a letter or full stop. You’d be marked down for it along any cross-outs. So though I write hard enough to engrave the next page, I’m likely to start the same letter six times if I make a mistake or write a single word wrong. So thanks to those brutal handwriting lessons, what bothers me most (apart from having to keep mistakes on the page) is seeing the ink from a previous entry bleed on the fresh side.

Frida just doesn’t care: time and coherence means nothing to her. The entries included here range from doodles and automatic writing to sensual letters to Diego, musings on her art, on pain, a bouncing board for ideas expressed in both captions to miniature paintings and the little art pieces themselves, etc. She expresses herself without restraint on love, sex, desperation politics, art, monuments around her, special memories: as I said, a miniature form of her well-known paintings and her grand appearance of the world underneath/beyond.

Auxochrome – Chromophore
It was the thirst of many years re-
strained in our body. Chained
words which we could not say except on the lips of dreams.
Everything was surrounded by the green miracle of the landscape of your body.
Upon your form, the lashes of the
flowers responded to my touch, the murmur of streams. There was a manner of fruits
in the juice of your lips, the blood
of the pomegranate, the horizon
of the mammee and the purified pineapple.
I pressed you against my breast and the prodigy of your form pen-
etrated all my blood through
the tips of my fingers. Smell of oak essence, memo-
ries of walnut, green breath
of ash tree…

This book is money well spent if you’re going to buy it. Not just a reproduction, it also has two amazing introductions at the start, a chronology, bibliography and index at the very back. The actual journal itself is presented looking close to the original as possible, full-colour and taking up the whole page, along with thumbnail-sized b&w reproductions of journal pages in the back with accompanying translations and notes. As an example, notes for page 29:

Against a regal purple background and packed into a geometric shape, this “portrait of Neferùnico” bears a strong resemblance to Kahlo than it does to his mother, Neferisis, pictured on the previous page. In her bearded “self-portraits”, Kahlo wears three strands of bone around her neck, and looks out from the page with a steady gaze under her trademark single eyebrow. The third eye Kahlo paints onto her forehead indicates the power of her intuitive insight as would befit the founder of Lokura (Madness).

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THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH

[written June 2013]

★★★★★

★★★★★

Fashioned from Sumerian tales of Bilgames, the standard Akkadian text of Gilgamesh serves as one of the earliest surviving works of literature, and a popular first record of bromance too. It’s so much more than that, though. There are plenty of works I’ve read that I can respect for having a seminal place in the history of literature, etc., but it doesn’t mean I like them all that much. The Epic of Gilgamesh doesn’t fall into that category as seen by the rating given.

It’s one hell of a tale, really. Part of it can be read as Rilke saw it: a tale of the fear of death. However, what really intrigues me about Gilgamesh is the question of civilisation that is also prevalent within the text. You have Enkidu, a wild man, essentially Rousseau’s noble savage that is brought down from the woods and civilized. Later on when he’s close to death he disparages ever being brought to the city and curses both hunter and harlot who separated him from the wild animals. Even then, around 1300-1000 BC when the standard text appeared, in one of the first cities built and lived in, there existed enough nostalgia for man innocent from society to be written down. That’s beautiful. That’s just as tear-worthy as the bromance in here.

Obviously Enkidu is told off for thinking such transgressive thoughts: Uruk, city of Inanna (later Ishtar/Astarte, etc) was the crowning glory Mesopotamian culture. There are tablets which tell of Inanna’s theft of the foundations of civilisation (kept by the god Enlil) which she takes to Uruk, thus bestowing these wisdoms on to the people there (wisdoms ranging from law to fellatio). So the city state is revered and held in high esteem and must be kept so if that is what binds the society – well, in my reading of it anyway.

What else interests me about this tale is the role of women in it. You have the Babylonian goddess Ishtar (evolved from Sumerian Inanna who is totally badass by the way, but that’s another review to write) and it can be perceived her earlier important role in culture is diminished somewhat: she certainly doesn’t come off as a woman who hokk’ni panki’d her father out of the slabs of civilisation, but there’s still the essence of her capricious nature in there when she threatens to bring up the dead if she’s not allowed to set a Bull of Heaven on the two heroes. There is also Shamhat ‘the harlot’ who sleeps with Enkidu to separate him from the animals and bring him back to civilisation. She gets a lot of shit from Enkidu as mentioned, but also from Andrew George who constantly refers to her as ‘the harlot’ in tablet summaries which though technically correct was pretty annoying. Then there’s Siduri the ale-wife and Utnapishtim’s wife. So there’s a whole range of different women encountered here which I liked, and honestly wasn’t expecting. I thought it’d be a total cock-fest.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is primarily a text regarding the fear of death, but as seen above there is so many other ways this work can be read (as any other piece of literature, I know, I know). It’s accessible too; try reading it out aloud… In a Patrick Stewart voice if you can (here’s a starting point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoM_k…), it has good rhythm when you get going. The translation provided here is maybe even a little better than the one included in the OUP edition of Mesopotamian myths. Andrew George provides an engaging introduction and summaries of each tablet, with the odd illustration here and there which added to this particular edition. A number of different tablets are also included as their own section, but also to bulk up the missing parts of the standard version of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

