Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May update—the Plath part

I finished The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. And it took for-fucking-EVER. On GoodReads I had a starting date of January 26th. I hope that marks the day I brought the book home and maybe read the back cover or some such, because four months? For one book? Really? Even if it's 720 pages long, that is a long-ass time to spend reading a single book.

I'd be ashamed, except that the book has very small print. And is non-fiction. And has lots of end notes. And is studded with appendices and I swear, I was dutifully reading my way through all of them ... until I got to Sylvia's working notes about St. Teresa of Avila. I decided that I'm not a Plath scholar and don't need to read every. single. word. I read The Bell Jar and her (then) two published collections of poetry in the 1970s, when I was a young woman with literary aspirations, because that's what you did. But I haven't read them since, because books about mental illness and confessional poetry are not really my thing.

I also finished Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath, by Anne Stevenson, which I picked up in April in a used book store in Washington, D.C. I needed some secondary source material to fill in the gaps in the journals, because the gaps are sizable. What Sylvia included: minute descriptions of why a boy she's dating is suitable or not suitable for a husband; self-castigation about procrastinating; discussions of writer's block. What she left out: her breakdown, suicide attempt, marriage to Ted Hughes, and Ted Hughes' affair. 

Unfortunately, Bitter Fame is a not-uncontroversial biography that apparently pissed off Plath's fans big time. This is actually OK with me. I'm not Team Sylvia, so I didn't mind that Sylvia came across as kind of difficult because I have been given to understand that that's one of the hallmarks of being mentally ill, which—newsflash—she was. However, in addition to being the opposite of a hagiography, I found the writing pretty ham-handed, and the discussions of Plath's writing were cursory at best.

I'm not Team Ted, though. No, not at all. In fact, I saw this poem when I did an image search for Sylvia Plath that cracked me up:

So hey—I finally finished one of the Big Leftover Rory books from 2015! Also a biography that I can count towards my Read Harder Challenge. Hooray!

In other news, I also read Little Dorrit, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Angela's Ashes, Let the Dead Lie, and The Winthrop Woman, for a total of seven books this month.

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