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What are your thoughts on Sylvia Plath?

I’m closing in on finishing the recent 1,000 page Sylvia Plath biography, Red Comet, and it’s a revelation, one of the best and most thorough biographies I’ve ever read. She was a total inspiration for me after reading and studying The Bell Jar in high school in the 80s. I worked hard and fought to get a prestigious summer internship in NYC that transformed my life. She was so brilliant and daring and really a powerhouse despite being saddled with depression. She really struggled and fought against the rampant sexism of her day to carve out her place in history, but at the same time it took a devastating toll. She was more like a meteor then a comet, burning intensely bright, and then gone in a flash.

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by Anonymousreply 158October 15, 2021 3:30 AM

Sylvia, Sylvia, you bitch, I'm through.

by Anonymousreply 1June 6, 2021 2:46 AM

I really like The Bell Jar. I’m not quite academic enough to get into her poetry... though I do like Anne Sexton.

by Anonymousreply 2June 6, 2021 2:48 AM

She was a unique and interesting writer, a tormented soul, and—unfortunately—the poster-child for every millennial cunt in the U.S. who has "suffered" the trauma of having a pampered and privileged upbringing.

by Anonymousreply 3June 6, 2021 2:48 AM

R2 I frankly think Plath is, on the whole, more accessible than Anne Sexton. It's probably not an issue of you being "academic" enough, but rather just personal taste.

by Anonymousreply 4June 6, 2021 2:52 AM

Does the book mention her time working in my hometown, Swampscott Massachusetts?

by Anonymousreply 5June 6, 2021 2:54 AM

She wrote of a shantung dress. It was at that moment that I added the word shantung to my vocabulary.

by Anonymousreply 6June 6, 2021 2:55 AM

Sounds like borderline personality disorder to me:

"She was furious at not being at a meeting the editor had arranged with Welsh poet Dylan Thomas—a writer whom she loved, said one of her boyfriends, "more than life itself." She hung around the White Horse Tavern and the Chelsea Hotel for two days, hoping to meet Thomas, but he was already on his way home. A few weeks later, she slashed her legs to see if she had enough "courage" to kill herself. During this time she was refused admission to the Harvard writing seminar. Following electroconvulsive therapy for depression, Plath made her first medically documented suicide attempt on August 24, 1953 by crawling under her house and taking her mother's sleeping pills. ...She spent the next six months in psychiatric care, receiving more electric and insulin shock treatment under the care of Ruth Beuscher. Her stay at McLean Hospital..."

by Anonymousreply 7June 6, 2021 2:58 AM

Sylvia Plath had psychological and emotional problems?

Great Caesar's Ghost, STOP THE PRESSES!

by Anonymousreply 8June 6, 2021 3:00 AM

R3 She was far from pampered and privileged, the one thing she had were parents who were very well educated college professors who instilled a great love of learning, writing and knowledge in her at a very young age. But her father died when she was about nine and her mother moved them to Wellesley because of an ordinance that gave her opportunity to go to college there as a townie. She really fought tooth and nail for all the advancements she made, resulting in a burning need of perfectionism to achieve that really nearly did her in. She got full scholarships to Wellesley and Smith and her suicide attempt put her in great jeopardy for finishing college at Smith. She really earned with incredible hard work and perseverance every honor awarded her. I just finished the Sontag biography earlier this year and she has much in common with her as well as Frances Farmer.

by Anonymousreply 9June 6, 2021 3:00 AM

"... every millennial cunt in the U.S. who has "suffered" the trauma of having a pampered and privileged upbringing."

She was not from a pampered background. Her dad died when she was in grade school leaving no insurance, and they had to move in with her maternal grandparents. Her mom went back to work teaching secretarial classes and her grandfather was a waiter.

by Anonymousreply 10June 6, 2021 3:02 AM

OP, did your prestigious internship in NYC train you to write hyperbolic boilerplate, or did that come later?

by Anonymousreply 11June 6, 2021 3:03 AM

R9 / R10 you are misunderstanding what I wrote—I wasn't saying that Plath was pampered and privileged. I was saying that the clueless hipster twats of today who fetishize/idolize her are.

by Anonymousreply 12June 6, 2021 3:03 AM

R5 Yes, I think that was where she summered with a horrible family as nanny at a mansion there. I guess lots of wealthy families trolled the Seven Sisters school for young woman of good breeding to dump their kids on while they partied all summer. They really treated her like crap and the children were little monsters.

by Anonymousreply 13June 6, 2021 3:05 AM

R5 Actually, I might be wrong, but that might have also been the summer she dyed her hair platinum blonde as it is in this picture.

by Anonymousreply 14June 6, 2021 3:08 AM

OP, it is with utmost sincerity I say MARY!

by Anonymousreply 15June 6, 2021 3:10 AM

R11 Unlike Mademoiselle, my internship was at the Met Museum, so my florid writing style reflects Art History hyperbole not literary magazine stylings.

by Anonymousreply 16June 6, 2021 3:12 AM

I prefer Kenneth Koch.

by Anonymousreply 17June 6, 2021 3:13 AM

[quote] Sylvia Plath had psychological and emotional problems?

Well, who doesn't? But the point of the R7 story was that she threw a tantrum because she didn't get what she wanted (to see Dylan Thomas).

She couldn't handle her fury so she cut herself (like a baby screaming in her crib because mom won't bring her her bottle). And that is exactly what happens in a very particular psychological problem called "borderline pd".

by Anonymousreply 18June 6, 2021 3:23 AM

The bad movie version of THE BELL JAR is on YouTube now. It isn’t always.

I won’t link, as I don’t want it taken down... even if it’s not that good.

