Monday, September 29, 2008

I took my dingy volume by the scroop - a Wuthering Heights anniversary - Then there was a hubbub!

"I could not bear the employment. I took my dingy volume by the scroop, and hurled it into the dog kennel, vowing I hated a good book.

Heathcliff kicked his to the same place.

Then there was a hubbub!"

Ha ha! That's the stuff!* Those are, of course, the immortal words of Catherine Linton-Heathcliff-Earnshaw, ten years old** and already out of her gourd. They were also written by Emily Brontë in Chapter 3 of Wuthering Heights, an inspirational book.

The internet is full of re-readings of Wuthering Heights - see Dorothy W. a few months ago for a high-level example, or Rohan Maitzen, who gets it all into one paragraph. "Not what I remember," that's the common refrain. It's not a romantic book, it turns out. Nor a sane one.

I see here that Anna Quindlen has a novel with a scene where a therapist prescribes Wuthering Heights to a teenager for therapeutic purposes. I had not realized that Quindlen had written a thriller about a psychiatrist who gaslights her clients - I had always thought she was so nice. I myself find Wuthering Heights therapeutic, but that's because I think maniacal laughter is healthy.

I have never seen a movie of Wuthering Heights, and I did not read it while an impressionable teen, so I will have to confess that the novel was just as I remembered it: funny, horrifying, original, clumsy in places, sublime in others.

This week I'll celebrate a slightly late first anniversary of Wuthering Expectations by wallowing around in the Wuthering half. I don't have anything in particular to say about the book, but that won't stop me from enjoying a good roll in it, like the bulldog Skulker*** when he has found a particularly fragrant and enticing dead thing on the moor.

P.S. I extend a special welcome to the omniscient Brontëblog, who will somehow make their way here by means of their mysterious internet voodoo.

* More books are abused - kicked around, thrown in fires - in Wuthering Heights than in almost any book I can think of this side of Swift's The Battle of the Books.

** More or less. I didn't keep track that carefully, although Emily Brontë did.

*** Note that it's the "normal" Lintons who have a bulldog named Skulker trained to bite little girls - "and look how Skulker has bitten her -- how her foot bleeds!" This is from Edgar and Catherine's "meet cute" scene - she's bit by a dog, he stands there and points at her.


  1. I read Wuthering Heights for the first time in High School and the whole class, as I remember, took it as a wonderfully romantic book. We even had to write poetry inspired by something in the book - I still have the little bound collection and reading over my classmates (and mine!) poems I can see how enthralled we were with the idea of suffering for love. Then I reread WH about two years ago and couldn't get over how insane and violent it was - maniacal laughter indeed. No, it is not a romantic book at all. It''s dark and desperate and its characters are shockingly unwell and/or unkind. But it such a deliciously intense book. I would have liked to see what else Emily could have written if she hadn't died.

  2. Happy first anniversary to your blog! Enjoy your Wuthering reread.

  3. Is it your anniversary? Happy happy! I confess that I would not celebrate such an occasion with a re-read of Wuthering Heights. I don't believe I read it as a teen (or if I did I forgot all about it) but when I read it as an adult I found the lot almost too miserable to bear with for a full-length novel. Emily's writing kept me going but if they all jumped off a cliff at the end my response would be applause ;).

    (Mill on the Floss is soooooo good, though! I am more than half-way through and have not experienced one boring moment. Which is odd because it is not the most plot-ridden of books. I much prefer the paragons of virtue here -- stone cold saints who serve their mercy with bitter herbs and judgement.)

  4. Oh! And I'm reading The Pilgrim's Progress too (the parallels with Mill on the Floss are too obvious to ignore) and sadly it is nothing like the book I loved as a child. Less pictures and lengthened moments between all the action...not to mention the prose which seems as archaic as the 1611 King James version. (I must have had one of those Children editions.)

    I'm not helped by the fact that there isn't a decent Oxford classic edition to be found among three university and two public libraries! Blasphemy.

  5. Happy Anniversary. I did read WH for the first time in high school, but never found it romantic in the way of girls falling for Heathcliff. It's one of my favorites and one of the few books I re-read semi-regularly. I finally convinced my best friend and general reading co-conspirator to read it for the first time and she was amazed by how much the book didn't match up to its public image.

  6. Nicole, Dorothy, et al, thanks for the comments (and good wishes). They inspired my newest post, more or less.

    Just tonight I was reading some of Emily's own poems, verbivore, and they are certainly in line with your high school assignment. I see why she's a favorite of Goths.

    Maybe I'll write about the poems a little. I definitely want to write about how gleefully horrible all of the characters are.

    Now, The Pilgrim's Progress, that's possibly my least favorite book in the canon. It's language and imagery - specifically emluating the KJB - is all that saves it. Funny that you're running into it in The Mill and the Floss - I keep bumping into it in various Hawthorne short stories. Anyway, glad you're enjoying this Eliot more. Going to write it up a little for us?

  7. Have I mentioned I heart your blog?

  8. I recently finished a reread of Wuthering Heights and could not help but link to a few of your posts. Very interesting takes on the book! I can't believe you state that you have very little to say about the book.

    Also, it is rather surprising how BrontëBlog always manages to signal a post of any of the Brontë's books so quickly!

  9. What did I mean by that, I wonder, that I do not have much to say? I suppose I mean that I did not have a coherent Idea of the Book I was trying to argue for. I have one now, actually, but you will not find it satisfying.

    I would have so much trouble listening to the book. I constantly flip around and re-read passages along the way. Audiobook listening is just a skill I do not have. I guess it must be easy enough to acquire, though.

    Thanks for all of the links, by the way. It is a curious thing to revisit these old posts. I will go over to your place and try to say something more substantive.

    All hail the all-powerful BrontëBlog!