One thing Andrew George writes in the introduction should always be in the back of your mind as you read this. This was an evolving tale, transcribed, adlibbed in places when set in stone again by students. It’s also unfinished in what we have of it so far. There are missing bits of tablets yet, tablets that are currently being translated now that may change the story of Gilgamesh for readers in however many years’ time. The future is unwritten Joe Strummer style, and in an odd endearing way, it’s how Gilgamesh succeeds in escaping death.

 

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Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita… Take #5/Final Reminder & Court Summons

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I’d like to say I have a good excuse for not reading Master and Margarita as promised to do so in a previous blog post… To be honest, I think moving three times in the last half a year, giving birth and subsequently dealing with a newborn pretty much is a good excuse as they come… was it not for the fact that I’ve read ~20 other books since.

(However, we can agree aforementioned events that have taken place in the last half a year is a legitimate reason for abandoning this blog until now.)

I did begin to read Master and Margarita soon after finishing Heart of a Dog, however, I’m beginning to think there’s a curse attached to this book as I couldn’t make it past the third chapter! Again! For some reason, as soon as Berlioz is hit by the streetcar, I just seem to be killed off as a reader as well. I hit the reading wall and find it hard to continue. I probably read a little bit more this last attempt, but I honestly can’t remember anything past the end of the third chapter.

It’s a total sin to leave this classic unread, and even though I may take long breaks with books sometimes, I don’t like leaving a book unfinished. One more attempt. This time I’m going to set aside the Volokhonsky & Pevear translation I own and try the Burgin & O’Connor translation instead. Maybe translation is the problem here, or maybe it’s as Ariel says: “that book is so boring” (and an outcry of confusion and shock in response from newly acquired Russian relatives).

[Accidental treasure found: Iker Spozio’s Master and Margarita project.]

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THE UNLIMITED DREAM COMPANY

[written June 2012]

ballard

★★★★☆

It’s Ballard who gives the best outline of this particular book:

‘The Unlimited Dream Company is set in Shepperton where I live, and it’s about a young pilot who steals a light aircraft and crashes into the Thames [river], and who, in a sense, dies. [He has] drowned in his aircraft, but frees himself by an enormous effort of the imagination, and through the effort of his imagination transforms Shepperton into a kind of Edenic paradise, full of exotic plants and animals.’

I know I’ve given the book a three star rating (this may change “Bitches in Bookshops” style given time (postscript: this has changed over time)), which along with the majority of Russell Hoban books I’ve rated, doesn’t mean to come off as complete indifference. As with Ballard’s Crash and the aforementioned Hoban books, this book was powerful enough on the first read to stay with me for the next decade. Mostly due to the fact that The Unlimited Dream Company is quite esoteric in the overt symbolism throughout which I really like. The central figure is a drowned pilot who has dreams of turning into animals, which in turn, as quoted above, is the catalyst for the strange events which take place in Shepperton. There are characters and pieces of dialogue which were striking to read. It’s more a Blakean poem than the other media generation apocalyptic novels Ballard is known for on a surface level. In this novel the culture presented isn’t terrifically specific, more universal: man’s inner paradise of imagination vs the deadness of reality/society which surrounds him.

For me, some of the best lines of dialogue across film/literature/theatre is contained in this novel when Blake tells Miriam he will make flowers from her various parts of her body*, which called to mind the dialogue in Angela Carter’s apocalyptic novella Heroes and Villains. In many ways this book also reminded me of Ted Hughes’ Gaudete, going so far as acting as a key to better understand Gaudete. Both contain a central figure who challenges the environment around them, both are held in two places at once: living and dead, hidden. The dualistic primitive yet spiritual nature of brutal, ‘deviant’ sexuality is presented as an act to birth an awakening of sorts, something which is positive in Ballard’s novella and can be seen as more destructive in Hughes’ poem.