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by Anonymousreply 19June 6, 2021 3:28 AM

R19 There’s quite a bit mentioned in the biography drawn from depositions given surrounding the film. She has a lesbian relationship with a woman in McLeans in the movie, not in the book, and the woman who the character was based on sued the estate and film for ruining her life and making people think she was a lesbian. It was like a gay panic case that was eventually settled out of court against the studio and estate, but many of Sylvia’s family members and friends were required to do testimonials and the author used their reporting to cross reference and establish timelines and what people knew at certain times.

by Anonymousreply 20June 6, 2021 3:39 AM

Talentless bitch.

by Anonymousreply 21June 6, 2021 3:41 AM

I really should be commended for bringing the fullness of her story to the masses.

by Anonymousreply 22June 6, 2021 4:28 AM

[quote] [Esther Greenwood] has a lesbian relationship with a woman in McLeans in the movie, not in the book, and the woman who the character was based on sued the estate and film for ruining her life and making people think she was a lesbian.

For glamour purposes, we should mention that character is played by former model Donna Mitchell.

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by Anonymousreply 23June 6, 2021 6:34 AM

I think it was appalling that Paltrow was cast to play her. Terrible choice!

by Anonymousreply 24June 6, 2021 8:19 AM

She was depressed all the time, what a loser. Take a prozac!!!

by Anonymousreply 25June 6, 2021 8:32 AM

R24 I really wanted to go back and watch it again, but it doesn’t seem to be on any streaming platform. Who would you have cast instead? While reading the Lee Remick threads it struck me that in the looks department and Massachusetts background Lee could have played her if something was filmed in the 1960s.

by Anonymousreply 26June 6, 2021 8:56 AM

R25 I think you’re confused dear, you should have signed that Elizabeth Wurtzel.

by Anonymousreply 27June 6, 2021 8:58 AM

I went through a poetry phase in college. Hart Crane and Plath were my favorites. The best of her work was like a gut punch of beauty.

by Anonymousreply 28June 6, 2021 9:11 AM

A. Alvarez described her as having a "deep, narrow talent". Striking, brilliant voice, but she's always so in her head//angsty emotional state. I know Ted Hughes was no great shakes as a husband, but living with Plath and her on-edge emotions had to have been exhausting. (Then, of course,Hughes topped himself with the even more self-destructive Assia Wevill. Plath wrote about a dead woman with two dead children. Wevill actually killed her kid when she offed herself.)

And, yeah, I think Plath had BPD. She was never going to be well and healthy. It wasn't just Hughes' behavior or the misogyny of the 50s. Plath was a damaged woman, it's all there in her brilliant, depressed poetry.

by Anonymousreply 29June 6, 2021 9:47 AM

[quote]I think it was appalling that Paltrow was cast to play her. Terrible choice!

I actually think Goop was very good in that movie, the movie itself was not really that good.

by Anonymousreply 30June 6, 2021 9:56 AM

R30 Well she wasn’t.

by Anonymousreply 31June 6, 2021 10:01 AM

Well, you may not like her much, but that doesn't mean she isn't a very talented actress.

by Anonymousreply 32June 6, 2021 10:09 AM

She was smart and pretty and talented and also irretrievably and disturbingly broken. I rarely return to her poetry; it is technically proficient and erudite, but there is an open vein of violent craziness in it that really turns me off. The one exception is "Mad Girl's Love Song", which has the double distinction of 1) being a readable villanelle, and ii) not being violently nutz.

I don't even know to say about her Daddy issues. Bitch was fuddup.

by Anonymousreply 33June 6, 2021 10:47 AM

Another Sylvia. Finally!

by Anonymousreply 34June 6, 2021 10:53 AM

[quote] Any less the black man who Bit my pretty red heart in two. I was ten when they buried you. At twenty I tried to die And get back, back, back to you.

[quote] I thought even the bones would do. But they pulled me out of the sack, And they stuck me together with glue And then I knew what to do. I made a model of you, A man in black with a Meinkampf look

It rhymes.

by Anonymousreply 35June 6, 2021 11:18 AM

How does she compare to Dylan Thomas?

by Anonymousreply 36June 6, 2021 11:33 AM

The biopic starring G. Paltrow got poor reviews, but I liked it.

Brit his friends of mine who live in Yorkshire took me to a small churchyard cemetery once and told me to “find the famous peers on.” A dead person scavenger hunt!

I found Plath’s grave just as the church bells were tolling. It was chilling. She in Ted’s hometown. I think he’s buried next to her now.

by Anonymousreply 37June 6, 2021 11:41 AM

She was much better looking.

by Anonymousreply 38June 6, 2021 11:44 AM

OP I grew up in Winthrop- on the Boston Harbor a few houses away from Sylvia’s grandmother on the 900 block of Shirley St. Sylvia spent her childhood there watching the planes land like I did. You can still find the purple stones if you look hard enough…

In the poem, “Point Shirley”, she captures the timeless mood of that beach in the winter months- so crisp and perfectly. Every time I read the poem it’s like I’m standing there again as a child. That stunning beach was a gorgeous and well kept and a town secret back then, but when the prison was razed and all the summer homes converted to year round it’s much more crowded now. It was the very prison Mark Wahlburg spent a summer in. There is a ferry landing a short walk away that you can take from Rowes Wharf if you’re visiting from Boston, well worth the trip!

by Anonymousreply 39June 6, 2021 11:57 AM

I went through a Plath phase in high school. Did an embarrassing (now) monologue from “The Bell Jar” for drama class.

A few years ago, I revisited “The Bell Jar” and I think it holds up. And then I did more reading about Ted Hughes and Assia Wevill and the lone offspring who’s still left. What a story!

I also get her mixed up in my head with Ingeborg Day.

by Anonymousreply 40June 6, 2021 12:00 PM

She wrote a children’s book. I have a copy of it somewhere.

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by Anonymousreply 41June 6, 2021 12:03 PM

Kate Winslet would have been better cast as Sylvia.

by Anonymousreply 42June 6, 2021 1:14 PM

When it comes to Plaths I prefer the Plath less taken. Micah.

