BOOK: THE PROFESSOR by Charlotte Brontë

William Crimsworth has become disillusioned with his homeland, namely England, and chances upon the opportunity to go abroad. He is proficient in the French and German languages, and so he settles in Brussels, Belgium, to become and English teacher for boys. His reputation precedes him, and soon he is a teacher for the more highly esteemed girl's school. His reputation extends further, and a young sewing teacher named Frances Henri sits in as a pupil in his class. Her well-spoken English catches the admiration of Crimsworth, and he pays attention to her, but their acquaintance is soon put to a halt under the jealous eye of the school's directress, Mlle Reuter. Etc etc etc.

The story goes on, but first I'd like to pay attention to why I have read this book in the first place. It stems from my personal fascination with the Brontë sisters, mainly Emily, but I have warmed to Ann also. From what I read in their biographies, Charlotte seems to be my least favourite.

That isn't to say Charlotte is not important, and to understand Emily or Ann, you must understand her as well. After reading Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, I thought to read Jane Eyre (I have so far seen two different film adaptations), but came by The Professor in Ann's biography as the primary Charlotte book, the one that she had trouble getting published, and was not until two years after her death. It was after Wuthering Heights/Agnes Grey were published together, that Charlotte went a much darker route and composed her most popular tale, Jane Eyre, arguably the most popular of all the Brontë sister's books combined.

It is hence speculated that Charlotte took inspiration from her sister's more gothic directions, and so it was in my interest to witness that particular development myself, by first reading The Professor then later moving on to Jane Eyre. Then I want to read Ann's Tenant of Wildfell Hall and finally Wuthering Heights a second time.

My general summary of The Professor is that it is a terrible book but well written enough I ended up finishing it anyhow. It is clear that Charlotte Brontë was a talented writer, but was too absorbed in her own indulgence to engage the reader with a proper story. I quote from the first chapter:

My narrative is not exciting, and above all, not marvellous; but it may interest some individuals, who, having toiled in the same vocation as myself, will find in my experience frequent reflections of their own.

In other words, this could be the most thrilling read since The Complete History of Cement Roof Tiles.

While I say it was well written, which I only point out as a precursor to Jane Eyre, it is clear this book is written by Charlotte Brontë. The narrative is in the first person as told by William Crimsworth, but is obviously written from a feminine eye, admiring her school-teacher crush, fantasising about him as a dignified, honest and hard-working man. Particularly in the way she judges every character by their looks and their fashion. There are paragraphs giving elaborate detail describing facial constructions of every character, and their manners and movements and speech patterns. She particularly likes foreheads, as it is a judgement of intelligence. In Charlotte's perfect world, everyone will have giant bulbous foreheads that swell and throb like hot-air balloons. She has contempt for the fashionable and the beautiful, as they are the shallow kind who concern themselves in the superficial and superfluous, and their foreheads are usually of average size.

Charlotte is also clearly writing from her own experiences. She studied languages in Brussels, and there were letters discovered written by her to a certain Professor Hegel who worked there. Passionate letters, you know the kind, which there has not been discovered any replies. Charlotte has inserted herself into the story as Frances Henri, but takes the narrative further by having them get married.

That's not the end, however, as they both decide to run a school of their own, which turns out very successful and profitable. They come to a point where they can even select their students - only the brightest and richest - and their reputation and profit brings them to near-aristocratic status, all through honest hard work and skill. I should point out that Charlotte attempted to start a school herself along with her sisters, which turned out a dismal failure.

So they sell off the school which thrusts them into the upper-class, and they move back to England with a big house and a nice big garden. There is a pathway lined out by daisies, called Daisy Lane, and they raise their son, Victor, in comfort and joy, and are often visited by their good friend and neighbour Husden.

And it keeps going. Husden buys a dog for Victor, and they are inseparable. But the dog gets bitten by another dog with rabies and William has to shoot it dead. Victor, witnessing the event, becomes upset and William has to teach him about life and death and stuff. The story doesn't actually end until Frances literally pulls the pen out of his hand. Which is kind of genius if you think about it.

