Category Archives: Sylvia Plath

52 Years of The Bell Jar

TBJ

The Bell Jar was originally published on January 14, 1963.  So, as per usual, I am late in my blog post commemorating the anniversary!  If you’ve read older posts on my blog then you already know how much I adore Sylvia Plath and her writing.  I have her signature tattooed on my body, I visited the site of her former dormitory at Smith College, yadda, yadda, yadda….

The Bell Jar wasn’t the first piece that I read by Plath, but it is the piece that I connect with the most. I actually couldn’t tell you how old I was when I first read this novel, but I can tell you that I was a teenage girl struggling with things that teenage girls struggle with, but those teenage girl struggles sat atop something much deeper that I didn’t quite know how to put into words. Luckily, Sylvia Plath did. Finding this novel was like finding a confidant or a best friend who knew exactly what I was feeling. Someone who knew how hard it could be to just wake up in the morning and do the things that you love. Or just breathe. For me, this novel was a lifeline, and, in many ways, it still acts as one today.

Plath, like no other writer that I’ve read (yet?), illustrates depression very accurately. There is nothing fluffed up in the pages of The Bell Jar, and there aren’t any apologies either. The novel fully explores the darkness, the hopelessness, the madness, the stigma, and the unpredictability of the disease. You can’t necessarily look at another person – or their life – and really be able to tell whether or not they suffer from depression. But, yes, it is a disease, and, unfortunately, it sometimes feels as though it’s one disease that the sufferer needs to be embarrassed of or apologize for.

One of the greatest gifts that literature gives to the world is its ability to connect people across time, culture, space. In the case of The Bell Jar, we have a novel written 52 years ago that is as relevant now as it was then. To be a  person stifled by a bell jar of one’s own – to be able to pick up this novel and know that someone else out there, at some point in time, felt like you do right now. That’s an amazing and beautiful thing.

In conclusion, here are some of my favorite quotes from The Bell Jar.  What are yours?

“The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence.”

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery – air, mountains, trees, people. And I thought,’This is what it is to be happy.'”

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Contantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above were many more figs that I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

Plath

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Filed under American Author, American Poetry, Sylvia Plath

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads, grandfathers, and men who care for children that possibly aren’t their own!  Your work and role is a very important one and I hope that you all feel loved, appreciated, and celebrated today (and every day) of the year!

To go with the obvious choice (for me), enjoy Sylvia Plath reading “Daddy”! I sweat that I did attempt to find a happy poem, but I just wound up finding some kind of weirdo videos that indicated that they were poems written by children, but wound up containing images of some questionable (yet hilarious) SomeeCards.

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A celebration, this is: Sylvia Plath


Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932.  As we all know, she is no longer with us, but her writing and passion live on.  For me, personally, I have yet to find another writer who touches me in the same way that her words touch me.  Her fiction, poetry, letters, and personal journals are treasures that will all continue to live on as  classics forever.

In celebration of the memory of her life, here are a few videos of Sylvia Plath reading some of her work:

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Filed under Confessionalist, Favorites, Poetry, Sylvia Plath

Lovesong read by Ted Hughes

One of my favorites.  His voice sounds a little different than I’ve heard in other readings, but, still, a very beautiful reading of a powerful poem.

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Sylvia Plath reads “Parliament Hill Fields”

Because there’s nothing quite like hearing a poet read their own poem…

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Quotable Monday: Wanting – Sylvia Plath style

I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people that  I want and live all the lives that I want.  I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones, and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life.  And I am horribly limited.

Sylvia Plath

I find myself feeling this way quite frequently.  I guess that this is a big part of WHY I love Sylvia Plath oh-so-very much.

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Monday Quote: Creativity

This week’s quote is somewhat similar in meaning to the one from last week – only shorter.

The worst enemy of creativity is self-doubt

Sylvia Plath

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Monday Quote: The desire to be omniscient

I love people. Everybody. I love them, I think, as a stamp collector loves his collection. Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me. My love’s not impersonal yet not wholly subjective either. I would like to be everyone, a cripple, a dying man, a whore, and then come back to write about my thoughts, my emotions, as that person. But I am not omniscient. I have to live my life, and it is the only one I’ll ever have. And you cannot regard your own life with objective curiosity all the time.

Sylvia Plath

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Happy Thanksgiving! Books that I am thankful for…

For all of us in America, today is Thanksgiving.  For me, Thanksgiving is a good push to remind me to reflect upon all of the things in this world that I am thankful for.  And, every year, I tell myself that it is vital to keep all of these things fresh in my mind on a daily basis.  The older that I get, the easier it becomes to do this.  So, today, I decided would be the perfect opportunity to make a list of all of the books and/or authors that I am most thankful for.

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

Lord knows how many entries in this blog are now completely dedicated to either one of them and/or their children, but, as we know, Sylvia Plath is my all-time favorite.  Her signature is tattooed on my back.  All of her writing – whether it be poetry, prose, or her journal – inspires me.  She was the first writer that really got my jazzed about writing poetry and, if I’m ever in need of inspiration to write, I just pick up some of her work.