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by Anonymousreply 43June 6, 2021 1:18 PM

R39 From everything I’ve read in the book, that’s where she was the happiest and said or wrote longingly about the beach. It’s is perhaps where her ashes being spread would have been the best solution, particularly over the reality of being buried in a Yorkshire church yard. She did say though that the moors there were the most beautiful landscape to her that wasn’t the beach.

by Anonymousreply 44June 6, 2021 1:21 PM

R41 She wrote it in one day, and was rejected for publication at the time only being produced posthumously. I used to do story time at libraries and shock the moms by saying ”Now we’re going to read a Sylvia Plath book” and do a poem or two from it.

by Anonymousreply 45June 6, 2021 1:25 PM

I wonder what her thoughts were on the merits of The Bell Jar. She called it “a pot boiler” but approached it, as she did everything else, very seriously.

I’ve always wanted to see the full outline she worked from - this is just some of the chapters:

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by Anonymousreply 46June 6, 2021 6:34 PM

I wish Sylvia had held on a few more years and experienced the rise of feminism.

by Anonymousreply 47June 7, 2021 12:18 AM

Her seminal works - “The Bell Jar” and the “Ariel” poems - are still on my shelf, highlighted and earmarked. They spoke to me in my adolescence and young adulthood; reading them then felt like coming home.

Now, reading Plath is like viewing a planet I once considered home through a telescope: It’s dark, cold, distant beauty still speaks to me in haunting echos and through the brilliance of its fiery light.

by Anonymousreply 48June 7, 2021 12:34 AM

Next year will be Sylvia's 90th birthday.

by Anonymousreply 49July 2, 2021 4:53 AM

Her voice doesn’t match how I imagine her speaking. She’s so American at heart - but I guess this was after she’d lived in the UK for years.

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by Anonymousreply 50July 2, 2021 5:08 AM



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by Anonymousreply 51July 2, 2021 5:26 AM

R50 Actually, that is the famed Mid Atlantic accent, most famously embodied by Katherine Hepburn and at one time learned in the studio system by most actors and highly replicated in TV journalism.

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by Anonymousreply 52July 2, 2021 5:46 AM

Her brother, Warren, died this year.

by Anonymousreply 53July 2, 2021 6:49 AM

68 years ago after throwing all her clothes off the balcony of the Barbazon Hotel at the end of June, she headed back to Wellesley to begin her dark descent that would culminate in crawling into the basement crawl space with a glass of water and a bottle of pills to disappear for days becoming a national news story and being found by Warren within hours of what otherwise would have been her death.

by Anonymousreply 54July 2, 2021 6:57 AM

She was a cutter. I didn't know that. Very difficult, if impossible to "cure". It manifests in other self-destructive ways.

Yea that is quite an affected accent. But she sounds interesting. I am envisioning Our Miss Brooks.

by Anonymousreply 55July 2, 2021 7:01 AM

I believe there are 2 biographies written on Assia Wevill, the woman Ted Hughes left Plath for. Has anyone read them?

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by Anonymousreply 56July 2, 2021 4:00 PM

T56 The actress who played Timmy’s mom in CMBYN, Amira Casar, played her in the Gwyneth Sylvia movie.

by Anonymousreply 57July 2, 2021 6:11 PM

She is a good physical match for Wevill… though I don’t remember her role/performance in SYLVIA. I’m sure some day she’ll be dramatized in a fuller way.

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by Anonymousreply 58July 2, 2021 9:32 PM

Decorate like Sylvia:

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by Anonymousreply 59July 2, 2021 10:11 PM

I read her diaries in the late 90s, when I was in my late 20’s. I was totally drawn in, fascinated at her ability to dissect her life so precisely, seemingly detached, while also being out of her mind. She has a great eye for casual but telling detail.

It was a great read for me back then. I felt connected both to her desire to develop her art as well as her effort to control an excruciating mental illness. She was able to balance the two, for years, until she couldn’t .

Could never get into her poetry, but that’s just me. I don’t understand how to read poetry.

by Anonymousreply 60July 2, 2021 10:47 PM

she was a racist cunt

by Anonymousreply 61July 2, 2021 10:56 PM


by Anonymousreply 62July 2, 2021 10:58 PM


by Anonymousreply 63July 2, 2021 11:02 PM

[post redacted because independent.co.uk thinks that links to their ridiculous rag are a bad thing. Somebody might want to tell them how the internet works. Or not. We don't really care. They do suck though. Our advice is that you should not click on the link and whatever you do, don't read their truly terrible articles.]

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by Anonymousreply 64July 2, 2021 11:03 PM

Big auction, at Sotheby’s, none the less, of many personal effects and writings by Sylvia including her and Ted’s wedding rings, which were nothing special cheaply bought. I’m sure that Freida is doing this only now because of of Warren’s death and there’s not anyone really left to be bothered by it.

Since this got canceled out when I posted.

by Anonymousreply 65July 2, 2021 11:04 PM

She's in the oven!

by Anonymousreply 66July 2, 2021 11:05 PM

[quote] Yea that is quite an affected accent.

Remember she had not only been living in the UK, but she had also been educated in the early 1950s at Smith, where she would have felt pressured to affect a Middle-Atlantic Received Pronunciation accent and style of speaking, which is the way all the rich girls at Smith at the time spoke. (Smith was considered the most elite of the Seven Sisters at the time both academically and socially--in those days, girls could not attend the Ivy League colleges).

by Anonymousreply 67July 2, 2021 11:06 PM

Here’s the Guardian’s take on it and a lovely portrait of Ted by Sylvia. I would love the Tarot card, but I would be lucky to afford a recipe card.

