Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Why is the cover of Fire and Fury so ugly?

Why is the cover of Fire and Fury so ugly?

The bestselling Donald Trump exposé has a startlingly bald, plain cover – but that is in keeping with the no-frills conventions of the politics genre

Sian Cain
Wed 10 Jan 2018 15.38 GMT

Donald Trump and subtlety do not go together naturally, but the cover of Michael Wolff’s bestselling White House exposé Fire and Fury greets the gaze like a towel-snap to the face: shouty, red capitals over a shouty, red man. While the red, white and blue cover is certainly eye-catching, its design has been criticised as too bland and simplistic for a book that has had such an explosive impact. “Why did they have to make the Fire and Fury book cover on Microsoft Word?” reads one derisive Twitter take, while a design website gave it faint praise for echoing “the raw immediacy and faux-outsider aesthetics that underlined Trump’s entire campaign”.

After he was approached by “some folks who think the existing cover is a disaster and a missed opportunity”, designer Edel Rodriguez (who made two striking Trump covers for Time magazine) came up with a new cover for Wolff’s book. His bright and bold design, featuring a fiery Trump looming over a tiny White House, is now being celebrated as the cover that should have been, with some readers even downloading it to replace the original on their e-readers.

The only problem with Rodriguez’s undeniably aesthetically pleasing design is that it is so out of step with current political publishing. A quick glance at the covers of any political imprint shows that boring is best: there are grand capitals galore, an overwhelming tendency towards Helvetica, and nary a picture in sight. Most of them, as covers go, are best likened to dry toast: a perfunctory formality, a vehicle to deliver something more delicious (political gossip, not jam).
Why do political books look so boring? It’s just the way they’ve always been – publishers seem to believe artistic restraint lends the contents extra seriousness. For book designer Clare Skeats, the staidness of Fire and Fury is appropriate: “It’s important that it follows the design conventions of political books, as anything more bespoke and crafted could restrict its potential audience and pigeonhole the content. Obviously, there’s scope for a more creative and explicit design response, but I think that misses the point with a book such as this,” she says.
Whether or not it was a rushed job, as some have speculated, the original jacket designed by Rick Pracher (who, it should be pointed out, has produced many a nice cover in the past) fits the conservative nature of political publishing perfectly. “Arguably, Fire and Fury would have become an instant bestseller with or without that cover simply because of the publicity it received (with a little help from Trump); the title could have been written in comic sans and it would have sold just as well,” says book cover designer Stuart Bache, adding: “Political books don’t need to have aesthetically pleasing covers, they’ve existed for years with a simple photo and serif typeface for the text – and that’s because it works well in its market.”
In recent times, publishers’ renewed efforts to woo readers back to the printed form with attractive covers and nice dust jackets have been credited with many things, from driving customers back to the physical bookstores to a decline in ebook sales.
But when a book as boring-looking as Fire and Fury has gaggles of readers fighting for copies as fiercely as they would over a new Harry Potter (as they did in Washington last week), a truth more terrible than Trump’s diet is revealed: you can’t judge a book by its cover.

"You Can’t Make This S--- Up" / My Year Inside Trump's Insane White House

Donald Trump
by Luke McGarry

"You Can’t Make This S--- Up": My Year Inside Trump's Insane White House

by Michael Wolff

4:00 AM PST 1/4/2018 

Author and columnist Michael Wolff was given extraordinary access to the Trump administration and now details the feuds, the fights and the alarming chaos he witnessed while reporting what turned into a new book.

Editor’s Note: Author and Hollywood Reporter columnist Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Henry Holt & Co.), is a detailed account of the 45th president’s election and first year in office based on extensive access to the White House and more than 200 interviews with Trump and senior staff over a period of 18 months. In advance of the Jan. 9 publication of the book, which Trump is already attacking, Wolff has written this extracted column about his time in the White House based on the reporting included in Fire and Fury.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Emily Brontë / Melding fantasy and realism in Wuthering Heights

Emily Brontë

Melding fantasy and realism in Wuthering Heights

John Bowen

15 May 2014

Professor John Bowen explores the intertwined nature of fantasy and realism within Emily Brontë’s novel.