I suppose a another small issue I had was all the untranslated French dialogue, and how there is no hint whatsoever as to what any of it means. Charlotte must have assumed that anyone with an education enough to be literate - at the time - would know as much French as she did. I understood the general idea of the conversations, it's not entirely necessary to break out the French-English dictionary (I used Wiktionary for some of the words), but once again we have an example of her self-indulgence.

So there you have it. A terrible book, but well written, but go read Jane Eyre instead.

UP NEXT: EMBASSYTOWN by China Mielville.

First impression: It is very confusing at first. It's a kind of science-fiction where you are thrust into the world it is set, with all these new words and terminology you don't understand. I'm reading my housemate's copy and he says it gets easier as it goes along, but being in first-person narrative you're not expected to know what they're talking about at first, as it seems perfectly natural to them. My general take on getting past this is to absorb the mood of the story the first time, and when things are explained later on, read through it all again.


Feminism, in film theory, takes its humble origins from within the female perspective; but eventually unfolds into an entire revelation about how films are ultimately structured.

It begins by acknowledging that cinema is a male-dominated medium; that male producers, directors, writers etc. assume themselves as the primary spectator; leading feminists to observe the portrayal of females on screen being reduced to a spectacle; and the structure of film attributing specifically masculine traits. These traits are what remain as convention, and thus reduced to a common formula:

There are two bodies, the protagonist (P) and the antagonist (A). P is the central character(s) we follow, while A is the opposing character(s) who move the plot forward. Morals have no decision here, though it is conventional for P to be the hero(es) and A as the villain(s), these roles can be switched, or could even be the same character.

I've declared P and A, and now I must declare S - the supporting role(s). S can be a friend, lover or even an object attached to P's affections. Once established, S is already doomed, counting down their time until they are taken away or destroyed by A to further A's personal motive. Thus, A has invaded P's abode and dominated P through the taking of S, instigating the story. This can, and often will, happen more than once, as it provides reasonable motivation to drive P towards a singular resolution - to rise above and dominate A.

Dominance, logical reasoning and singular goals are associated as traits of masculinity. I will not explore the psychology here, as it irritates me to reference Freud as the only resource for psychological understanding, and things like "castration anxiety" are a bit hard to swallow without a long and detailed map of connection. We must acknowledge, however, the call for a more feminine alternative to film - domestic, emotional and episodic - and for females to be portrayed as subjects, not objects. So too must we acknowledge, as well, that we men continue existing; continue relishing our manhood; and celebrating our traits of masculinity!

And there is no better celebration than CONAN THE BARBARIAN (3D).

The film begins with a long-winded exposition, which I later discovered has no importance to the proceeding story, and felt my caveman mind hassled by too much information to process. Once all that was out of the way, the story kicks in with the title character (the well endowed P) being born amid bloody warfare, right in the middle of a battlefield! Blood splattering, guts spilling and bones breaking; a bold preface for the next two hours following.

We track his progress through childhood as he playfully slays three formidable intruders and learns, through his father (Ron Perlman - the first S), about the Secret of Steel. Progress is cut short when Khalar & co. (A and all his salivary excretions) intrude upon Conan's abode; destroys Ron Perlman and retrieves a hidden piece of McGuffin that will make him a god or whatever, instigating Conan's inevitable singular purpose to rise above and dominate him; via barbaric brute force!

Conan grows into Jason Momoa; tall, dark, handsome and ripped. Alongside his bandit friends, he frees slaves from oppressors; then single-handedly overturns a prison just to extract directions from the warden (one of Khalar's ex-minions), pointing the way toward his antagonist. Khalar & co., meanwhile, have been occupied by searching far and wide for the last vital ingredient to the McGuffin; the pure blood of the female descendent of a long line of necromancers - Tamara (the well endowed second S) - who will later become Conan's love interest, thanks to a conveniently placed sex scene.

At first, Conan uses Tamara to lure Khalar into a fight, but fails to rise above and dominate; which is expected as it's only an hour into the movie. Conan escapes with Tamara, followed by some bone-breaking violence, followed by said sex scene, followed by Khalar's minions collecting Tamara for completion of his McGuffin and instigating further, yet more immediate, motivation for Conan's singular purpose, squaring towards the final showdown.