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by Anonymousreply 68July 2, 2021 11:08 PM

I think she stuck her head in an oven

by Anonymousreply 69July 2, 2021 11:08 PM

R33 I read that and loved it.

I should have loved a thunderbird instead. At least when spring comes they roar back again. I think I made you up inside my head.

by Anonymousreply 70July 2, 2021 11:21 PM

She was gifted, driven, and seriously mentally ill. She showed signs of mental illness long before she met Hughes, including attempted suicide and intensive psychiatric treatment, including ECT. Dido Merwin's extraordinarily bitchy memoir of her, contained in one of the many books written about Plath, nevertheless portrays a woman quite different from the sainted, put-upon feminist heroine. Other brief memoirs in the same bio (I can't remember which one) bear out Merwin's observations of a woman whose facade of success in a rarified milieu hid a persona barely this side of reality.

Her son with Hughes also committed suicide some years ago.

Her work is by turns, I think, brilliant but showy. Extremely technically accomplished but sometimes too much so. I often find myself admiring the technical polish but unmoved.

I suspect hereditary mental issues, combined with very high intelligence, real gifts as a writer, ferocious ambition, and an extravagant ability to believe wholly in whatever fantasy presented itself. The country house in Devon and country life come to mind. It couldn't have been a worse choice for her; she simply embraced whatever he wanted and persuaded herself it was, therefore, wonderful. I think the house really destroyed her and the marriage.

One of Hughes' friends, looking back on their relationship, said that the difference between them as writers was that Sylvia was determined that the work should be read, whilst Ted was determined that it should exist.

Reading her reactions to meeting him and describing him to her mother in letters sets off alarm bells recan inevitable crash - it had so little to do with reality.

Sad but fascinating life.

by Anonymousreply 71July 2, 2021 11:26 PM

That last bitter winter in England did her in. Cheated on, separated, 2 tiny kids, unsure about their future. And of course her pre-existing mental problems.

Yet she finished poems and "The Bell Jar" like a clam creates pearls. The book is full of mouthwatering depictions of food; I think she was starving. She wrote the 'potboiler' book under a different name, desperate for money.

'Write about what you know...'

by Anonymousreply 72July 2, 2021 11:27 PM

R67, thanks. Not a judgement, just an observation. Does add more insight into her.

R59, that link is a fascinating look into her life. Thanks.

by Anonymousreply 73July 2, 2021 11:28 PM

^^*re an inevitable crash

by Anonymousreply 74July 2, 2021 11:29 PM

"She simply embraced whatever he wanted and persuaded herself it was, therefore, wonderful" A trap that many women fall into.

by Anonymousreply 75July 2, 2021 11:30 PM

[quote]R67 Remember she had not only been living in the UK, but she had also been educated in the early 1950s at Smith, where she would have felt pressured to affect a Middle-Atlantic Received Pronunciation accent and style of speaking, which is the way all the rich girls at Smith at the time spoke. (Smith was considered the most elite of the Seven Sisters at the time both academically and socially--in those days, girls could not attend the Ivy League colleges).

Plath’s accent is not classically Mid Atlantic, which traditionally has a softer, lulling, less intrusive sound.

It’s interesting that Plath’s vocal quality is decisive, precise, almost aggressive… like her poetry. She very cleanly articulates her words, almost pouncing on them.

I think her accent, whatever it is, is an honest blend of her Yankee youth and later adulthood spent in the U.K. So in that sense it’s “Mid Atlantic”. But to my (somewhat trained ear) it is not a traditional Mid Atlantic accent as the style is formally taught in drama schools etc., usually based on the approach of Edith Skinner.

Let’s put it this way: my mom was raised in a “good” family in Boston; my grandmother even ended up in the same retirement home as Plath’s mother, Aurelia. I went to college in Boston, and while there I never heard Plath’s type of accent before from anyone of any generation.

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by Anonymousreply 76July 2, 2021 11:36 PM

Not a fan.

I'm not averse to confessional verse, but I tire of personal laceration.

by Anonymousreply 77July 2, 2021 11:52 PM

R13 My sister went to a prestigious women's college in the 2000s and said that still happens.

by Anonymousreply 78July 2, 2021 11:56 PM

I remember readingbthe bell jar and thinking first world problems

by Anonymousreply 79July 3, 2021 12:01 AM

I like John Green's video on her poetry.

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by Anonymousreply 80July 3, 2021 12:05 AM

I prefer Kenneth Koch.

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by Anonymousreply 81July 3, 2021 12:15 AM

R72, that always stuck with me, too. Buttered chicken broth, the avocados…

by Anonymousreply 82July 3, 2021 12:31 AM

[quote]R79 I remember reading the bell jar and thinking first world problems

Yes, women’s issues, such as being beat up by a date or having to go to the ER because you’re hemorrhaging following a defloweration, is all so First World.

by Anonymousreply 83July 3, 2021 12:34 AM

Ted Hughes was bad luck. 💀

by Anonymousreply 84July 3, 2021 8:51 AM

Beautiful poetry at all stages of her career.

Definite mental illness, probably inherited from Dad who sounds like he had some issues. He refused to go to the doctor when his leg got infected after amputation and thus hastened his own death.

by Anonymousreply 85July 3, 2021 9:14 AM

So I’m from the same place Sylvia spent time growing up (Winthrop) and my mom has this similar odd accent as well. People would comment about it and not know where she was from or mistake her background all the time.

I think it has to do with the townies, that the entire town sits out remotely on the water as a peninsula, and despite being 20 minutes from Boston, the townies have a decidedly strong affect that is half Boston, half Old Yankee, and if your family had money there was a British twang with certain words, and that they would deliberately enunciate them, especially names- so that you’re not confused with the common folk, LOL.

