Posted in book review

‘Plain Girl’, by Arthur Miller – review

Plain GirlPlain Girl by Arthur Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first came across this book while looking for my next read on the train, I was immediately hooked on by the simple no-nonsense title of Plain Girl and incredulously surprised by the famous name of Arthur Miller, a celebrity playwright who had once married Marylin Monroe in his prime. Such an incongruous admixture of the images sprang in my mind like phantasms from a presumed association between the Dolorous and the Gorgeous, the Lonely and the Lovely, the Unlucky and the Lucky, all compactness in this beautifully elliptical and deeply heartfelt story about a plain girl whose jewel of beauty was wrapped in a dull, grey, crude titular epithet.

Janice Sessions, an intelligent young Jewish woman living in New York City, seems to share the sentiments of the introverts whose quiet modes of behaviors and shyness often make them unnoticed, if not obscure, among vociferous, glamorous crowds. Think Maupassant, who at the hour of his death confides in his close friend, “I coveted everything and enjoyed nothing.” And Charlotte Bronte, who always thinks she is deprived of beauty and fortune, which prevents her from a delight of love as a prerogative of beautiful fortunate women. And then the Monster created by Dr. Frankenstein whose deformity puts him in a cruel shackle of absolute loneliness with an outcry of “I see inside but dare not to go inside!” They are the concerted echoes of estrangement – whether voluntarily or involuntarily imagined or devised – from lonely souls roaming around, wandering about in a search of happiness in life that can culminate in the union of loves, both Eros and Psyche, the spiritualization of sensuality in totality. This Janice is in want of, this is the source of her existential distress, noogenic frustration that keeps her away from anything miraculous and wonderful every happening to her.

In fact, I wonder if Miller writes this story of a plain girl on the thematics of existential frustration in which his protagonist is made to believe what she really isn’t, whereas her extraordinariness of resilient spirit against endless disappointment and distress renders her all the more distinguished from her peers whose ordinary femininity looks banal and trifle without stories to tell. Such emotional distress may arise from an existential vacuum caused by a collective value, such as in this story the disillusioned tenets of political and social ideologies ultimately culminating in World War II and the aftermath thereof. And Miller so elegantly and dexterously accounts for a woman’s solitary quest for the meaning of life, a sense of purpose in life as a woman of true value against epochal tides of world crisis. The apex of Miller’s literary finesse manifests in every sentence delicately nuanced sentiment wrapped in his elliptical expressions and laconic use of plain words, defying every streak of intricately baroque literature that does not communicate straightforwardly to the hearts of readers.

This book is not to discuss woman’s liberation or to lecture about the superiority of spiritual beauty over physical beauty that so many of you would quickly respond with stock answers. Janice’s doubt about her value of being loved and her preoccupied consciousness to her appearance makes her all the more palpable and realistic to those of you who find a kindred spirit in her and feel that you are not alone in loneliness and that what you think you are may not be the truth. Janice doesn’t need the glamour spell to transform herself into beauty because Janice is not a plain girl, nor has been, and will never be. The same goes for you.

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Posted in Miscellany

To readers

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Cat in a hat La Vincent Van Gogh by Olga Koval

Normally, I don’t post a crude litany of woes or untamed outcry of malaise because that’s not what I want my blog to be filled with. However, today is an exception to the rule because for the last couple of days the receptions to which my published posts have been particularly detrimental to my disposition and averse to my sensitivity. Well, I don’t think it really matters to any of you out there who happens to stumble into my hermit blog, but then I don’t really care what you think about it because it’s my sovereign blog, which is my only safe niche, an elbow room amidst this crazy existential daily life constantly threatening my sanity, bullying my sensitivity, knowing that I am distinct for that “Positive Thinking in Thick Skin” facade.

First of all, I don’t understand how people can follow a blog without liking any of my posts. Are they fishing in for their potential followers? I have noticed so many of them out there without liking any of my posts and following my blog, which I find it very insulting and odd. I am not here to foster an online relationship with anyone out there but to practice my writing skills as well as to use it as my creative, intellectual outlets yearning to surface from within because I can’t just will out what I feel and think without letting it out. Besides, I don’t want my existence to disappear into oblivion, which is a great injustice to my sovereign freedom of expression. That said, I don’t want to build up popularity by getting mindless followers either haughtily not bothering to like my writing or stopping to like it for whatever reasons. That breaks my heart to the extent to which it can’t be sawed up or replaced by a steel heart. It’s imbecility to have followers who are unappreciative of what I write.