Both texts also complement each other in addressing the shamanistic role of the writer. I think all writers utilise (/subvert and play with) their experiences to underpin their fiction, whether these are real life events or half daydreams, and why? To what purpose if not to inform, entertain, communicate and express an idea or thought or feeling, and interact with the reader on some level. There are probably countless interviews by Hughes on this, but for the purpose of this post, Ballard touches on that role nicely as well:

‘In many ways I feel that, without realising it at the time, that I was writing a piece of my autobiography, that it’s about the writers’ imagination, and in particular, my own imagination. Transforming the humdrum reality that he occupies and turning it into an unlimited dream company.’

(quoted J. G. Ballard comes from this interview with him that took place in 1993: http://vimeo.com/23066777)

* The quote in full (and what a stunning couple of lines at that):

‘Miriam – I’ll give you any flowers you want!’ Rhapsodizing over the thousand scents of her body, I exclaimed: ‘I’ll grow orchids from your hands, roses from your breasts. You can have magnolias in your hair…!’
‘And in my heart?’
‘In your womb I’ll set a fly-trap!’

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Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita, Take #4

(this really was the best I could do)

(this really was the best I could do)

“You’ll remove your Pushkin tattoo and replace it with a Bulgakov quote once you read Master and Margarita

Said the Bulgakov reader to the Pushkin fan.

(Said Bulgakov reader has never read a word of Pushkin as an adult though, just saying…)

I’ve had my copy of Master and Margarita since I was 16 years old when my mum bought me the Penguin ‘Banned Books’ box collection. I never understood why she bought me such a set given that she would censor my bookshelves every now and then of books she deemed too explicit (though she left The Complete Works of Marquis de Sade untouched for the entire time I lived with her simply because I think she saw it was the Complete Works of Somebody and only moral upstanding writers could have Complete Works editions made), but I digress.

For some reason every time I try to read Master and Margarita, I enjoy it, but I just can’t break past the third chapter. No idea why! Now that 10 years have passed I really feel I should read this book for the following reasons:

  • I’ve kept the book for all this time, so on some level I made a promise to myself to finish it one day
  • all the people I know (and like) who have read this have rated it high which is a promising recommendation in itself, even though I could end up hating it completely as I did with Infinite Jest
  • I like the whole Mephistopheles characterisation trope generally (there’s a reason why Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil is a good song),

and, most importantly, my boyfriend’s parents think it’s a great book. It doesn’t hurt to have a good incentive to stick to this book this time, and what better incentive than being paranoid no matter how clever you are, your partner’s parents probably think you’re a bit uneducated if you haven’t read a certain book.

[Also on that note, what a good premise to judge all future partners of sons/daughters:
“You’re having sex with my child, I dislike you already, tell me what you’re reading at the moment so I can decide whether or not I can tolerate you.”
“Umm, I’m reading this Dan Brown novel at th-”
“Get out.”]

Anyway, though I doubt I’ll find Bulgakov better than Pushkin, I’ll be giving Master and Margarita one more determined try after I finish reading Bulgakov’s novella Heart of a Dog. Deep down I know I can’t say I like Russian literature without reading these two books of Bulgakov, so here I go again…

Any reading progress updated via goodreads account par for the course.

[image credit: http://lagoutin.ru/post/1231017592]

POSTSCRIPT:
Apparently my boyfriend was later told off for shaming the family in admitting that he’d never having read a word of Lermontov (another favourite of mine). I’m dancing around with the three editions I have of Hero of our Time & a copy of his biography. Seriously, though, when is a good edition of his poetry going to be published?

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WUTHERING HEIGHTS

[written September 2013]

★★★★★

★★★★★

The Spirit of Jazz: Yorkshire? What is Yorkshire?
Howard Moon: Yorkshire is a place. Yorkshire is a state of mind.

The last set of annotations I made in this book was a series of dates and memories, piecing together an on/off five-year relationship that naturally fell apart (as most first loves do). Regardless of those notes (and probably most likely reinforced by them to some extent too), whenever I read this book what so rightly comes to centre stage of my thoughts like a tide that even my imagination can’t conjure up hands big enough to hold off is Yorkshire itself.

I’ve lived down South for three or four years now? My accent’s eroding fast to match the sorry state of water here that’s so soft it’s like drinking limestone if you don’t filter it. I can deal with the water if it’s a glass that I’m parched for, but to make a brew with that awful stuff is a real tragedy, I tell you. Despite the shit I get off my friend Jack for how Southern I sound these days, I still hold fast to some distinctive features: clipped vowels and diphthongs, that beautiful glottal stop, the ‘laconic style of chipping off pronouns and auxiliary verbs’. Time might change the amount of Yorkshire in my voice, but it only does more to place it so strongly in my heart and head. I might have ran away, but reading Wuthering Heights brings me smack bang to that bit of Yorkshire where the wind doesn’t sing, but screams; that bit of land I loved and thought I’d left behind, as if I ever could! No matter how far I run, I’m tethered there whether I like it or not.

