Soft Skull Press is currently experiencing a financial crisis. As a result, they're offering their entire catalog at 40% off.

If you'd like to take advantage of this, may I recommend Branwell: A Novel of the Brontë Brother by Douglas A. Martin? Full disclosure: Martin was my writing teacher at the New School; in fact he's the best writing teacher I've ever had. Branwell is a lyrical and beautiful novel, biographical fiction done in a sparse, almost poetic style. It's a novel in the tradition of Marguerite Duras, gradually building character and mood out of striking images, unattributed interlocutors (which often seem to be within Branwell's head) and startling juxtapositions of sentences and words that speak volumes.

He would paint his sisters, all three of them, around this time.

For a time he struggled with this. Even at eighteen, he's not a good painter yet. He paints himself with a gun.

Now he wasn't to paint his sisters too ugly.

What would be the best way to arrange them all in a portrait. He paints them all with the eyes of rabbits, glazed over in a fear. He paints that there. He puts them almost in tears. He had begun to paint himself in there along with them, all arranged around him, and now he has just given up.

He's not going to be able to live up to their image of him.

They could all be seated around a table, or standing up.

He gives Charlotte the most firmly set mouth. He paints Emily with more sensuousness. He had himself initially standing up behind them, but he looked like the one thing that didn't belong. One could see how if he'd just remove himself, the painting might appear more balanced. He didn't fit with his sisters, where Emily has been placed in shadows, Anne resting her head on her shoulder, Charlotte lit with something like the sun.

A breeze in the portrait will touch only Emily.

The next time he paints her, he'll give Emily an even nicer dress.

One day Charlotte will have this painting to keep.

He's been removed, for the sake of making a better picture, and the composition overall is indeed better without him. That pillar there in the center instead will take his place. A cross divides the canvas into the scope of fields, how it must have been folded in on itself once to protect it when there was no frame.

Over time, the self he's tried to cover over in the painting of his sisters by the placement of the centered pillar, will come to light; as the oil paint slowly gains more transparency, the older and older it gets, his figure, a fourth, emerges between them, ever more visible beneath the pillar of separation painted down the middle, becoming him.