[DWJ] Book recommendations

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Thu Nov 16 12:29:20 EST 2006

Judith wrote:

>We had a thorough round of Bronte bashing a few months ago (much of which
>was lifted straight from the pages of Peter's Room, very irritating). Can we
>give it a rest? These discussions always seem to imply that there's
>something wrong with anyone who happens to like the "old fetid dingoes
>kidneys". I for one don't feel the need to defend my enjoyment of any book
>or writer (and I've thoroughly enjoyed the Brontes, including Wuthering
>Heights, both as a reader and a teacher).

I am *not* saying that there is "something wrong with" anyone; I want to
understand why a book I find dire has been held in high esteem by a large
number of people over many years.  Elizabeth Evans and Charlie and Robyn
have managed to enthuse about *Wuthering Heights*, in different ways,
without apparently feeling that what they are doing is defending their own
person, character or taste from wilful attack or slur.

I am not actually lumping the Brontes together as a unit, either: three
people of that surname produced books, not just one person called
Thebrontes[1], and I mentioned only one book.  Perhaps your enthusiasm is a
sort of collective wossit, but my disenthusiasm is not.  I don't find *The
Professor* or *The Tenant of Wildfell Hall* or *Jane Eyre* or *Agnes Grey*
maddening...  One book, by one author, annoys me, and its being so highly
lauded baffles me; why would I drag in two other authors, or several other

Amy wrote

>I'm with Judith here, I must say, and I find it ironic that this
>thread is titled "book recommendations!"

"I'm sure there are eloquent defenders to be found on this list: would
anyone like to have a go at explaining what is wonderful about *Swithering

is an invitation to people to recommend it, or at the very least commend
it, so I didn't change the title of the thread.

>I haven't even read WH yet
>and so I'm not trying to defend a beloved old favorite from all
>criticism, and since I dissed Endymion Spring in my last post I'm not
>trying to suggest that nobody should ever say anything critical about
>a book -- but I must say, part of what I enjoy about this list is the
>way that everybody's generally so enthusiastic about the books they
>love (this is ultimately a fan list after all!), and it makes me want
>to read (and think about) what everyone's talking about.

P'raps you will now read *Wuthering Heights* with a heightened (no pun
intended really) awareness that it caused people to enthuse about it as
well as say "I never felt any urge to re-read it" and that at least three
people found it wonderful when they did read it in spite of not having
wanted to go back to it, and form an opinion in one direction or another
which, because you've been thinking about it as well as being carried along
on a rush of emotion, you can express cogently.  That would be a great plus
from my point of view, since "I like it and I don't like people to express
dislike for it" really isn't much use in the way of explanation for its
being acclaimed!

Perhaps I ought to add that I studied this text at degree level, with a
tutor who thinks it is a marvellous book and whose enthusiasm for eg Toni
Morrison and Joseph Conrad and Virginia Woolf was expressed wonderfully and
with such conviction, and such excellent argument, that he converted me
from indifference to interest in each case; he was completely unable to
explain what was admirable about *Wuthering Heights*, and in the end fell
back on "it's been very well-considered by a lot of people whose views you
ought to accept", which seems to me to have been a cop-out.  (He did give
me a high 2.1 mark for the essay I wrote for him shredding WH on about six
different levels, because he was and is an honest man, but it grieved him
that I did not share his admiration for it.)  I'm looking for people who
can do the job that he was unable to do, dashitall.


[1] I'll admit that I can think of no reason on God's green earth for
Patrick Branwell Bronte to have an entry in the Oxford Companion to English
Literature three times the length of that on eg Georgette Heyer, who did
actually write books, apart from his being in the OCEL only because he is
part of Thebrontes; that's all he ever did as far as I can find out, and
the entry lists no work by him.  I suppose that his being in that reference
work supports the suggestion that they were all one person really, possibly
a feminist living at the bottom of a disused mineshaft and with a pet toad.
(My hat will be off to anyone who knows where *that* piece of silliness
came from!)

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