When I die I’ll be sure to have the St. James Infirmary Blues funeral and all that jazz, but after the leaving party, Scheol forgotten, it’s like Cathy says in that dream she relates to Nelly: ‘I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy […]’

No other novel I’ve come across captures the magnificent savagery of that land better than this one. Whenever I get all sad-eyed lady of the lowlands, it’s either Ted Hughes’Crow or this I read and I feel home again. It sounds sappy as hell, but it’s the honest truth. I lived a quick train ride away from Howarth, but closer my house there was this mini-Heights patch of land which was a disused reservoir or something, and both moor & mini-Heights on the outskirts of the city helped console and shape aspects of me more so than my first 11 years in a grotty area near city centre. It does a lot to embody and shape the characters in the actual book itself as well; you have Catherine especially, that wild, wicked slip of a girl who especially delights in the ‘atmospheric tumult’ which matches her stormy personality hit for hit. This stormy personality ‘inclined to thunder’ is so amalgamated within the moors that even after Catherine dies, her spirit ‘would not be persuaded into tranquillity’ and her spirit is ‘kept wandering to and fro’ on the moorland which cannot be cultivated.

For the last essay we wrote for literature in sixth form we were told to pick any two books and write an essay on any theme we wanted. I ended up comparing and contrasting the representation of female defiance in Wuthering Heights and East of Eden. I mean, sure, you have Hareton and Caleb who are very interesting to look at in terms of overcoming the cards set out for them and bringing a sense of balance and union to the end of the novel, but I really found the two Catherines from both novels incredible. At that time I saw Catherine from East of Eden as a Lilith-type figure, near monstrous in how she defies all that society and nature expects from her, the Catherine of this story, as commented above, is more in tune with the immediate setting. She’s a kind of Eve, she’s the one who exclaims “I am Heathcliff!”: made of the same rib, of the same sin.

And Heathcliff! Top gun when dude-watching with the Brontës, but hardly the type of person you want to be with long-term, I never understood his status as that kind of figure. I don’t know, it sounds egotistical, but I see some of myself in that character and when it comes to satisfying my ego in wanting to be involved with people like myself, the flings are pretty much a case of “the brief and vivid union of tempestuous heart united with the tempest”. You can rarely sustain that kind of force in reality, it burns everything to the ground. Besides, what interests me most about Heathcliff is that his origins, his ethnicity is a complete riddle: a ‘gypsy’ child found on the streets of Liverpool, so much against him and he knows it.

I felt a lot for him when he said ‘I wish I had light hair and a fair skin, and was dressed and behaved as well, and had a chance of being as rich as he will be!’ I’ve been talking to a friend about this: how as a woman of colour, neither this nor that, how harder it is to accept yourself as a child, even as an adult at times and feel like you can achieve the same as the person without any assumptions made on them at first glance. I’m sometimes asked “Where do you come from?” And I naturally answer Yorkshire, and they’re like “No, no. I mean where do you come from, what’s your family history?” and I know sometimes it’s asked with the best of intentions, but I can’t help but feel utter contempt. Is that all a person sees when they first see me walking down the street?

‘Don’t get the expression of a vicious cur that appears to know the kicks it gets are its desert, and yet hates all the world, as well as the kicker, for what it suffers.’ I know, I know.

So it’s a mistake and quite reductive to entertain the thought of viewing this novel as just a love story. It’s about narratives, resilience, class and race to name but a few. No wonder tens of thousands of academic verses are written on this, I nearly did the same myself writing this review. You discard that context and those themes and you miss the whole point in my opinion. Those topics aren’t just secondary, they hold equal place to the intense relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff.

I started this review briefly mentioning the last set of notes I made in the margins. I never gave any indication when I ran off that last time I wouldn’t ever be coming back to that boy; I said goodbye to that patch of land we’d fought and made love on instead. I haven’t been back there since that day in December ’07 when I lay on the ground for the longest time. It was raining heavily, tirelessly: my face, clothes, everything well and truly soaked, and all I wanted to do was sink beneath the grass and frothing mud, straight into the heart of that place. I’d have given up my soul right then for the distance it’d take to pump me through the ventricles of earth there if any exist.

With characters that are the least noble of savages, a contender for the greatest love story told, all the hardships and heartbreak experienced by fictional and real people alike, it can embody these things, but at the end of the day, as Ted Hughes says, it’s all just a “baby-cry on the moor”.

PS. Fuck the haters, Andrea Arnold’s adaptation is amazing, especially for a real sense of the land without romanticising it with a heavy saccharine edge.

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