Back in January, I wrote about my pilgrimage to The Morgan Library in Manhattan to see Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The book I’ve reread more than any other. The book I’ll be rereading again in approximately two weeks. The book that’s my favorite holiday reading tradition because it moves and inspires me each time as if I were reading it for the first time.
Meantime, I’m rereading Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre for the first time since graduate school. Translation: I’m reading it for myself, for my own benefit and enjoyment. No essays, tests, or anxiety required.
You know what isn’t surprising at all? It’s rather more fun this way. More relaxing. I can let myself be carried about by the soothing rhythms of her language. I can delight in the portraits and set pieces. I can marvel at and be inspired by the novel’s fierce, intelligent heroine. And that’s just my experience of the first 200 pages.
Between you and me, I don’t remember loving Charlotte Bronte’s writing as I do at this moment. This is a topic I plan to revisit. For now, I want to tell you: I wouldn’t have thought to reread Jane Eyre were it not for the Charlotte Bronte exhibit currently on display at The Morgan Library. My parents, who live in Manhattan, invited my sister and me to view it with them back in September. I love exhibits of this kind as I love experiencing the homes and towns of authors and literary characters who have moved me. Artifacts can connect us across time. Besides the thrill of imagining an author writing that letter or sitting at that desk, artifacts tap into our common needs and discrete ways of solving them. They reveal how we negotiate challenges and restrictions with our human spirit and imagination. Continue reading “Literary Places: Charlotte Bronte Exhibit at The Morgan Library”
My mom, who lives in Manhattan, has the best life. She’s out and about five nights out of seven (conservative estimate), partaking of all the city has to offer. Lucky for me, she’s generous with her time and recommendations. She’ll phone me up and say, “There’s a fascinating [insert event] about [insert (obscure) topic] at [insert institution]. Would you like to join me?”
This familiar scenario took a turn for the thrilling on Sunday, when she phoned me up to say, “Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is on display at The Morgan Library. Would you like to go see it with me?” After I spluttered unintelligibly from sheer euphoria and confusion (how did I not know this?!), we made our plans. And yes, as a matter of fact, she will use this event to remind me that I should always, always listen to my mother. She’s not wrong.
The places we read about in books exert a tremendous fascination. How else to explain the existence of phenomena like Universal’s Harry Potter world, or the restored homes of beloved authors, or literary walking tours of the cities and towns where those authors, and their characters, lived?
Sometimes, I think that not reading would actually take more effort for me than reading. Words are my Pied Piper. I see them – on billboards, boxes, or between the covers of a book – and I must follow them to see where they’ll take me. I am that person who reads signage out loud without realizing it, who gets distracted by the text on cereal boxes, and who is compelled to stop and inspect bookshelves and book displays wherever I find them (hotel lobbies, hair salons, craft grocery stores – just you name it).