A world of passionate intensities

Wuthering Heights creates a world of passionate intensities, in which particular events are burned on the characters’ and readers’ memories, beyond reason, measure or reserve. Terror stalks the book and defines so many of its central relationships, concerned as it is with the ecstatic, eerie and mad. The book plays with death, courts death, stages death, even jokes with death, as we see when the dying Catherine is haunted by the face in the ‘black press’ (ch. 12) or when Heathcliff breaks through the side of Catherine’s coffin or hangs his wife Isabella’s dog from a hook in the garden. The book is fascinated by what lies at the limits of the human and is haunted by the forces of death and the diabolical, by compulsive modes of behaviour, by infantile and sublimely powerful emotions, by the force of irresistible will, and by the terrible consequences done to human beings by radical evil. The book is full of animals, spirits and ghosts, and those, like Heathcliff, about whom we can never be sure.

The extraordinary within the real

It is also a highly organised and rationally planned novel, with a complex time scheme and several interlocking narrators. It sets its extraordinary actions in a vividly realised family history and landscape. It is fascinated by the power of fantasy, particularly erotic fantasy, in people’s lives – Isabella thinks of Heathcliff as ‘“a hero of romance”’ (ch. 14) until she learns the truth of his brutality – but those fantasies take their place within a carefully plotted story about inheritance, intermarriage and theft. The erotic is not separated from the economic, and the passage of power and land across generations. Emily Brontë was fascinated by extreme emotions, radically opposing mental and social forces, and the creation of moments of moral revelation and transformation that were typical both of Gothic fiction and Victorian melodrama, but she could control, ironize and discipline those energies to serious purpose. Through the care she took to implant her writing in a particular history, landscape and material world, through complex time-schemes and inset narrators, through making Gothic into a mode of psychic exploration, she decisively extended the range and affective power of the English novel.


Emily Bronte is one of the very few authors to be an important poet as well as a major novelist, and there is a close relationship between the two bodies of work. Many of her poems appeared first in stories of the 'Gondal' world that she created with her sister Anne; she collected them in a manuscript notebook (now in the British Library) entitled 'Gondal Poems' although when she published six of them in the collection Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846), she removed all references to Gondal. So the poems do not depend on an underlying narrative context for their power; like other great Victorian poems, they dramatize questions of identity and self through different personae in impassioned utterance and often extreme situations. Like Wuthering Heights, they are drawn to emotional extremity and passion, to scenes of loss and oblivion, and to the affirmation of desire in the face of death.

John Bowen is a Professor of 19th century literature at the University of York. His main research area is 19th-century fiction, in particular the work of Charles Dickens, but he has also written on modern poetry and fiction, as well as essays on literary theory.

My hero / Lucasta Miller on Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë

My hero: Lucasta Miller on Emily Brontë

The British Library's Romantics and Victorians manuscripts can now be viewed online. Lucasta Miller has already experienced the transgressive frisson of reading Emily's diary entries

Lucasta Miller
Fri 16 May 2014 16.00 BST
hat difference does it make to see the original manuscript of a literary text rather than just read the printed version? As someone who once nearly sullied a priceless Charlotte Brontë manuscript in an American archive with one of my own tears, I would say it makes all the difference. Faced with the real thing, my pretensions to being a detached and objective researcher dissolved.

The British Library has just made it possible to access images of their Romantics and Victorians manuscripts online, so that anyone can now read works by writers ranging from Austen to Dickens in their own handwriting at a safe distance. The most fascinating are not the fair copies of great works, written to submit to publishers before the days of typewriters, but the private documents never intended for public eyes. Seeing them as they are offers a transgressive frisson, a sense of intruding on a private space.

