Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I started reading The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath on our honeymoon (yes, Odious thought that was weird, too), but the only thing I found depressing was that the volume began with her journal from when she was eighteen years old. That a teenager could write with such insight and grasp of character, and provide such beautiful descriptions and pictures of her life made me feel highly unaccomplished. But then, as usual, I got sidetracked with other books for a few months. Then I watched the recent movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow, which was terribly disappointing. I felt the movie gave no background or reasons for what Sylvia did, and it focused on her jealousy of her husband and his consequent affairs, with little attention paid to her work and writings. The IMDB gives one of the working titles as "Ted and Sylvia", which would have made more sense; because it's just called "Sylvia", one expects more of a biography.

So I went back to the journals in order to gain a better understanding of what happened in her life, and what caused her to commit suicide. Unfortunately the last two journals, covering the last three years of her life, are either missing or destroyed, so the volume ends with a cheerful account of their life and neighbors in Devon, England. However, I did quite enjoy reading the whole thing, except the parts that devolved into random thoughts and fragments, and found it a very interesting look into her personality. She was extraordinarily driven to be successful, often making lists of ways to move up in the world and spend more time writing, so that she comes off as rather narcissistic. I can sympathize, however, since my own journals include similar injunctions; sometimes one needs a good browbeating, and who better to give it than oneself?

About halfway through the journals, I bought an edition of her selected poems so that I could read the ones she referenced, and that was also illuminating. I don't particularly care for her poetry, especially the early works that seem a little too obfuscatory, but there is some beautiful imagery as well as wonderfully skillful scansion. I'd like to read more of her prose (other than The Bell Jar), to see if it's as well-written as certain of her journal entries.

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