from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Thursday, 8 December 2011

wuthering heights

– but not as you remember it from reading the book at school. This is Andrea Arnold's version, the recent release, with a black guy in the lead role. It is breathtakingly beautiful visually, brilliant in its radical interpretation, inspired – and brutal, gruelling, grim. Inevitably and rightly, the brutality visited on the young Heathcliff conjures images of the not-then-obsolete slavery; still not as obsolete as we would like to think, any more than racism is. It's psychologically potent: a compelling meditation on the madness and destructiveness of obsessive love; it's shocking in its scenes of how cruelty begets cruelty; it's harrowing emotionally. As Sophie Mayer writes in The Guardian: 'Arnold makes powerful sense of Brontë's novel and its passionate argument, long recognised by feminist critics in relation to Catherine: that there can be no true love, because there is no true freedom in a society where there is any form of power and domination.'

It reminds me too why I so wanted to loosen the grip on my psyche of those tragic romantic tales with which I was brought up (we all are in the West). It made me feel grateful to do the work I do, live the life I live, be loved as I am, have the minimal comforts which at times I despise.

Work has been relentless. My father's distress at the recent loss of my mum has been relentless – exacerbated by his loss of memory. My own sense of loss has been very unrelenting too, and I have felt pretty close to the edge recently myself, and this afternoon was supposed to be a spontaneous Treat to Self – a way of focusing on something other than the heaps of undone work, my dodgy financial situation, and what on earth we are going to do about my father.

Can I recommend it to you? I don't know. Yes, I think, as long as you are not feeling emotionally overwrought in your life, though I do have psychological and ideological reservations about the wisdom of (sorry, that word again) unrelenting, unmitigated darkness and unhappiness.

Am I glad I saw it? I don't know. (I nearly left partway through – the fact that I was hemmed in and that I was also hoping for some kind of resolution made me sit it out.) I like being challenged; I love story, film, and so on; I like intense, deep, arty; I don't mind dark. But I do hate brutality; and I also have a hyperactive imagination and am very impressionable visually. This will haunt me.

I might have been better going with TM to Chagford, a pretty little market town on the moor where I have a lot of friends, for an easy and undemanding cup of coffee and a swan around some arty shops, plus that wonderful drive across Dartmoor – the wuthering heights without the graphic violence.


  1. Maybe a visit to Chagford via the moors would be a good idea, to balance out the grim stuff. Nature always levels me.
    Wishing you strength and fond thoughts to fill your head, and that you can find good solutions.

  2. Thanks for your care, V. Yes - nature. Just stepping outside the front door yesterday evening in the dusk did it: that nearly-full moon in a fabulous and translucent dusky sky; a last flight of migrating redwings erupting from the ash; a young buzzard just watching me, close by. I remember from the few years I lived in a city when at university how simply seeing a bird would lift my heart from the streets/shops/crowds and fly me off the edge of the world... :-) x

  3. I saw the film after a recent bereavement and left half way through - I agree it's harrowing - and interesting. Wonderful in terms of setting. Lost something in terms of narrative, I think.

  4. Hi Andie - yes, the photography and visual effects were stunning, along with, of course, the location, weren't they? Yes, it was a genuinely interesting take, but I did find the casual cruelty very hard to stomach. Interested that you left partway through - several people walked out. Love to you - and to Paul M if you see him. I miss the Emerson days - and will follow up on your thoughts next year. Rx


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