This is particularly the case with Emily Brontë's diary entry, written at "past 4 o'clock" on Monday 26 June 1837, now accessible on the British Library's new website. Emily never kept an ongoing journal, only a few fragments offering fly-on-the-wall records of what was going on in Haworth Parsonage at the moment of writing, secret missives intended only for her own eyes and those of her sister Anne, whom she sketches, along with herself, writing at the dining-room table, in this particular example. It shows the way in which Emily's imaginative and real lives intersected: news of characters in her fantasy world of "Gondal" rubs shoulders with a down‑to-earth record of the fact that Charlotte is at that very moment upstairs sewing, listening to Branwell read aloud. The entry ends with a transcription of an actual conversation, as Emily and Anne discuss the possibility of going out on the moors before evening to get into the mood for writing. But we will never know whether or not they did so. Emily, as ever, remains fugitive.
 The Brontë Myth by Lucasta Miller is published by Vintage.


Berta Vicente / Women

Berta Vicente
(Barcelona, 1994)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The 100 best novels No 13 / Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)

The 100 best novels: No 13 – Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)

Emily Brontë's windswept masterpiece is notable not just for its wild beauty but for its daring reinvention of the novel form itself

Robert McCrum
Monday 16 December 2013 07.30 GMT

he above image of Emily Brontë – endlessly reproduced – is less a portrait, more an icon. Intense, fierce, inward, solitary, elusive and unknowable: the young author of Wuthering Heights in profile is of a piece with her first, and only, novel.

Her elder sister's work – Jane Eyre (no 12 in this series) – hypnotises the reader through the calculated force of its tone, its "suspended revelations", and its hints of suppressed eroticism. It builds, slowly, to a poignant climax in which, finally, its protagonists are redeemed, though not in a way that's conventional. Wuthering Heights, by contrast, plunges impetuously into a wild and passionate exploration of love in all its destructive manifestations.

Brontë's narrative – fragmented, discordant and tortuous – revolves obsessively around a single, explosive transgression, and the theme of jealousy in the lives of Heathcliff and Catherine, before making a calmer return to the theme in the often neglected second half.
Where Charlotte comes from the puritan tradition of John Bunyan (no 1 in this series), Emily is the child of the Romantic movement, and both sisters are steeped in the gothic. However, it is Emily who takes the bigger creative risks. The first reviews of Wuthering Heights were mixed. Critics who had been swept away by Jane Eyre did not know what to make of it. For a long time it was judged to be inferior. Readers who love Jane Eyre are sometimes less enthusiastic about Wuthering Heights. And vice versa. I've included both in my list because their influence on the English imagination, and on subsequent English-language fiction, has been incalculable.

Looking back, it's clear that where Jane Eyre comes out of a recognisable tradition, and is conscious of that affiliation, Wuthering Heights releases extraordinary new energies in the novel, renews its potential, and almost reinvents the genre. The scope and drift of its imagination, its passionate exploration of a fatal yet regenerative love affair, and its brilliant manipulation of time and space put it in a league of its own. This is great English literature, the fruit of a quite extraordinary childhood.

To look forward, I think we can say that the work as we know it of Thomas Hardy, DH Lawrence, and even Rosamond Lehmann would have been impossible without it. As a portrait of "star-cross'd lovers" it rivals Romeo and Juliet. There is also something operatic about its audacity and ambition. No wonder film-makers, song writers, actors and literary critics have been drawn to reinterpret its story.

And then there are its quieter pleasures. Like Hardy and Lawrence, Emily Brontë has an uncanny eye and ear for the natural world. When Lockwood visits Heathcliff's and Cathy's graves at the end of the novel, the poetry in the voice is Brontë's:
"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."
Wuthering Heights was published three months after Jane Eyre in December 1847. A year later, Emily was dead, from consumption, aged just 30. Charlotte wrote later: "Stronger than a man, simpler than a child, her nature stood alone."

 Emily Bronte,in an oil painting by her brother, Branwell

A note on the text

Wuthering Heights, A Novel by Ellis Bell, was published by Thomas Newby in December 1847, three months after Jane Eyre. Several reviewers, impressed by the force of the book, believed it had been written by a man. After her sister's death, Charlotte Brontë edited a revised second edition, the text that is generally followed today.
A letter from Newby does survive which seems to suggest that Emily Brontë had begun to write a second novel, though the manuscript has never been found. If she had started a second novel, she was prevented by consumption from completing it. She died the same year in which Wuthering Heights was published, aged 30.

