Saturday, 3 January 2015

A Trilogy of Sad Stories.

My reading matter has been sad so far this winter. For all its stylistic richness and psychological insights, Lolita is ultimately just a sad story. And for all its lightness of style and flashes of laconic humour, Slaughterhouse 5 is also suffused with a constant undercurrent of sadness. It’s supposed to be; it’s an anti-war novel rooted in the fire bombing of Dresden in 1945. (A district of the city in which I grew up is called Dresden, for what it’s worth. A neighbouring one is called Florence, and Florence had one of the biggest coalmines in Europe at one time. Well, there you go.)

Slaughterhouse 5 is nearly finished now, as is Christmas, which is why I had an extra mince pie while sitting by the fire watching Sir Tony Robinson present a documentary on Haworth and the Bront√ęs. (I expect the coal came from somewhere in Eastern Europe, definitely not Florence.) Pity the night wasn’t colder, though. Mince pies, warm fires and cold nights make a most harmonious tryptich (or trio or triumvirate or triplet or trilogy, whichever you like.) But you can always pretend.

(‘What did Tony Robinson do to earn a knighthood?’ ‘I don’t know. What did he do?’ ‘I don’t know either.’)

Anyway, Sir Tony took a walk around the moors into which Haworth is nestled and talked about the landscape, the town and its famous family. He talked about Emily and Wuthering Heights at one point, and for that portion of the walk stayed dutifully in the footsteps of all those generations who have been misinterpreting the novel since 1847. I suppose I should say ‘in my humble opinion,’ but I’m not going to. Apart from there being one word too many in that dreadful phrase, there’s evidence enough in the book if it’s read with a mind that is open and not stuffed with pictures of Laurence Olivier. Besides, Emily herself told me what the story is really about when she haunted my house a few years ago. If that isn’t recommendation enough… One thing we can all agree on, however, is that it’s a sad story. So it goes. (That’s an in joke for the cognoscenti.)

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