Secondly, to pour hot lead into my already wide-open gap of the wounded heart and soul, I saw the stats that although people read my last post about 6 movies from the 60s celebration of National Classic Movie Day yesterday and today, only four people voted for likes! Such disastrous comeuppance made me so disappointed and disheartened that I could not but think that writing could also be a Modus Operandi of detecting all about yourself from the way you looked to where you were from. This betrayed my primal idea about being capable of metamorphosis and travel to become all that I want to be, to do, and to go under the protection of faceless stealth. Faceless because your face could be a hindrance to expressing your self in a true glass of the mind. In order to ascertain the cause of such an outrageously heartbreaking result of the last post, I have read my post over and over again, but there appears to be no sophomorically pesky solecism whatsoever.  Further to the attempts, I visited the blogs of others about the same subject, but none of them is hard to regard it as a magnum opus! Do they think my post is inaptly conceived and professionally benighted or just plain average? And they even had comments from their members of the coterie eulogizing how great their picks were! Seeing all of this in my very eyes, I could not help agreeing with Edgar Allan Poe criticizing a clique formed among the New York Literati that excluded any writer outside the league of their own. I don’t think any of them appreciates my writing, and it makes me feel like such a fool that from now onwards, I vow that I will NOT volunteer to do any contributory writing unless I am asked to.

Thus I have reorganized a list of followers because I think it necessary for me to do so for the love of my broken heart and wounded soul. I see writings of others, which are not tours de force but filled with a rhapsody of why their inane posts are great. Jealousy? What hokum! It’s such amusement to see even writings can become a tool for attracting strangers as a social get-together platform. Here I am, a hobbyist amateur writer working 9 to 6 to pay bills and rents but whose literary ambition is as great as Ben Jonson and Charlotte Bronte. Charlotte Bronte had been rejected to have her work published many times and was of the same disposition as I am. (Yes, I am closer to her in temperament and sensitivity than any of you out there who likes to think you are or wants to think you are when you are not!). She and I are in agreement in thinking that any appreciation from a considerate and intelligent reader for our writings is highly appropriate and proper as decorum to the author. You know what I mean?

Posted in book review

‘The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë’, by Syrie James- review

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte BrontëThe Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë by Syrie James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who would have thought that the woman with a calm and dainty exterior wrapped in an air of impeccable propriety was inwardly a passionate Dido, a willing Ariadne, and a beguiling Cleopatra?  Such a popularly conceived false shadow – by default of nature against her will – might have conveniently belied Truth and Nature of her substances to the eyes of the public, but her labors of love in the form of literary works bear the witness to the person of the Author. She is no less a person than Charlotte Bronte herself who created one of the most unforgettably iconic romantic characters of Jane Eyre, and who tells to readers of the millennium the stories of her own life in this beautiful and truthful The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James.

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte is neither nonfiction nor fiction eulogizing the greatness of the literary Titaness in the English literature. In fact, it is this mysterious ambit of the genre that gives to the book the status fused with the whimsicality of cross-over nonfiction in the likeness of fiction that reads like an enchanting novel. Drawn on the original diaries, miscellany, and poems written by Charlotte Bronte in frequent collaboration with her equally gifted sisters Emily and Anne, James does a superb job of weaving a tale of her admired literary muse as an admiring votary into one fascinating tribute narrated by Bronte herself as though to render her poetic justice on the truth and beauty of her person which had been largely unrecognized, if not ignored, in the discourse of the tale. In fact, reading this book, you will find yourself reading a posthumously published work of Charlotte Bronte with the style of writing, the tone of the narrative, and the sequence of the story, all of which superbly resurrect the atmospheric ambiance of the 19th Century English province. In this magical craft of writing, you will see Charlotte in the humble personage write in an expense of will and emotions, pages after pages filling them with heartfelt words, producing beautiful melodies of her heart and the soul.

The beauty of this book collapses three centuries, five oceans and seven continents between Charlotte’s lifetime and our reading it, making us intimately acquainted with one of the most celebrated writers in the world. James is excellent in portraying Charlotte Bronte based on the extensive research on the original manuscripts and visitation to the places where she had trodden and lived as authentically as possible, with her immense admiration for the author delicately nuanced in the narrative, thus rendering the story the power of reality and authenticity of truth in the likeness of contemporary memoirs. That said, I am certain that Charlotte Bronte would have given the book the imprimatur willingly and wholeheartedly had she read it for review. And I also believe that her spirit would also love this book and bring it to the world beyond in all and mirth and merriment.

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Posted in book review

Jane Eyre (1983 BBC TV Mini-Series)

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Jane Eyre, the Timeless Classic

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (under the pen name of “Currer Belle” to discombobulate her biological determinism) is neither a romantic novel about a lonely young woman falling for her rich master nor a proto-feminist literature subtly championing women’s economic independence and choice to select their lovers on their own. It is a story of a resilient and noble spirit armed with education, clothed in a canopy of humanity, and adorned with reflective beauty of the mind that transforms physical plainness into comeliness. That’s what makes our heroine Jane Eyre timelessly unforgettable, undeniably attractive; perchance, that’s why this novel has been made into a series of film versions for television and cinema resurrecting the ambiance of the period and bringing the hauntingly impassioned characters into life. Of all the dramatized adaptations of Jane Eyre, this 1983 BBC mini-series version merits itself in the movie firmament as the authoritative translation of Charlotte Bronte’s original novel, wonderfully delivered by a cracking screenplay, a brilliant cast of performers, and a correct setting of the story, resembling none other than themselves altogether in this riveting panoply of Bronte’s dazzling creation.

