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Black Lamb


Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.


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Charlotte triumphant

June 1st, 2003



It was 196_, during that humid, pre-cable summer between third and fourth grades, when my mother gave me her copy of Jane Eyre. Whether dear Mammá did so for my edification or merely to quell my restive humors, it mattered not; for upon learning that Charlotte Brontë was obliged to adopt the masculine nom de plume Currer Bell to hide her gender, charlottebrontephotoI was filled with an indignation that compelled me to read on….


How cruelly our orphan’d heroine suffered at the hands of her scornful aunt and vile brute of a cousin! And when Jane dared defend herself, she was summarily rewarded with a blow to the head and confined to a haunted bedchamber. Still, her courage inspired me; and thus when my parents insisted that I wash the dinner dishes while my brothers (hearty and dexterous lads both) were at liberty, I protested. “Fie, goodly sir and madam,” I cried, “but never shall I tolerate such gross injustice!” Suspension of privileges, however, proved even less tolerable, so for the next fortnight I played scullery maid… till one day dear Mammá (she of the breakfast and luncheon dishes) threatened a rebellion of her own, leading to dear Papá’s immediate purchase of a Kenmore dishwasher with Pot Scrubber Cycle.


Even more oppressive than her aunt’s home was the boarding school to which Jane was banished. At Lowood Institution, founded for the purpose of educating young ladies of reduced circumstances, administrative fund-siphoning and proximity to pestilential fog have bred starvation and typhus. But aided by the friendship of a sympathetic teacher and a healthy immune system, Jane met Lowood’s privations head-on and bent its harsh lessons to her own purpose.

Nine years after I commenced my first of many readings of Jane Eyre, I, too, entered an institution dedicated to the education of young women. Although there were no embezzling administrators and the regnant bacillus was athlete’s foot, the cuisine was equally unappetizing. I majored in English and soon acquainted myself with the work of Charlotte’s sado-masochistic sister Emily. How I shudder to imagine the direction my literary taste — and, by extension, my writing — might have taken had it been hysterical, woman-hating juvenilia such as Wuthering Heights to which I’d been exposed that formative summer. Why, I could have ended up writing for The Man Show, and I’d be earning several hundred thousand dol- ….

Oh. Drat.


Jane departed Lowood years later to become governess at Thornfield Hall, a mist-shrouded estate owned by the enigmatic Edward Rochester. Despite her plain physiognomy and lowly status, Jane overcame the rigid constraints imposed by class and conventional notions of feminine beauty to win Rochester’s heart. None among the local gentry was more stunned than handsome, wealthy Blanche Ingram, who’d set her own cap for Rochester. Thus the worldly reader divines that Currer Bell could only be a woman, for none but the gentler sex could believe that a man would choose a brainiac over a babe. But as I was a young and impressionable lass on that first reading so many years ago (well, not that many, really), I embraced Jane’s triumph as the rule, not the exception.

All right, all right, so this is why it’s called fiction.


In the midst of this romantic idyll, however, lurked a mystery. A dark secret first intimated to Jane through low, eerie laughter echoing from the third-floor attic, the door of which was kept locked by bibulous Grace Poole, the household seamstress. Not until the day of her wedding did Jane discover that Grace was actually a turnkey for the attic’s real inhabitant: Rochester’s legal wife, a raving, homicidal lunatic of preternatural strength and cunning. As so it was that I, too, discovered the Mrs. Rochester behind my own attic door: laughing, mysterious, powerful, and ultimately terrifying, this mad harridan is known as Show Business. And like Jane, I flee from her blazing battlements… until the next pilot season.


Some day I shall suggest to my daughter that she log off the Net for a moment or two and give Jane Eyre a read. Should she demur, I’ll utter the warning that has long been a family favorite: “Do not make me get Mrs. Rochester on your ass.”


Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Book Issue, Books and Authors, Gendelman | Link to this Entry


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