There is a side-plot with a thief guy I've brushed over, but he scarcely fits into the story here, and is more likely a mainstay for the sequels. There is also Khalar's daughter, also inconsequential, and probably dies anyway. I fell asleep during the falling CGI rocks, so I don't really know.

I had this curious dream where a girl I had a major crush on rejected me for a more muscular man, not unlike Jason Momoa. So I resolved to win her back by lifting weights and pumping iron. Every time I lifted a weight, my arms and chest would tighten and bulge into toned, muscular beauty; but when I let go my body would resort to flabbiness, even more so than I had before. So I kept lifting weights growing bigger and bigger, but letting go getting fatter and fatter. I became grossly obese when I remember feeling anxious, I will never win my dream girl at this rate; then I woke to the credits rolling. I figured Conan got his dominance over Khalar, through blood, guts and bones, or whatever.

I mean, we can't break conventional structure, can we? That would mean there would be no complacency; and if there were no complacency, well, I don't even know what that would mean! We have to have complacency, don't we?

Second top 10

A couple posts down there is a top 10 list of favourite films, the idea was to design alternative posters for each one (I'm working on them I swear), well, I've done a second list of top 10 films that didn't make it on the first list:


Plus a third and fourth list for good measure:

Bladerunner (workprint version), Contempt, Drop Dead Fred, Four Lions, Funny Games, Glengarry Glen Ross, Inglourious Basterds, The Birds, Vampire's Kiss, Whisper of the Heart.

A Serious Man, Caché, Exorcist II: The Heretic, Last Days, Mind Games, The Box, The Matrix Revolutions, The Room, The Trial, 12 Angry Men.

They don't challenge me enough at my work. Not that I want them to.

A quote from Moby Dick

(image marginally related)
I've been reading Moby Dick by Herman Melville lately and I came across this wonderful paragraph which I must share here. I thought about providing context, then twice thought against it as it is most effective on its own, granted I may leave the reader in the dark, as its context is no less curious than the prose itself.

Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes sentimentally; as much as to say, - Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all around; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.

To think the whole book is like this.

Top 10

While I'm not usually a fan of top ten lists, I thought I'd compile one of my own anyway. This is a list of my favourite movies, which I've given some thought, and think it should be as flawed and personalised as the compiler themselves. The main flaw is that not all my favourites will end up on this list - there is no P.T. Anderson, Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Charlie Kaufman, Gaspar Noe or Richard Linklater here, nor can I bring myself to include more than one movie from the same film maker, otherwise I would've included Funny Games.

A favourite movie greatly differs from a great movie. Although the two can cross over, a favourite movie is usually flawed, niche, specialised, to your own senses. I think this is why a "top ten favourites" can not be disagreeable, because it's about me. My only problem here is to figure out what order to put them in. I'll go the Roger Ebert route and put them alphabetically:

THE NEW WORLD (extended edition)

The main reason for doing this is that I want to get off my lazy butt one day and design alternative movie posters for all of these, kind of like what the Mondo Collection did, only nowhere near as good, and they'll just be for myself. If I get to complete all ten of these, then I'll do another ten - The Top Ten List Of Movies I Feel Gutted For Not Including In The First Top Ten List Of Favourite Movies. Synecdoche New York will be at the top.


Pay no attention to the DVD's behind, even though they are the ones actually in focus for some reason.

I've had a tiresome week this week, and it's about time I wind down with some raw Nicholas Cage movies - the cream of his crop, so to speak.

First we begin with Vampire's Kiss, a classic vampiric tale about madness and teeth(?). Followed with The Wicker Man, a cult classic remake of a cult classic about a classic cult.

Then we step up to the blu-ray quality. In full high-def immersion, we take on Michael Bay's brilliant parody of the emptiness of Hollywood action blockbuster - The Rock, renowned for being his first foray into the hall of fame that is The Criterion Collection. Finally we round off the night with the ultimate Cage vehicle, the one and only Con-Air. Need I say more? Need I?

I haven't actually watched these movies yet, except Con-Air, back in the 90's, but I can't remember it too well. Should be a night of awe and/or intrigue. In any case, bring your own lube.