Ted Hughes writes differently than Plath, but thanks to my love of her, I was exposed to his work.  And I love it.  I won’t lie, I tend to prefer Birthday Letters to most of his other work, but all of his work is beautiful.  And this blog is named after a line from one of his poems, after all.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

This was a ‘required reading’ novel my sophomore year in high school.  The length looked daunting, but I started devouring it after getting into the first chapter.  The setting is bleak and the characters are awful to each other, which could potentially make for an entirely dreary read.  But, buried in all of this, there is a love and passion that just won’t cease to exist – no matter what.

As a teenage girl, yet to have a real boyfriend, I thought that the idea of having a Heathcliff in my life was absolutely DREAMY.  However, now, as a 27 year-old woman, I can honestly say that he would be exhausting to deal with.  Not to mention that in present-day, any sane woman would probably slap a restraining order on him as soon as possible, no matter how beautiful and dark he was.

In short, this is my kind of romance.  I revisit this book as frequently as possible.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

This book will (hopefully) disturb you, but it’s just so beautifully written, you can’t put it down.  Even translated, the prose writing by Nabokov is far more beautiful than the majority of poetry out there.  I am thankful every day that I made the choice to pick up this book and give it a whirl.  I would recommend this to everyone who loves and appreciates good literature.

Picture from Elle.com

Joyce Carol Oates

If I could meet any one person on the planet, I would easily – without hesitation – choose Joyce Carol Oates.  From the first pages of Beasts (the first book that I ever read by her), I have been madly in love with her work.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, I deeply admire her raw, honest writing and her ability to write her work so completely in the voice of her characters.  In addition to being a prolific writer, intelligent, and cutting edge, Oates is hilarious and charming, while not taking any gruff (or crummy interview questions) from anyone.

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

I already wrote about Miranda July earlier this week, but let us recap, shall we?  Miranda July, and all of work – specifically these stories – are refreshing.  She’s inspiration.  Her words bring me back to life, renew my hope, and get me really riled up to be alive.  Thank you for that, Ms. July.

Virginia Woolf

I am thankful for Virginia Woolf because, well, her writing is there to give me a good kick in the rear whenever I might be feeling a little too full of myself.  All I need to do is read the first page of The Waves and it’s like she’s speaking to me – Megan, now, you’re really not as smart as you sometimes think you are!  Silly Girl!  It’s true.  I own a fair number of her books, but have only successfully read two from beginning to end – To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway.  Some day, though, I hope to read them all.

Paradise by Toni Morrison

Read any book by Toni Morrison and you will be floored.  Her work is honest, raw, and powerful.  Paradise was the first book by her that I picked up to read that wasn’t a required reading book for school.  My praise for this novel is similar to my praise for Lolita – it’s poetic and beautiful.  Every page left me stunned by her power over the english language and left me wanting more.  Her work is a palpable reminder that there are still incredibly talented authors writing in the present-day.

The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Prior to reading these books, if you ever asked, I would have told you that I had absolutely zero interest in ever reading a series.  Back to back books written by the same author, featuring the same characters, and, most likely, written in a similar style, didn’t sound like a good time to me.  I’m all about variety.  Right?  Well, at the recommendation of a close friend, I gave these books a try.  I immediately fell in love with Lisbeth Salander and the intricate tales that Larsson was the master at weaving.  I am left wanting many, many more of these books.

I’m sure that after I post this, I am going to immediately think of a slew of other books and/or authors that I should have included.  The above list covers the best of the best, however, in my heart.  I am thankful to be literate and to have access to so many wonderful books – between Amazon, local bookstores, libraries, and my time studying literature in college, I am incredibly wealthy in this regard.

What books are you thankful for?

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Filed under Books, Classics, Collections, Emily Bronte, Favorites, Joyce Carol Oates, Nabokov, Series, Stieg Larsson, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Toni Morrison, Women Writers, Wuthering Heights

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Title:  The Bell Jar
Author:  Sylvia Plath
Length:  288 pages
ALL-TIME FAVORITE!

It’s hard to believe that I have yet to dedicate a post to The Bell Jar, but I just looked back and confirmed it.  What’s wrong with me?  This is my all-time favorite novel.  The only novel that I make it a point to revisit at least once a year.  Every time that I read it, I keep a pencil or highlighter in hand, because I always find some new passage that I absolutely need to make a note of.  Though, there are plenty of passages that are so powerful, that they stuck out from the beginning.  Such as from this past Quotable Monday post:

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.

From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.  One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Antila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above thee figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose.  I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

The Bell Jar sucks the reader into Esther’s downward spiral.  Plath makes mental illness completely accessible in the pages of this novel – you don’t, for a second, doubt what the character is going through.  At times, perhaps even a lot of the time, you see some of your own fears, paranoia, or thoughts reflected in what Esther is experiencing.

Additionally, the pages are full of memorable scenes, absurd characters, passages that will make you laugh, and some that will make you shiver.  For all of these reasons, and more, The Bell Jar is considered an American Classic.  And, for me, it will always be a personal favorite.

There is even talk that there will be a re-make of the film.  The talk has been going on for years now, but according to IMDB’s page, it’s slated for a 2012 release and starring Julia Stiles and, possibly, Rose McGowan.  All I can say is that it can’t POSSIBLY be any worse than the version that came out in the 1970s.  “YIKES!” is the only word to describe that theatrical failure.

Purchase The Bell Jar on Amazon.

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