Guardian readers respond to a Review essay excoriating the author Emily Brontë
I found Kathryn Hughes’ comparison between Emily Brontë and Sylvia Plath (The Brontë myth, Review, 21 July) fascinating, until Hughes claimed that one of the “uncanny” parallels was that each woman wrote an “intensely autobiographical novel”. Wuthering Heights was a work of imagination. Intense, yes; autobiographical, no.
Over the years, I have seen Wuthering Heights both as the ultimate passionate love story, and as one of the most unsettling books I have ever come across. Hughes admits she has struggled to finish it, and rails against the emotional and physical violence. But this is an essential, powerful part of the book. Yes, Emily and her sisters wrote novels to earn money. To criticise them for that is surely unreasonable. And to suggest that Emily saw Heathcliff as a sex symbol misses the point. In Heathcliff, Emily ...
Manchester university students defacing a Kipling poem draws mixed responses from readers
I read the article about how at the University of Manchester the students painted over the Kipling mural and replaced it with a Maya Angelou poem (Report, 20 July). How disappointing. It seems England is following the same path as the US where our 19th- and early 20th-century racist past is concerned. We cannot go back and undo what was done but we can learn from them. Whitewashing the past, pretending it did not happen is not how we learn.
In the US we are also selective in what monuments etc we tear down. Statues of Robert E Lee and other southerners must be torn down immediately, but the golden statue of a northern general in New York’s Central Park must not be touched, even though William T Sherman turned to the same scorched-earth policies against ...
From protagonists in wheelchairs to mixed-race newborns, it’s time for books and greetings cards to reflect real life
Alison Flood’s article on the lack of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) main characters in children’s books raises an important issue, but it was a shame that the books listed were about BAME children outside the UK (Only 1% of UK children’s books have BAME main characters, study finds, 17 July). We have some excellent UK-based authors who write stories reflecting the lives of BAME children in the UK – it is hard to imagine how the brilliant British former children’s laureate Malorie Blackman could have been omitted. Could the Guardian remedy this with a feature listing some of the great books already in print featuring strong BAME characters? It would be a useful resource for all parents who would like children to see the world from more than ...
thanks her council for her wonderful local library, Keith McClellan
looks at the role they play in democracy, and Keith Martin
argues their closure is breaking the law
I could not agree more with your leader (Editorial, 18 June) and the wonderful, life-affirming institutions that are public libraries. While sitting in my local community library writing this letter, I am surrounded by myriad activities including a well-attended jobs fair, people browsing shelves, and a cafe stocked with delicious food.
It is a sad indictment that our libraries are being decimated because local councils are being starved of the very necessary funds to keep them alive. Every generation from a child in arms to a centenarian can feel at home in a library’s multicultural, inclusive atmosphere. Loneliness is the scourge of our disconnected and alienated world, so libraries help to solve a real mental health problem by ...
Teacher Linda Calvey
was ‘astonished and upset’ by the author’s ‘intemperate’ article, which she found divisive and unnecessary
I consider myself liberal, unprejudiced, unbiased. In my capacity as a teacher in a successful academy, I have excellent relationships with pupils from a wide range of ethnic, racial, economic and gendered backgrounds; why, one could almost call us diverse. I am a South African emigrant whose teenage brother died as a result of the brutality and rigidity of the apartheid regime. But I am also white, female, possibly middle class, and I read and teach “the mainstream”. Hanif Kureishi’s intemperate, biased, prejudiced and vicious traducing of the “knuckle-draggers” who “whine” about the “dilution of their culture” (The whining about diversity is driven by fear and ignorance, 16 June) has astonished and upset me, despite my agreeing in principle with the points put forward. His own entitled whining, his thrilling ...
We need more books for both boys and girls that normalise girls as adventurous, confident and capable leaders, writes Jean Pollard
. And why can no one remember the work of Eleanor Marx? asks John Airs
I very much enjoyed the supplement of best new children’s books (16 June) but how disappointing to see the continuing massive overrepresentation of male protagonists in these stories. While some recommended books did have a female lead, and there were a couple of books about real heroic women (one described as being sure to inspire girls – why not boys?), there were far, far more where the lead character was a boy and where girls remain accessories in boy’s stories. We need more books for both boys and girls to read that normalise girls as adventurous, confident and capable leaders in a whole host of activities hitherto seen as “boys’ stuff” if we are ...
Georgina Chapman | In the Night Garden | Smart Compose | Philip K Dick | Suguru
No criticism of Georgina Chapman (‘I was so humiliated and so broken’, 11 May), but of the Guardian. Again you show an unhealthy interest in fashonista celebrity and weight loss – “the British fashion designer describes how she lost 10lbs in five days”, with an accompanying “Photograph: Annie Liebovitz for Vogue”. British or American? I’m sure your readers are desperate to know; and will you do an article on trauma weight loss?
