January 24, 2006
Douglas A. Martin has created a gem of a novel with Branwell: A Novel of the Bronte Brother, the story of Branwell Bronte and his failure to realize the expectations of others as well as himself. This depiction of the lone Bronte brother is dark and well-told in the magnificent voice of the author. As Branwell descends into addiction and self-destruction, Martin's fanciful prose depicts the lad's moods and actions delicately and perceptively, to the very end.
In his own words, here is Douglas Martin's "Book Notes" submission for his novel, Branwell: A Novel of the Bronte Brother:
Soundtrack for BRANWELL (mood, brood, and hurt)
-"Bedtime Story," Tammy Wynette
-"The Bees," Belly
-"Beautiful World," Coldplay
-"Shane," Liz Phair
-"A Loon," Kristin Hersh
-"Man-Size," PJ Harvey
-"Josephine," Tori Amos
-"Michael," Franz Ferdinand
-"Fireflies," Patti Smith
-"Seasick, Yet Still Docked," Morrissey
-"Anchor Song," Bjork
Moody, broody songs with lots of plaints and hurt running through them, to differing degrees and steps. An odd list, perhaps, oddly dated. But I haven't listened to music with any real regularity for going on almost five or more years now (the most recent and sexiest song on the list, I happened on some Fuse "live" type thing, one night when my roommate wasn’t home and I was watching her Direct TV on her TV; I had a chance to get a free iPod, when I needed to get a new laptop, but then I didn’t. I don’t really have any way to listen to music now.) Most of these songs are from albums I listened to in repeated, concentrated doses at one time or another: my mom cleaned house to the Tammy Wynette, I tried to learn to sing them on key, others I flipped on tape over and over on my walkman while at college and writing in Jittery Joes at a red Formica top table (my favorite one). So they are deep inside me, and they occur to me to call out and up when I try to think about Branwell walking around and longing, long before such rock, such rolls, such, what, expressive loves and tones. I think something might happen, something like an emotional arc, if you put these songs in this order and listened to them. Bjork getting me up out of bed for Summer Italian II, the Smith while showering and waiting for someone to come home, the Morrissey some (tall) boy I brought into my dorm room stole from me when I left him in it to sleep in and I never got it back. I heard the Coldplay just recently in the cafeteria during my week to teach up at the Goddard College residency; I was getting coffee, boys were cooking in the kitchen, I thought: I can't believe I forgot about this song; then found it there again in my head.