I found out the other day Sylvia and I attended the very same Winthrop preschool, decades apart- Sunshine.

by Anonymousreply 86July 3, 2021 10:11 PM

Not a good cook.

by Anonymousreply 87July 3, 2021 11:03 PM

Breakfast with Sylvia

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by Anonymousreply 88July 4, 2021 4:14 AM

^^ Sylvia was a FAT WHORE!

by Anonymousreply 89July 4, 2021 4:53 AM

^The ghost of Ted Hughes.

by Anonymousreply 90July 4, 2021 5:03 AM

Brandy milk? Oh dear.

by Anonymousreply 91July 4, 2021 5:43 AM

R91 We call that Mommy’s little helper.

by Anonymousreply 92July 4, 2021 6:16 AM

I did finish the biography and then I went on to read the Barbizon Hotel book, which is really dominated by Plath’s story. Of course no one immortalized it the way she did in Bell Jar as the Amazon, so it’s fitting she is the primary touch point. It is a fascinating read, especially about woman in society in the 20th century and social history of NYC. The Unsinkable Molly Brown was an early guest and died there. Of course Joan Didion followed in Plath shoes as did Ali McGraw. Jacklyn Smith was there and Betty Buckley had the best first day ever, arriving by train, dropping off her belongings at the hotel, walking by an open door casting call for 1776, auditioning and getting the part and then starring on Broadway.

by Anonymousreply 93July 4, 2021 6:33 AM

If she had not married Hughes would Sylvia had lived a bit longer? Her self destruction was inevitable but their break-up pushed her over the edge.

by Anonymousreply 94July 5, 2021 4:52 AM

[quote]R94 If she had not married Hughes would Sylvia had lived a bit longer?

I would think so. Being involved with Hughes wasn’t great for his partners’ self esteem.

by Anonymousreply 95July 5, 2021 5:23 AM

I've always wondered how the Hughs/Plath kids felt about Assia Wevill.

by Anonymousreply 96July 5, 2021 11:36 AM

[quote]"She simply embraced whatever he wanted and persuaded herself it was, therefore, wonderful"

My kinda gal.

by Anonymousreply 97July 5, 2021 12:28 PM

The Hughes children seemed to have taken their father's side. After all he did raise them and they remembered very little about Sylvia. After Nicholas committed suicide I read that he never spoke about his mother.

by Anonymousreply 98July 5, 2021 2:02 PM

R98 I always figured that, I wondered how they feel/felt about Wevill since she was their primary caretaker for several years in their early childhood and she killed their sister.

by Anonymousreply 99July 5, 2021 2:12 PM

The Bell Jar rivals Catcher in the Rye. I'd never heard of Bell Jar until Catcher was required reading in high school. There was quite a discussion about the choice among the students and staff. I always preferred The Bell Jar.

by Anonymousreply 100July 5, 2021 3:40 PM

R100 What years were you in high school? I never read Catcher in high school, but on my own. In my Humanities class we deeply read and analyzed Bell Jar in 1982, which considering it was only published in the US in 1976, seems early, at least for my school. But that teacher was extraordinary and the things we covered in her class and the level we did it quite remarkable.

by Anonymousreply 101July 5, 2021 3:52 PM

She knew her way around the kitchen.

by Anonymousreply 102July 5, 2021 3:54 PM

Re: Hughes. I just read “Bitter Fame” after reading through this thread. Mostly I wanted to see what Dido Merwin had to say.

I came away with the conclusion that Sylvia’s personality had a lot in common with Shanann Watts. The portrayal of the husband who never complained, tolerated the craziness, reminded me of Chris Watts.

Seems that these people find each other, with disastrous results. It’s fascinating.

by Anonymousreply 103July 5, 2021 4:28 PM

R101 It was @1980 in a Catholic high school. Some parents were upset with the choice of Catcher and an alternative was offered for those kids. I can't remember what the alternative was...

by Anonymousreply 104July 5, 2021 4:42 PM

R88 Cabbage on toast, blech.

by Anonymousreply 105July 5, 2021 5:03 PM

It was the avocado toast of it's day!

by Anonymousreply 106July 5, 2021 5:04 PM

Nice video of Frieda about the upcoming auction.

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by Anonymousreply 107July 7, 2021 5:09 PM

Frieda had no kids, so she's the end of the line, so I guess she figures it's better to see where things go and cash in.

I think Sylvia had Borderline Personality Disorder. She was very talented and I expect very challenging to live with. At the same time, Ted Hughes was a womanizer who liked crazy ladies and was incapable of being faithful. His last collection has a poem about a fox in which he talks about his failure as a husband. I think his second wife just kind of put up with the serial cheating.

by Anonymousreply 108July 13, 2021 9:11 PM

It looks like bids are going slow, with many people just meeting reserve. A few people seem adamant about those household items trays and the chop sticks.

by Anonymousreply 109July 13, 2021 9:23 PM

Quite an in-depth article of biographies about her focusing on the most recent three and new scholarship.

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by Anonymousreply 110July 21, 2021 1:46 PM

Frieda must be out of money.

by Anonymousreply 111July 21, 2021 2:22 PM

I got the most recent Plath biography out of the library. I was startled by its length, about 1000 pages. It’s heavy. Too overwhelming, I probably won’t read it.

by Anonymousreply 112July 21, 2021 3:09 PM

R112 that’s when the ebook version is a good compromise, though it took me checking it out three times at two weeks a shot to get through it, but I’m glad I did.

by Anonymousreply 113July 21, 2021 3:14 PM

I’m sort of interested in the people in their orbit: the parents and siblings. What happened to Sylvia’s brother? What did he think about all this?

Sylvia’s also reminds me of Ingeborg Day, the woman who wrote “9 1/2 Weeks”.

by Anonymousreply 114July 21, 2021 3:20 PM

R114 Warren, Sylvia’s brother, worked for IBM his whole life in Westchester, maybe even at the headquarters there, and died just last year. Working for IBM is about the fullest antithesis of a poetic artistic life that one can get.

by Anonymousreply 115July 21, 2021 3:36 PM

Ugh, the thing I really wanted from the auction was the biggest bidding war and went for $200,000!