Dramatized by Alexander Baron, this TV series is composed of eleven episodes that faithfully capture the epochal moments of the passionate heroine Jane Eyre from the moments she was cruelly castigated by her callous aunt and her equally sordid cousins to her eight years of boarding school experience, to the fateful encounter with the brooding but vulnerable Mr. Rochester, and to the significant events packed full of surprises and serendipity worth every reward to the lonely Jane. The gem of this BBC miniseries is that each of the episodes is treated as a small story – that is, a story embedded in a whole story as if it were a short story itself – so you can skip the early years of Jane and jump into her employment as governess for Adele, the only daughter of Mr. Rochester at Thornfield without feeling adrift from the previous story that will defenestrate you to the middle of nowhere in the whole story. Of course, for those of us who have read and re-read the novel since the time immemorial, it’s a foregone conclusion, but even if you haven’t, take heart and play it fast forward to meet the grown Jane (although she’s only nineteen years old.) in her tantalizing, suspenseful moments with Mr. Rochester and even St. John Rivers.

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Zelah Clarke as Jane Eyre and Timothy Dalton as Edward Rochester

At the heart of the drama lies the commendable performance of the characters: Jane Eyre, played by Zelah Clarke, Edward Rochester aka “Mr. Rochester,” by Timothy Dalton, and St. John Rivers, by Andrew Bicknell invest the drama with the beautifully nuanced dialogues and gestures, which are never outlandishly displayed, vying for individual attention, but harmoniously concerted that impart the enthusiasm and the verisimilitude to the story. The appearances, gestures, and diction of these three characters are exactly what I have always imagined them to be in my mind’s eye. Clarke’s rendition of Jane Eyre is the finesse itself that would make Charlotte Bronte happy with her performance as well as physiognomy. Jane is a passionate soul, but conservative, if not conventional. She is an intelligent woman who loves her gruff but deeply hurt and lonely Edward Rochester as her equal despite a sea of an age difference and his petulant past. Unlike other Jane Eyres played previously and posteriorly, Clarke’s Jane epitomizes the heroine of oddly beautiful enigma personified: the plain but pretty, expressive but demure, passionate but docile, sensitive but intense, patient but yearning… Which is befittingly summarized by St. John Rivers, wonderfully and unforgettably played by Andrew Bicknell: “She has an unusual face rather…The grace and harmony of beauty are wanting in her features. She is not at all handsome…” I have seen other film versions of Jane Eyre, but none other than this Clarke’s Jane Eyre has won my approval in terms of all things regarding the heroine of Charlotte Bronte’s original novel.

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Andrew Bicknell as St. John Rivers

That goes the same for Timothy Dalton’s irrepressible Edward Rochester and Andrew Bicknell’s stoical but misguided St. John Rivers. On a personal note, Bicknell seems to nail the role down as handsome and intelligent St. John Rivers, who prioritizes his religious duties as a parson over his human feelings and emotions for his beautiful and kind-hearted admirer Rosemund Oliver in the irrational belief that stoicism is the grist for the mill of vocation as a man of the cloth. He believes that it is his calling to be a missionary in India and that it behooves him to abnegate sensuous delights to which a man is naturally inclined with all his might. Watching Bicknell playing the character makes me wonder if the casting director or the screenwriter had the uncanny ability to conjure up the spirit of Charlotte Bronte and ask of her the fitting image of the character before the production of the drama. The tall, imposing manly figure of St. John Rivers with beautiful Grecian facial features and golden hair is just as the description created by Bronte in the novel as if she had seen Andrew Bicknell in the peculiar alchemy of literature that enabled her to look into the future and to view her character incarnate.

All in all, this 1983 BBC miniseries of Jane Eyre will arrest your full attention to every scene of the episodes without infelicity and pomposity that classical period dramas sometimes tend to produce on account of obsolete diction and rude gestures that look incongruously emphatic to our modern senses and sensibilities. This is a quaintly gorgeous drama without the ostentatious glamor of television drama exhibiting luminous Vanity Fair; it shows that just simple good scripts based on the loyal adaptation of the original novel and excellent performance of the fine cast that seems to be destined for the roles can translate the imaginative world of the author into the visual firmament of television drama this beautifully and impressively in a way that makes you feel the emotions of the characters by passing over to their inner worlds.

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