623. May contain spoilers

© Bruce Goodman 25 June 2015


I have just received an unsolicited manuscript from a Mr. Currer Bell. The novel is called “Jane Eyre”. Clearly the author needs to read Stephen King’s advice on how to write a novel. There’s lots of other advice out there as well, especially on the blogs. A quick perusal of these postings would convince Mr. Bell not to waste a publisher’s time.

Firstly, the little child character, Jane Eyre, uses and understands multisyllabic words that barely, by their rarity, would be given a place in an unabridged Websters or a non-concise Oxford Dictionary. “Fifteen pounds is not enough for board and teaching and the deficiency is supplied by subscription… by different benevolent-minded ladies and gentlemen in this neighbourhood and in London.” The author must learn to get out of the mind of an adult and into the mind of a child.

Secondly, it is mildly acceptable to establish a conflict with a co-incidence, but to have a co-incidence as the resolution of a conflict is abysmal. After days of crawling through the mud and rain of swamps, penniless, and without food, Jane Eyre collapses accidentally on the remote doorstep of her hitherto unknown first cousins. Not only that, but an even remoter uncle has just died and left her twenty-four thousand pounds. Yeah, right!

Thirdly, an inadequate and ugly Mr. Edward Rochester is married to a mad lady who keeps setting fire to the house. Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre, the governess, have constant philosophical diatribes for pages. All they want is sex or, in Jane’s view, marriage. But oh no! they must talk. And talk. And talk. Four hundred pages could be squashed into one hundred and fifty if the editors of Mills and Boon took hold.

Fourthly, towards the end (I say “end” but really it’s about one hundred pages before the last paragraph) the Reverend Mr. St. John Rivers starts talking religion and doesn’t stop proclaiming salvation until the final sentence demands the slamming shut of the book.

As far as I’m concerned, the only occasion anyone would read such a novel is if there was no other book in the house and there was nothing on television.

Currer Bell shall be receiving the return of the manuscript and a copy of this review.

Now for the next unsolicited manuscript in the slush pile… It’s by Ellis Bell. I wonder if he’s related to Currer?

45 thoughts on “623. May contain spoilers

  1. Cynthia Jobin

    And then there’s Acton Bell….of that band of Bell brothers who will still be read long after you, Mister editor-wannabe-writer, are quite gone and forgotten.

  2. arlingwoman

    I quite agree with you about the Bronte sisters. Ugh. Years ago I picked up Wuthering Heights and could not figure out why Heathcliff was supposed to be attractive. He’s described as dirty and above all, cruel. Cathy, as far as I could tell, could have greatly benefitted from psychotropic drugs. I asked a friend with a Master’s in Lit Crit about it and he said,”Dunno, I always thought it was chick book.” After we had a good laugh, he went on to explain the Gothic Novel, which is definitely not to my taste…

      1. arlingwoman

        The only one I liked was The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and of course even that’s a bit melodramatic, what with the drunken abusive husband returning home. We have our own version of that here with Southern Gothic–Sophie’s Choice is a good example, but it goes farther back with Flannery O’Connor, Faulkner (though he can be comic), and someone whose name escapes me for a moment. Enjoy those sisters! Someone has to!

  3. jennypellett

    I know I really ought to like this genre of literature but the honest truth is, I loathe it. And me, involved in the teaching of English to countless teenagers …
    I found your summing up of Jane Eyre highly enlightening. It is to be our new title for next year’s curriculum and I was dreading having to plough through it over the summer in preparation. So thanks for that. And please don’t get me started on Jane Austen. I think I’m the only person on the planet who thinks her books dull beyond belief and probably the only female not to find Colin Firth drop dead gorgeous in his role as the nauseating Mr Darcy.

    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Jenny Jenny Jenny… !!!! Forget Firth. Jane Austen is screamingly funny from the first sentence to the end… When I read her as a kid/teen I missed all that and hated it. Today, I find every word an unmitigated pleasure. The Brontes not as much – in fact at times a bit boring but still I (well forgive me I do occasionally watch the soaps) enjoy them esp. Wuthering Heights. Jane Austen and Flannery O’Connor – every word ranges from a giggle to a preposterous irony! Thanks for your comment. As you can see, I enjoyed your comment, and it got me going!!!

  4. Oscar Alejandro Plascencia

    Hilarious post! Well done! It only goes to show that people’s taste in literature changes with time, or is it that time changes people’s taste in literature, or maybe literature changes with people’s taste with time?!?!?!

  5. Kate Loveton

    Reblogged this on Odyssey of a Novice Writer and commented:
    This one is too good not to reblog!

    Charlotte Bronte (Currer Bell) has long been one of my favorite authors on the basis of “Jane Eyre,” a book I was absolutely crazy about when I was sixteen years old. Bruce Goodman gives us an amusing take on Bronte’s classic.

    If you like flash fiction, check out Bruce’s blog, “Weave a Web.” His blog is definitely one of my daily ‘must visit’ places in the blogosphere.

  6. Glynis Jolly

    Did Mr. Bell have anyone edit his book for development and/or content? I’m reading a book right now written by Greg Isles. He’s on the New York Best Seller list and I usually love reading his books, but this one has a lot of dialogue that I think should have been in narrative in another POV because it’s boring beyond belief the way it is.

    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Thanks for reading and commenting Glynis. (And on another note altogether – my g-grandparents were Jollys – they came to New Zealand from Chesterton, Cambridge! We could be cousins!!)

      1. Glynis Jolly

        My husband and I go round and round about where the name, Jolly comes from. Some say England, other say France, and other even say maybe one of the Scandinavian countries. Somewhere along the way, Hubby acquired a hardbound book about the Jolly heritage. We have no idea how accurate it is though.

        1. Bruce Goodman Post author

          Half the descendants in New Zealand spell it with an E and the other half without: Jolley/Jolly. One of the ones with an E had 20 kids, so today the E is more common!!

  7. noelleg44

    What an enchantingly clever review! And I have to agree there are many “classics” which wouldn’t pass muster these days. But I still love them. How about reviewing Moby Dick?

    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Most classics would come out rather well if I reviewed them, but Moby Dick is one of those books, despite a number of attempts, that I’ve never managed to finish reading!

  8. roughwighting

    Thanks to Kate Loveton, I have discovered your blog. I liked this post much, especially being an Austin, Bronte fan. Contemporary readers need patience, humor, and a brain to read these delightful long-ago but brilliant authors, and obviously the (fictitious) reviewer/editor of this post has neither. 🙂
    Reminds me of a joke about an editor who met up with Charles Dickens and said, “Kind sir, your book is not well-written. Was it the best of times, or the worst? It certainly can’t be both!”

    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Thank you so much for reading and for your comment. I love the word “wight” in your name, as it implies (to me) wrighting – the forging/crafting element of writing.

  9. jan

    So true! Thank goodness back then there were few experts on the art of writing! As a lifelong lover of Victorian lit, enjoyed this post very much!


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