Brontës judge me in the sun

When I have a free moment, I go to Knight Park. With a coffee or for a picnic. With a book, for sunbathing.

A summertime tradition I’ve started is reading through minor Brontë novels. I like to bring them outdoors on bright days, even though the protagonists are always so haunted.

And judgemental! Last summer I read The Professor by Charlotte Brontë and was struck by how abhorrent the male Brit protagonist finds girl students in Brussels; they’re loud, not angels, to start. William judges teen girl pupils as sloppy and flirtatious, and also too prone to sunbathing after lessons. He blames this on Continental European culture and Catholicism. (!)

… It makes me want to lay out at the park. (So I do.)

So far this bright season I’ve read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë almost entirely at the park.

I’m struck by how modern the form is (the story jumps through time, offers multiple characters’ perspectives, and is also told in epistolary fashion) but how very particular the moral reasoning. Brontës were very good at concocting convenient deaths for unwanted first spouses, let’s say.

Beyond that, the couple we are rooting for takes great pains to describe their preferences in a mate—frugal, prefers quiet country life to the madness of London, suspicious of gossip, quietly religious but never overly pious, and in complete control of all emotions even (and especially) when PAROXYSMS are about to come on. Many paroxysms to be had!!

I think about these emotionally strained characters, their stiff upper lips and their short life expectancy (41 years old for British folks in 1820) … and on these radiant not-quite-summer days, I just want to see green leaves and beams of sunshine.

Here are some picnics I have had. Paroxysms (physiognomy — why did they love that so much?) not included:

A note: I read “Classics” often because I can get them digitally through my public library, free-of-charge, without a wait. I love public libraries, and if I circulate titles in a collection, it keeps them around for others to read. For most of my life, the only books I could afford were free books.

Black Lives Matter. Black Art and Literature Matters. I can afford to buy books these days, and I do so with intention. Here are the last four books I have purchased, and I hope you will, too, if you can:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillam Cottom

The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me by Keah Brown

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes

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