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by Anonymousreply 116July 22, 2021 3:49 AM

Odd, I thought Warren became a doctor. Must be misremembering. Alone of Sylvia, Hughes, their two children, Warren seems to have escaped the f as Emily curse either of inherited mental instability and/or a peculiar certainty of exceptional destiny.

Nicholas was an infant when Sylvia abandoned him, because that IS what she did, and there have been strong hints in several biographies that whilst Hughes adored his daughter, he was almost actively hostile to his son.

Hughes was nothing if not competitive with Sylvia in the narcissist department. Perhaps he saw Frieda as another female reflecting adoration back at him, but saw the boy as unwanted male competition in the house.

If so, Nicholas got nothing in the way of parental mirroring and love. It must have been a very sad maturing. Frieda at least appealed to the one one parent left her.

And then there's the possibility of inherited mental issues.

When Sylvia first saw Hughes and asked about him, she was told, "He is the biggest seducer in Cambridge."

A friend who went to a reading/lecture of Hughes' in the late 1960s said his sexual charisma was overwhelming. She said she'd always pooh-poohed the old killing yourself for love but. But after seeing Hughes read, she realised how possible it was.

Poor Sylvia. Poor kids. I think that's why the story really generates so much retelling. It has acDido and Aeneas feel to it - something too strong to resist.

by Anonymousreply 117July 22, 2021 8:40 PM

The “best” part of the story is the epilogue, in which Ted’s next squeeze killed herself and her poor, poor child the same way Sylvia did. What a way to get the last word!

by Anonymousreply 118July 22, 2021 8:54 PM

I read once that Ted had b.o. and had to be encouraged to bathe.

by Anonymousreply 119July 22, 2021 9:21 PM

R119 Sylvia herself mentioned it somewhere. Part of her reason for bringing him to Am6for that year in which she taught English at Smith was to "Americanise" some of his less glamourous European habits, like inattention to hygiene and dental care. Hughes was very much a countryman raised in the Britain of the 1930s, 1940s.

The irony is that it was the lack of the sheen of American middle-class perfection and grooming, which had been so deeply ingrained in Sylvia throughout her determinedly "aspirational" upbringing in New England, and that Hughes by temperament and background despised, that made up a goodly part of his sexual charisma.

Sylvia was never quite the genuine bohemian that Hughes was. She wanted him, but she wanted him tamed.

by Anonymousreply 120July 22, 2021 10:48 PM

R113 I’m not a literature or poetry buff particularly, I’m just sort of curious about Plath and Hughes. Should I attempt this book or is it for the hard-core admirers only?

by Anonymousreply 121July 22, 2021 11:52 PM

R121 One of the exceptional things that this book does is there’s a lot of literary analysis and extensive use of her poetry, especially the early non published material, so from that standpoint you don’t need that prior background on it because it educates you along the way. But this is hardcore and one of the best definitive biographies, and while I read many a year it was slow going, not to say that it was academic, but it is an intense read. If you just want to learn about her you might start with another one since there are many to choose from. If you are mainly interested in the Bell Jar years or the editorship at Mademoiselle there are ones that focus on that.

by Anonymousreply 122July 23, 2021 4:52 AM

Thanks. Imagine the work that went into it.

by Anonymousreply 123July 23, 2021 5:03 AM

This is the one that I think is a good starter biography, but then again I find this one of the most exciting points in her life. But it is eminently readable and a fast ride and reveals the truth behind much of the Bell Jar, which is the usual entry point for most people.

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by Anonymousreply 124July 23, 2021 5:15 AM

For readability, I would try "Bitter Fame" (Anne Stevenson - and this one has the handful of memoirs of others, including what the Washington Post called the "brutal and bitter" one of Dido Merwin), "Sylvia Plath: A Biography" (Wagner-Martin), and "Rough Magic" (Paul Alexander), all earlier biographies of Plath.

They are all slightly different but overlap enough to get the picture.

Stevenson, author of "Bitter Fame", said that it was Hughes' sister, Olwyn Hughes, who insisted that Stevenson include the Merwin memoir in all its transparent bitchy envy. Like most women, Merwin adored Hughes. Dido was married to poet W.S. Merwin and was herself a failed poet, so the toxicity of proximity to the virile and gifted Hughes and the woman who not only snagged him but was herself a successful poet, has to be taken into consideration, and thus, Merwin's memoir with a grain of salt.

Just the same, there is enough evidence of Plath's erratic behaviour to make it worth reading. I would start, then, with "Bitter Fame".

by Anonymousreply 125July 23, 2021 12:36 PM

What are their children doing now?

by Anonymousreply 126July 23, 2021 12:47 PM

R126 The son committed suicide after becoming an academic specializing in fish, in some ways following his maternal grandfather who was a college professor and noted scholar on bees. There is more below. Frieda is a writer and painter and has lived in Australia and had three husbands, but no children. You can get to her Wikipedia page for more from her brothers.

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by Anonymousreply 127July 23, 2021 3:27 PM

I don’t know how I feel about tomato soup spice cake, but the cream cheese frosting sure would help.

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by Anonymousreply 128July 23, 2021 4:28 PM

R128 - Plath prided herself on her skills as a housewife and cook, alongside her eventual ownership of her poetic gifts. It's almost as if she was afraid that too much success as a poet would somehow diminish her femininity, and she was constantly writing to her mother about running up clothes for Frieda on the sewing machine, what she cooked . . . those last 18 months or so in the house in Devon, unheated during the damp English winter (Devon isn't that cold, but it is damp, it's a peninsula with the Bristol Channel on one side and the North English Channel on the other), the constant colds she and the kids had, trying to fit into English village life, typing up his stuff to send out, her stuff to send out . . . getting up before dawn to get a couple of hours of writing in before the kids woke up . . .