Other Emily Brontë titles:

Poems (1846)


Emily Brontë may have had Asperger syndrome, says biographer

Emily Brontë may have had Asperger syndrome, says biographer

Claire Harman says several of the Wuthering Heights author’s character traits – including a dislike of leaving home and bursts of frustration – could indicate autism

Sian Cain
Mon 29 Aug 2016 13.24 BST

Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë may have had Asperger syndrome, according to the literary biographer Claire Harman.
At an event at the Edinburgh international book festival, Harman, author of the recent biography Charlotte Brontë: A Life, said several of Emily’s character traits, including her genius, her dislike of leaving home, her discomfort in social situations and her sudden bursts of anger and frustration could have been symptoms of Asperger’s.
One famous case of Emily’s anger was recorded by Charlotte Brontë’s first biographer and fellow author Elizabeth Gaskell, who in her 1857 biography recalled how the family dog was left “half blind and stupefied” after Emily punched it in the face for dirtying the laundry. But Harman said on Sunday that Gaskell related the incident as “just a sign of Emily’s strength of character”.
“It is actually very disturbing. I think Charlotte and everybody was quite frightened of Emily. I think she was an Asperger’s-ey person,” Harman said. “She was such a genius and had total imaginative freedom ... Containing Emily, protecting Emily, not being alarmed by Emily, was a big project for the whole household. She’s an absolutely fascinating person – a very troubling presence, though.”

An oil painting of Emily Brontë from 1847, the year before her death

Even more than reclusive Charlotte, Emily hated leaving home, Harman said, which was why they hoped, for a while, to start a school from their home at Haworth, West Yorkshire.

At the event, Harman also dismissed the theory that all the Brontë books were written by one sibling, and that Emily’s brother Branwell wrote part of Wuthering Heights – an idea Harman said only existed because the novel was “so peculiar”.
“Being Emily Brontë is enough. Emily Brontë was an amazing genius. One of the problems of writing about Charlotte Brontë was, I thought, ‘Hang on, being Emily Bronte’s sister would be enough to have a book written about you, wouldn’t it?’” Harman said.

“People do tend to sentimentalise [Emily]. They say their favourite romantic novel is Wuthering Heights, but it is so full of violence, so full of things I would not classify as romantic at all.”
The Wuthering Heights author shared many behavioural qualities with her father Patrick. “He gave them an immense latitude in terms of his interest in issues of the day that transferred very readily. The children liked nothing more than to read a parliamentary report around the fireside. They were a very unusual family in that respect, and he did not restrain them intellectually. But he was a very chilly man, very emotionally strange. He was clearly hugely egotistical and I think, also a bit Asperger’s-ey too.”
After writing the biography of Charlotte in the lead-up to her 200th birthday this year, Harman said she was looking forward to the inevitable range of biographies about Emily in two year times. “It is Emily Brontë’s bicentenary in 2018 – it’s too late for me to write another book I’m afraid, but I am looking forward to what people produce because she is such an extraordinary person.”

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The 100 best novels No 12 / Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)

The 100 best novels: No 12 – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)

Charlotte Brontë's erotic, gothic masterpiece became the sensation of Victorian England. Its great breakthrough was its intimate dialogue with the reader 

Robert McCrum
Monday 9 December 2013 07.30 GMT

"There was no possibility of taking a walk that day."
From its haunting first line to its famous closer, "Reader, I married him", Charlotte Brontë takes her audience by the throat with a fierce narrative of great immediacy. Jane Eyre's voice on the page is almost hypnotic. The reader can hardly resist turning the next page, and the next…
In an extraordinary breakthrough for the English novel, borrowing the intimacy of the 18th-century epistolary tradition, Charlotte Brontë had found a way to mesmerise the reader through an intensely private communion with her audience. We, the author, and Jane Eyre become one. For this, she can be claimed as the forerunner of the novel of interior consciousness. Add to this a prose style of unvarnished simplicity and you have the Victorian novel that cast a spell over its generation. Even today, many readers will never forget the moment they first entered the strange, bleak world of this remarkable book.

