And the clouds gazed sidelong, going elsewhere,
The heath-grass, fidgeting in its fever,
Took idiot notice of you. And the stone,
Reaching to touch your hand, found you real
And warm, and lucent, like that earlier one.
Plath cast herself as Emily Brontë, or Cathy, and saw Hughes as her own stubborn, untamable Heathcliff. This was a story that ended badly, with Hughes deserting Plath, and Plath committing suicide in the bitter British winter of 1963, a warning, maybe, about what literature and love can do.
A new film version of "Wuthering Heights," the 15th, recently aired in Britain. Here in the United States, Penguin Classics has just put out a "couture classic" with French flaps and a lovely jacket by the fashion illustrator Ruben Toledo. HarperCollins, meanwhile, has issued new editions of the book with broody "Twilight"-inspired covers, because the characters read and talk about "Wuthering Heights" in the Stephanie Meyer series.
"Wuthering Heights" is a classic that seems infinitely porous, waiting to be rediscovered and repackaged infinitely. "Love Never Dies" runs the tag line on the HarperCollins edition. Really, the book should come with flashing health alerts.
On a personal note: I was born in West Yorkshire, on one side of the Brontë moor, and I spent my teenage years living in a house just on the other side. I first read "Wuthering Heights" when I was 13 and, every couple of years ever since, I have re-subjected myself to its undiminished beauties and oddities and cruelties. Guns go bang, puppies are slaughtered and weak lungs burst, as Emily Brontë's did soon after she finished the writing. "Wuthering Heights" has realism, and tries to tell us that it is only by daylight and reason that love can survive.
But it is the sickly fevered radiance of the remembered Heathcliff-Cathy story line that threatens to whiten our bones. We long for such passion, and gain it at our peril.
Rayner is the author, most recently, of "A Bright and Guilty Place: Murder, Corruption and L.A.'s Scandalous Coming of Age." Paperback Writers appears monthly at latimes.com/books.