• Nicola Grove can rest assured that In the Night Garden is widely watched (Letters, 8 May). As a grandfather to three under-fours, it was already my regular viewing. Continue reading...
Repositioning Marx | Older women | Book price gap | Predictive text | Stormy clue
That’s twice in one week we’ve been informed that someone is prone when in fact they’re supine (Hero or villain? While west Germany rethinks Marx, east leaves him in the cold, 5 May). The statue of Karl Marx captioned as being “prone” is clearly looking up. Here’s a little mnemonic that might help: points resting on earth = prone; staring up in expectation = supine.
Fr Alec Mitchell
• As an older woman I recently had to see my young GP prior to a visit to a consultant (Older women didn’t speak up. They’re used to being ignored, 4 May). He said to me: “My strong advice is to stop being nice and tell the truth.” Feeling reassured, I did. Continue reading...
Seer Green, Buckinghamshire
Readers respond angrily to the BBC’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence
Who would have thought that a Guardian feminist reviewer would miss the hidden misogyny in this TV adaptation (A gloriously grim start to Christie’s crime saga, 7 April). We do indeed get the “Agatha Christie we deserve” – or rather, we get the TV adaptations we deserve, if by this we mean screenplays that mistake bleakness for profundity and cliche for character – and that reveal an innate misogyny that has little to do with Christie’s often complex, courageous, unexpected female characters.
Take Mrs Argyle. In the book, she’s conflicted, a social reformer (probably a Guardian reader!) whose painful longing for children and blindly possessive attitude to those she adopts is at the heart of the story. But here, she’s a cruel, racist abuser who even in Lucy Mangan’s review pretty much deserves to die. Well hello ...
Representatives of the Publishers Association call on the government to make sure the UK retains its place as ‘the world’s publisher’
UK publishing is world leading and a cornerstone of Britain’s cultural and economic influence. The books and journals our authors write have helped shape thoughts and ideas the world over for hundreds of years. Together our industry generates up to £7.8bn for the UK economy and supports more than 70,000 jobs. As Britain leaves the EU and looks to build new trading relationships with the world, negotiations in Brussels and beyond offer a unique chance to ensure the future success of one of Britain’s most important exports. The government has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make sure that the outcomes of any negotiations enable the UK to retain its place as the world’s publisher.
Supporting our global reach, encouraging new creative and academic works and leading in the digital ...
Hertfordshire art sell-off | HAL and Arthur Clarke | Ballot stuffing | Because
At Hertfordshire county council we have taken the decision to sell some art that has no clear link to our county (Parks, halls and art sold off to pay for essential services, 14 March). We are certainly not selling off the family silver for some short-term cash to prop up frontline services. Instead we are sensibly generating some additional funding to preserve Hertfordshire and nationally significant pieces of art for future generations of Hertfordshire residents.
Cabinet member for libraries and archives, Hertfordshire county council
• Dr John Docherty (Letters, 17 March) repeats an old urban myth which I thought had been dismissed years ago. Arthur Clarke’s HAL had nothing to do with IBM. The relationship between the names is entirely coincidental. Clarke was so irritated by having to continually deny the story that he even ...
Comic book superstars | Gillingham | Happiest countries | Monarch mnemonics | Belfast weather
Rob Canon’s assertion (Letters, 14 March) that Alf Tupper of the Rover had “the odd fag” is wrong. Alf never smoked. Furthermore, John O Machin’s point (Letters, 13 March) that Alf was the first to do the four-minute mile is also wrong because William Wilson of the Wizard ran the mile in exactly three minutes in 1943, running four metronomic laps of 45 seconds. In the amended repeat of The Truth About Wilson in 1949, Wilson’s time was changed to 3:48, presumably to make the time more realistic, but still impossible to achieve. However, Seb Coe beat it in 1981, and El Guerrouj ran 3.43 in 1999.
• The residents of Gillingham might have something to say about being referred to as villagers (Villagers told to ...
‘I am a soppy, broad-church Anglican,’ says Peter Hitchens
Sam Wollaston (TV review, 6 March) calls me a “Christian zealot”. I think this is because I said during Monday’s largely admiring TV profile of Philip Pullman that this author’s work is an attempt to undermine Christianity. Actually, I was citing Mr Pullman’s own self-description. In the Washington Post, on 19 February 2001, Mr Pullman was quoted by his interviewer, Alona Wartofsky, as having said: “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.” As it happens, I am a soppy, broad-church Anglican who dislikes any sort of religious enthusiasm or sectarianism, given to hiding behind a pillar during Evensong. I don’t especially want to undermine anyone’s faith, even that of atheists. Surely, it is Mr Pullman, with his self-declared hostile intent towards the Church, who is the zealot.
