February 9, 2013

"Would she, like me, have found a cosy coffeehouse environment on the internet, a way to connect with people who understood her aesthetic and validated her experience?"

"Would she have been less dependent on the approval of viewers and critics and more aware of the positive effect her book was having on splintered psyches and girls with short bangs everywhere? Or would that kind of connectedness and access to unmitigated and misspelled negativity have driven her even madder?"

Reflections on the 50th anniversary of a suicide.

29 comments:

Chip S. said...

She'd be dead by now anyway.

[insert Hillary quote here]

mccullough said...

If they had Prozac, then, she'd have lived.

edutcher said...

Methinks Ms Dunham (who apparently didn't vote while enouraging other airheads to do so) sees herself as an intellect for doing no more authoring a show on a cable channel (which how many hundred people watch?) and making a political ad.

I'm guessing the creator of "My Mother, The Car" didn't think that way.

rhhardin said...

It sounds like women's concerns.

ricpic said...

There was a story in yesterday's NY Post about a twenty two year old girl/woman who jumped from the G. Washington bridge and left a note specifically barring five of her internet "friends" from her funeral, the inference being that the viciousness of their comments drove her to suicide.

David said...

The self absorption level of these essays is amazingly consistent.

David said...

Plath was a natural as a writer--loads of talent. She was also an insecure ruthless manipulator who wanted to be Top Girl in everything. Unfortunately she was attracted to a man who was even more talented and ruthless than she. She realized she could never win so she quit the game.

deborah said...

I read The Bell Jar in my twenties, and found it rather flat. My biggest take-away was that electroshock therapy does work for depression.

Reading the linked reviews, I think I'll go back and read it from an older perspective.



David said...

Dunham? Not fit even to hold Plath's lipstick case and powder box. Plath was a lot of things but she wasn't crass and boring.

Mumpsimus said...

The linked Guardian article promises "reflections on her legacy" by "writers and poets." There are twelve essays, and all twelve are by women.

Apparently, women artists are not expected to appeal to a universal audience.

deborah said...

Once I read an article about her that said her short stories weren't well-received, and there were a couple of them included. They were perfectly fine, in the Cheever/Updike mode. Later, they were recognized.

Also, a great kids' book by Plath is The Bed Book, which is a long poem about imaginary beds, with great illustrations.

David said...

Prose was not Plath's strongest suit. The Bell Jar is compelling to read, though a lot of that comes from knowing the fate of the author. Plath was a good journal keeper and letter writer. In the letters, especially the ones to her mother, she's not revealing all but the journals read beside the letters are very interesting. She took care in writing these and they are very lively. She was best as a poet and worst as a novelist. Mostly what gets read is her quite flawed novel. Go figure.

(Ted Hughes is quite a case too. A better poet than Sylvia, better than most really. But many readers wonder how honest he is. A dishonest poet? Now that's a puzzle. How much is he trying to compensate for his caddish behavior, which had a role in Sylvia's suicide? Two of his wives and one of his two children by Sylvia committed suicide. Doubtful he "caused" them but he wasn't exactly setting up zones of comfort and security, was he?)

ken in sc said...

The pictures with this article were not very flattering, but I have seen pictures of Plath that were very attractive.

Basta! said...

Ruth Fainlight was the dedicatee of Plath's poem "Elm", which I always particularly liked.

Margaret Drabble seems to have aged into Mick Jagger's long-lost twin.

Plath and Hughes' son Nicholas, who became a wildlife biologist working mainly in Alaska, hung himself at age 47.

G Joubert said...

Me, I could never get past the way she committed suicide by sticking her head in a gas oven while her infant/toddler children were in the other room. Kinda ruined her for me, like the way anchovies on pizza ruins that experience. It takes over and dominates all else.

Alex Ignatiev said...

Unsurprisingly, no male writers have been influenced by The Bell Jar. Much like no female writers have been influenced by A Confederacy of Dunces, I guess?

ricpic said...

Okay, I have to admit I haven't read anything by Ted Hughes for years, but when I did what jumped out at me was the coldness. And that's even to the crows that I guess he tolerated more than humans.

Nichevo said...

I wonder about Plath's and Dunham's relative tendencies with respect to baby gravy. Perhaps the poetess could have saved herself by swallowing. It's supposed to be a mood elevator.

Nichevo said...

Then again, perhaps Hughes of all people was not the one to swallow for.

traditionalguy said...

Plath was put through massive EST after her first suicide attempt.

That is what eventually killed her. EST "works" by killing most of the brain cells that contain memories and coping skills.

The science of treating rich women's minds pushes valiantly along. Somebody has to deal with them.

Alex Ignatiev said...

As a recovering English major, I am so damn tired of everyone's fascination with Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. They're like the Kennedys, and just as worthwhile, from a personal standpoint. At least their work has had some stamina.

The only thing I ever got out of Ted Hughes was that his ego outsized Hemingway's, which is an astonishing achievement. But the size of someone's ego is something we shouldn't continually marvel at, as if it is a mirror reflecting darkly. It's like noting that Michelangelo's David has a small penis. Noted. Now, let's move on.

Maybe the best thing that Ted Hughes ever did to Plath was destroy her unpublished journal and lose some of her unpublished work, so we can remember her as this great tragic figure. Imagine if she had lived to 80 and produced a vast volume of inferior work. Or imagine if Elvis had died young and thin. Or if JFK had lived to be 80. Maybe JFK would be the monstrous Kennedy of history, instead of Teddy.

dbp said...

What's the deal with only women getting to comment on Sylvia Plath?

I read The Bell Jar in a summer home from college. I knew nothing about the author and thought it a good novel.

It would be a shame if Plath has been consigned to a feminist ghetto--she can be read and appreciated by anyone.

Darrell said...

I published a picture of my (prototype) Sylvia Plath Signature Edition Gas Range a few months ago. and every woman (who saw it) gave it a thumbs down.

William said...

Ted Hughes' second wife committed suicide in the exact same way as Sylvia Plath. You have to wonder what kind of vibe he was giving off.....Did the second suicide add to or detract from the first? Does the second wife look pathetic and imitative or does her suicide emphasize and underline the tragedy of Sylvia. Maybe her suicide just makes clear how premeditated an act of malice that suicide can be. I think her suicide in some way subverted the purity of Sylvia's tragedy. In that sense, it was a good thing.

wyo sis said...

I always thought Plath was selfish and whiny, but that was before today's crop of feminists. Now she seems almost heroic by comparison. Except for that unfortunate suicide thing. ;)

Renee said...

I thought Winterson's commentary was offensive. Her own son, Nicholas committed suicide.

I wasn't alive in 1960, but my grandmothers were. One still living. Pretty awesome lives.

mtrobertsattorney said...

As my mother would say, "Stop whinning and start paying some attention to your children."

mtrobertsattorney said...

As my mother would say, "Stop whinning and start paying some attention to your children."

Mitchell the Bat said...

Committing suicide is a hell of a lot more sincere than writing.