Country homes in English villages look quite charming to outsiders, but in the early 1960s, without having been renovated to modern standards, they were no picnic to live in. They still aren't, unless you have the money to fix them up.

Whatever was going on in the marriage before, the house in Devon exacerbated. I have always wondered if Hughes' desire to get out of London was intended to isolate Sylvia. He may not have been conscious of it - after all, he was a countryman and didn't like city life - but still, he must have known who his wife was, and how hard an adjustment would have been for her.

For Sylvia, it was always the Universe According to Ted. She was in raptures about the Devon house and contemptuous of life in London until the marriage broke down, and then when they separated and she headed back to London, exclaimed how starved she was for the intellectual life of London that she had missed in Devon.

The house swallowed her as a woman, but didn't succeed in destroying her as a poet, that's what's interesting.

Some women are like that: the male partner is the fixed point of their landscape, no matter how bright or talented the woman is.

It's always seemed an interesting paradox to me about Sylvia.

by Anonymousreply 129July 28, 2021 8:19 PM

[quote]R129 She was in raptures about the Devon house and contemptuous of life in London until the marriage broke down, and then when they separated and she headed back to London, exclaimed how starved she was for the intellectual life of London that she had missed in Devon.

So she came crawling’ back to London Towne. Well, London Towne don’t go for gas an’ duct tape.

by Anonymousreply 130July 28, 2021 10:03 PM

Interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the schoolgirls.

by Anonymousreply 131July 28, 2021 10:08 PM

"Some women are like that: the male partner is the fixed point of their landscape, no matter how bright or talented the woman is"

In Sylvia's day, that attitude was not just considered right and proper for any married woman, it was considered practical for someone in a financially dependent position.

Tell me, did Sylvia ever make any money from her writing? Poetry hasn't been a big seller for a few centuries now.

by Anonymousreply 132July 28, 2021 10:12 PM
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by Anonymousreply 133July 28, 2021 11:48 PM

Feminist icon Sylvia was no feminist.

by Anonymousreply 134July 29, 2021 4:13 AM

Men always want they don't have. Once Ted had buried Sylvia in the country he went after the sophisticated Assia Weevil. He turned her into a nanny and housekeeper.

by Anonymousreply 135July 29, 2021 4:20 AM

He already had Assia - they had a long-term affair before Sylvia opened that oven door.

by Anonymousreply 136July 29, 2021 1:26 PM

R136 is right. Hughes met Wevill when she and her then partner/husband visited the Hughes' in Devon. The affair started right under Plath's nose in the Devon house, and Hughes continued it after Wevill went back to London. I don't think Wevill was all that sophisticated - Sylvia was a Smith grad, got a graduate degree from Cambridge, had traveled through Europe, was the recipient of a Fulbright grant, and a published poet. She was no country bumpkin. Wevill did have an interesting background, she was a German Jew who fled Nazi Germany and by various routes ended up in England,but the idea that Sylvia couldn't compete with her on a level of intellectual and social sophistication is absurd.

But it is true that by the time Wevill entered the picture, Sylvia was burdened down with that fucking house and the two children and the tall beautiful blonde had turned into a harried housewife with long brown braids. I think it likely that Sylvia, whose mental state had always been unstable, was deeply unhappy in the house and that this had impacted the Hughes marriage.

Something had gone terribly wrong after the birth of Nicholas and the move to Devon - I don't say I condone Hughes' behaviour in starting the affair in his wife's house, but Wevill's arrival was probably the match to the pool of petrol already laying about in the house.

by Anonymousreply 137July 29, 2021 1:41 PM

R137 Europeans, like Hughes, see all Americans as bumpkins to an extent.

by Anonymousreply 138July 29, 2021 1:53 PM

The Hughes-Plath marriage always seems to have had a lot of volatility in it--Plath strikes me as having been Borderline and Hughes got off on being a womanizer. Assia Weevill was also a piece of work as far as that goes with multiple marriages and being a siren. Seems to have killed herself when she realized Hughes was never going to marry her. I think Hughes liked the excitement of crazy ladies, but then couldn't deal with all the emotional maintenance that goes with that. His second wife was a calmer sort and just put up with Hughes' serial cheating.

I really don't get the worship of Plath--her poetry is remarkable, but killing yourself and leaving behind two very young children is terrible thing to do. Yeah, unlike Weevill, she didn't kill them, but I wish she'd taken her maternal instincts a little further and stuck it out til the suicidal impulse passed. I don't actually blame Hughes for Plath's death, they'd been separated for a while at that point and the break-up of the marriage inspired her most memorable poetry. Plath was drawn to suicide before she met Hughes, it was always going to be an impulse she'd have to fight.

There's a terrific memoir by Eileen Simpson, *Poets in their Youth* about her marriage to John Berryman. Simpson, who became a therapist, talks about Berryman's suicidal impulses (his father had killed himself and Berryman killed himself years after the marriage had ended) and how it was always something that he had to resist.

I mean, there were a lot of crazy, talented poets during Plath's era and a generation older--Randall Jarrell, Anne Sexton, Berryman, Delmore Schwartz, Dylan Thomas--

by Anonymousreply 139July 29, 2021 7:25 PM

Seriously, did Plath ever earn any money from her poetry - was she doomed to be financially dependent on Hughes during and after the marriage?

by Anonymousreply 140July 30, 2021 3:59 AM

r140, if you read the biographies of Plath and Hughes, you can see that she was always intent on making a living from her poetry. She was successful in that aim for years into their marriage. They both won prizes and published and taught at university in the USA (she at Smith, he at UMass). After they returned to England, she had two babies in two years. Raising them and running their household as a 1950's-style housewife took a lot of Plath's time and energy, so her industry suffered in those years with the babies (1960-1963). But she still managed to record for the BBC, write novels, and write a great deal of extraordinary poetry. True, she needed child support after Hughes left her with two very young children, but she had relocated to London and was reactivating all her professional contacts and setting up new work. The winter she died, she was very ambitious and was still reading poetry and doing interviews on the BBC, as well as being on the verge of publishing a volume of new poetry and a pseudonymous "pop" novel that she hoped would bring in considerable income. She had another novel-in-progress to sell after that one.