• Join the debate – email firstname.lastname@example.org Continue reading...
Please join our call to break the ‘bronze ceiling’ and celebrate the extraordinary life and legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft, write men including Jeremy Corbyn
, Andrew Adonis
, Tom Watson and Vince Cable,
actors Jason Isaacs
and Sam West
and John Hannett
We are joining the call made last International Women’s Day, by over 80 female politicians, academics and public figures, for the pioneering human rights champion Mary Wollstonecraft to be memorialised. Wollstonecraft was the first to call for gender equality, over 250 years ago, when she challenged the male philosophers and politicians of the time, including Burke and Rousseau. She called for women not “to have power over men but over themselves”.
As a key Enlightenment philosopher, her ideas on justice and education have become core values here in Britain and beyond. Her words directly informed Gladstone’s plans for state education in 1870. Mary Wollstonecraft was neither ...
Shags versus mullets | Black dresses at the Baftas | Childhood books | Missing the moon? | Pensioners making a difference
Your “Mullets we have loved” (In pictures, 17 February) was highly flawed. Half of these “mullets” were actually shags (Ronnie Wood, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Joan Jett).
• Your front page stated: “All three wore black dresses after a call for the awards to focus on industry rather than clothes” (Taking a stand at the Baftas, 19 February). However, on page 11, there were three columns commenting on what the actors were wearing. I am confused. Continue reading...
The Puritan preacher John Bunyan dreamed a famous dream – but can hardly have imagined that his statue would end up inside an exclusive hotel
Martin Luther King wasn’t the first person to have a significant dream (Big business is hijacking our radical past…, G2, 9 February). Nor the first to have it hijacked by commercial interests. The opening of the Puritan preacher John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (1678, written during his years in prison for his dissenting religious views) is inscribed under his statue on the outside of the former Baptists’ headquarters in Southampton Row, near Holborn station in London: “As I walk’d through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a Den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a Dream.”
The building is now a boutique hotel. While it was being ...
Poetry of all tastes and genres should be celebrated, say Angela Croft
and Catherine Roome
Further to the critique in PN Review that you report (Literary world split as poet attacks rise of social media ‘noble amateur’, 24 January), the wonderful thing about the current poetry scene is there is room for all – both experimental and traditional. I enjoyed listening to Hollie McNish on YouTube as much as I enjoyed listening to those nominated for the TS Eliot prize; and to poets reading at Kings Place and other venues across London and elsewhere.
The appreciation of poetry is highly subjective and, it is encouraging to find workshops and readings across the country embracing people of all ages and from all walks of life. I am neither a professor of English nor a publisher, but as for some poetry being “easy to read” and containing “few challenges” – that can be ...
Asterix | Regional accents | Boris’s bridge | Picture lending schemes | Trump’s wall | Plastic packaging
The question of the Sphinx’s nose was conclusively settled in that peerless work Asterix and Cleopatra, where the nose falls victim to Obelix’s climbing skills (10 things from history everyone gets wrong, 18 January).
• You’re welcome to the long “a” in your “bath”, lass (Emma Brockes, Opinion, 19 January) – just so long as you don’t expect northerners to have a “beth” as taken by the royal family. Continue reading...
Barbara Jane O’Sullivan
on the Frankenstein author’s other literary output, and John Green
on confusion caused by having authors of the same name
Fiona Sampson (The creation myth, Review, 13 January) provides an overview of possible sources for the central theme of Frankenstein, but fails to mention a significant one: Prometheus. It is no coincidence that Percy Shelley grasped this myth in Prometheus Unbound, and that Mary critiqued it in Frankenstein and subsequent work. As she commented to Byron’s mistress after his death: “We are all Cassandras; and we are so blind that we do not give heed to the silent voice which makes itself heard within our soul.”
While exploring the story of the production of Frankenstein, Sampson also inadvertently encourages the myth that Mary was a one-great-book wonder, lumping her impressive lifetime’s achievement under the category “dogged survivor and consummate professional”. Valperga (1823) was ...
says the poem, quoted in a recent Guardian article, is as relevant today as it was when first published more than half a century ago
It was good to see the last couplet of my father’s Walking Away properly quoted by Saskia Sarginson (Empty nest? Not a chance, Family, 6 January). But she is a little off-message with her view that this Cecil Day-Lewis poem was “written for a different society”.
It can be argued that much of his poetry, now well out of fashion, belonged to its time. But this poem is very much for all times. It is a memory poem, looking back to my nervous first day at school in 1938. But it was published, some while after he walked away from my mother into a second marriage, in his 1962 volume of verse The Gate. Believe it or not, society of 1962 was much like ...