The magic of Jane Eyre begins with Charlotte Brontë herself. She began to write her second novel (The Professor had just been rejected) in August 1846. A year later it was done, much of it composed in a white heat. The reading public was spellbound. Thackeray's daughter says that the novel (which was dedicated to her father) "set all London talking, reading, speculating". She herself reports that she was "carried away by an undreamed-of and hitherto unimagined whirlwind".
There are three principal elements to Brontë's magic. First, the novel is cast, from the title page, as "an autobiography". This is a convention derived from Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (No 2 in this series). But the adventure offered by the author is an interior one. Jane Eyre portrays the urgent quest of its narrator for an identity. Jane, who cannot remember her parents, and as an orphan has no secure place in the world, is in search of her "self" as a young, downtrodden woman.

Related to this, Jane Eyre has a raw, occasionally erotic, immediacy. Not only does Jane reject Brocklehurst, St John Rivers and John Reed, she also craves submission to her "master", the Byronic Mr Rochester. The violence of men against women is implicit in many of Jane's transactions with both Rivers and Rochester. The thrill of this, to the Victorian reader, cannot be overestimated.
Finally, Jane Eyre, addressed insistently to "the reader", is so steeped in English literature that it becomes an echo chamber of earlier books. Within a very few pages of the opening, there are references to Paradise Lost, Walter Scott's Marmion and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (No 3 in this series).

Brontë herself, the daughter of a tyrannical north country parson, was very familiar with John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (No 1 in this series). Critics have described a five-fold Bunyanesque progression to Jane Eyre, beginning with "Gateshead", moving to the depths of "Lowood", then the trials of "Thornfield" and "Marsh End" before achieving the blessed release of "Ferndean". Jane's spiritual pilgrimage is also narrated with biblical simplicity, combined with considerable artifice.
Jane Eyre also displays the familiar tropes of the gothic novel. Thornfield is a gothic manor; Mr Rochester a gothic-romantic protagonist. The mad woman in the attic speaks for herself, as it were. In addition, Brontë herself knows the storytelling power of what she calls "the suspended revelation", a phrase coined in chapter 20, and never hesitates to tantalise and seduce the reader.
The year 1847 must be the annus mirabilis of English fiction. The manuscript of Jane Eyre reached the publisher, George Smith, in August. He began to read one Sunday morning. "The story quickly took me captive," he wrote. "Before twelve o'clock my horse came to the door but I could not put the book down… before I went to bed that night I had finished reading."
Publication in October 1847 became so sensational that publisher Smith, Elder & Co's rival, Thomas Newby, decided to bring forward the release of Emily Brontë's unpublished manuscript. In December, 1847, Victorian readers still digesting the thrill of Jane Eyre found themselves contemplating a new novel called Wuthering Heights.

A note on the text

The publication history of Jane Eyre is intimately connected to Charlotte Brontë's return from Brussels in 1844. As soon as she read Emily's poetry, she persuaded Anne and Emily to submit a selection of their work under the names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell to London publishers, but without any immediate success. In the end, the poems were privately published. Then, in July 1847, Thomas Newby agreed to publish Emily's Wuthering Heights. Her elder sister Charlotte now sent her first novel, The Professor, to Smith, Elder & Co, who turned it down, but asked to see other work. Charlotte submitted Jane Eyre, which caught the eye of George Smith, and appeared at breakneck speed on 19 October 1847, in three volumes, "edited by Currer Bell". The first American edition, from Harper & Brothers,of New York, appeared in 1848. A second British edition, dedicated to William Thackeray, was published in 1850, with some local scandal. Charlotte Brontë did not apparently know that Thackeray had had his own wife declared insane.

Other books by Charlotte Brontë

The ProfessorVilletteShirley. Mrs Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Brontë is also indispensable reading.