Last night I dreamt I went to WH again

Mostly one comes to a book like WH, replete with its publicity, its lore. With Wuthering Heights if I have read any critical writing I don't recollect any of it. I do recall that the two contemporary reviews that Joanna Russ cites in How to Supress Women Writing were hilariously different from each other (one while Bronte was using her male nom de plume and one from after she came 'out'). But beyond that I don't remember what was supposed to have put this book in the canon.

So I began reading the book without much expectations and was immediately astonished by how warm and witty it is. It is a fast-paced book racing from incident to incident, unimpeded by being in reverse gear (All major events are recounted in flashbacks) When I first read it at 9 or 10 I clearly understood only 'what happened' and thought it very gloomy. Because 'what happens' is gloomy. People drop like flies and for no evident reason. Beyond that the immense perversity of Heathcliff must have been astonishing to the sane mind of a 9-year-old.

What I was fascinated by in this reading was how Bronte made this insane story so incredibly convincing. Long, tension-filled sequences...Cathy's unrestrained demonstrations of affection for Heathcliff in front of her husband, her huband's discomfort, Ellen holding her breath because she is convinced that the return of Heathcliff is going to wreak havoc...Heathcliff torturing everyone in sight... at no point do you feel impatient at what is after all patent melodrama. Very rarely do you look up and say, "Nonsense!" Perhaps it is because Ellen Dean, the housekeeper who tells the story is so practical (who wishes that Isabella, one of the raging young ladies would sweep and dust occasionally). Because she seems so normal somehow you feel like what she is empathetic to, you ought to be empathetic to as well. Perhaps it is because of the perfect dialogue.

But somewhere beyond the halfway mark I began to think that this book was Emily Bronte's mind-boggling writing exercise...the plot is inconsequentual. So what if it is a reinterpretation of the Gothic novel? This could well have been set in outer space and these characters could have been androids. It would not have mattered at all. (What it simply is not is a romance! I want to meet these people who think that Heathcliff is a romantic hero.)

This book can only be experienced as a strange serendepitous object... like an stunning person who inexplicably wants to sleep with you (mundane, slightly neurotic, hopelessly insecure you) and proceeds to do so for the sheer pleasure of it. No ulterior motives can ever be traced. You can only turn it over and over in your head and say, "But WHY?"


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