After her death, the income from her work allowed Hughes and his children and mistresses and second wife to live at a much higher standard than they would have enjoyed through Hughes' career alone. They all became financially dependent upon Plath's estate and the income generated by all her work. They sold the rights to "The Bell Jar" to the movies (twice!), and the publishing rights to all Plath's poetry and letters and one remaining novel (one was mostly destroyed) kept them in luxury for many decades after 1963.

by Anonymousreply 141July 31, 2021 5:22 PM

She's a terrific poet.

by Anonymousreply 142July 31, 2021 5:41 PM

R141 - And add to the mistresses, children, and second wife Hughes' sister, Olwyn Hughes, who never married and made her brother, his life, his children, his art, etc., the focus of her life after Plath died.

Olwyn's role in her brother's life remains a mostly unexplored one. That she had a more than usually powerful sibling role in his life seems clear, and Plath at one time hinted at it being more than just a sibling relationship. There were more than hints of a longstanding hostility between Plath and Olwyn - as a literary agent, Olwyn had a foot in the literary world the couple inhabited, and, of course, after Plath died, Olwyn took over the management of her brother's work.

She died in 2016, having outlived her brother, Plath, and their son, Nicholas.

by Anonymousreply 143July 31, 2021 6:43 PM

This review of "Bitter Fame" in the L.A. TIMES does a very good job of referencing the "split" between Plath's ruthless wild poetic gifts and her strenuous attempts to be the perfect female homemaker. It's a very good intro to a very accessible yet intelligent bio of Plath's life.

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by Anonymousreply 144July 31, 2021 6:55 PM

Hear Sylvia, in her most refined Mid Atlantic accent, read Daddy, written 59 years ago today.

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by Anonymousreply 145October 13, 2021 12:34 AM

R5 I’m from Lynn (right next to Swampscott) and there’s a line in “The Bell Jar” where she describes how ugly Lynn and it’s factories are. I think she swam to egg rock. She must have been in Nahant or Swampscott.

by Anonymousreply 146October 13, 2021 1:08 AM

R140 For all of her adult life, Plath received financial support from Olive Higgins Prouty. Prouty funded a scholarship to Smith, which Plath received. Prouty also paid Plath's medical bills and sent her money.

by Anonymousreply 147October 13, 2021 12:21 PM

R147 You forgot to mention the Gay twist. Prouty was the author of Stella Dallas! Stella Dallas money paid for that great education and high class sanitariums.

by Anonymousreply 148October 13, 2021 12:25 PM

R148 I assumed everyone on DL knows who Prouty is!

by Anonymousreply 149October 13, 2021 12:27 PM

One of Plath's many ambitions was to wind up at Mcleans, because Anne Sexton, Lowell and others had wound up there. It was a high brow place, although just one stop on the celeb sanitarium circuit (Institute of Living, Chestnut Lodge, Menningers, etc). Even as a troubled, borderline personality she was ambitious.

The effort to make her a feminist icon seemed a bit much. She was certainly no role model and although the conflict between art/career and homemaking were common, most women didn't stick their heads in an oven or have husbands as destructively awful as Hughes. Like many dysfunctional couples, they were pretty equal in their emotional immaturity, it just expressed itself differently in each.

by Anonymousreply 150October 13, 2021 12:46 PM

One of the most unknown to me and powerful sections of the new biography was about how terrified she was of getting pregnant when she was young in high school and college and how finally getting access to birth control, and how complicated it was at that time to do that, changed everything for her. She was finally able to exhale and enjoy herself sexually. I think she was very much a feminist icon, it’s just the fact that she was smack dab in the middle of it the whole time.

Another big point was her rejection of Marianne Moore, someone she held in high regard, worshiped and wanted to be like, but then distanced herself from when she became squeamish and prudish about her exploration of sexuality in her poetry, which Marianne felt was not proper for a lady poet. I think Marianne even sabotaged Sylvia from getting awards and prizes and it really marked a break about what it was that was acceptable for a woman to write about.

by Anonymousreply 151October 13, 2021 1:17 PM

does she really warrant a 1000 page biography?

by Anonymousreply 152October 13, 2021 1:47 PM

Her life was a veritable cottage industry for writers and publishers in the 80s and 90s. How does this bio bring something new?

by Anonymousreply 153October 13, 2021 2:11 PM

R153 I answered this better somewhere else along the way, but many new sources opened up including the extensive notes and closer to the period interviews of her family, friends and others by a woman who was writing a biography that was never publish, but included great untapped information and source notes. There was also recording from her psychiatrist that became available and even newly found information about mental illness on her father’s side of the family that had been unknown. The authors also spends considerable time dispelling many of the myths and maligning that was perpetuated especially by Hughes’ sister and many of the other biographers. There’s also extensive examples of her juvenilia writings. This article I think begins to explain it.

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by Anonymousreply 154October 13, 2021 3:12 PM


by Anonymousreply 155October 13, 2021 7:16 PM

"I wish you were still alive, Sylvia!"

by Anonymousreply 156October 14, 2021 9:54 PM

Was she a Bad Art Friend, too?

by Anonymousreply 157October 15, 2021 3:10 AM

R157 This book would probably answer that question better then any of the others, but I haven’t read it. Can anyone who has give some input about it?

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by Anonymousreply 158October 15, 2021 3:30 AM
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