Tag 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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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: 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

Welcoming Winter with Poetry – albeit a little early.

Alright.  It’s October.  It’s snowing.  This is madness.  No matter how much I, and 98% of other New Englanders hate it, it’s happening.  So, let us pause our moaning and take a moment to “embrace” the early entrance of “winter” into our lives this year with some poetry by Sylvia Plath.  Yes, Sylvia Plath again.  She’s my favorite and that’s really the only reason that I ever need to assault you with her work.

Winter Trees

The wet dawn inks are doing their blue dissolve.
On their blotter of fog the trees
Seem a botanical drawing.
Memories growing, ring on ring,
A series of weddings.

Knowing neither abortions nor bitchery,
Truer than women,
They seed so effortlessly!
Tasting the winds, that are footless,
Waist-deep in history.

Full of wings, otherworldliness.
In this, they are Ledas.
O mother of leaves and sweetness
Who are these pietas?
The shadows of ringdoves chanting, but chasing nothing.

A Winter Ship

At this wharf there are no grand landings to speak of.
Red and orange barges list and blister
Shackled to the dock, outmoded, gaudy,
And apparently indestructible.
The sea pulses under a skin of oil.

A gull holds his pose on a shanty ridgepole,
Riding the tide of the wind, steady
As wood and formal, in a jacket of ashes,
The whole flat harbor anchored in
The round of his yellow eye-button.

A blimp swims up like a day-moon or tin
Cigar over his rink of fishes.
The prospect is dull as an old etching.
They are unloading three barrels of little crabs.
The pier pilings seem about to collapse

And with them that rickety edifice
Of warehouses, derricks, smokestacks and bridges
In the distance. All around us the water slips
And gossips in its loose vernacular,
Ferrying the smells of cod and tar.

Farther out, the waves will be mouthing icecakes —
A poor month for park-sleepers and lovers.
Even our shadows are blue with cold.
We wanted to see the sun come up
And are met, instead, by this iceribbed ship,

Bearded and blown, an albatross of frost,
Relic of tough weather, every winch and stay
Encased in a glassy pellicle.
The sun will diminish it soon enough:
Each wave-tip glitters like a knife.

Wintering

This is the easy time, there is nothing doing.
I have whirled the midwife’s extractor,
I have my honey,
Six jars of it,
Six cat’s eyes in the wine cellar,

Wintering in a dark without window
At the heart of the house
Next to the last tenant’s rancid jam
and the bottles of empty glitters–
Sir So-and-so’s gin.

This is the room I have never been in
This is the room I could never breathe in.
The black bunched in there like a bat,
No light
But the torch and its faint

Chinese yellow on appalling objects–
Black asininity. Decay.
Possession.
It is they who own me.
Neither cruel nor indifferent,

Only ignorant.
This is the time of hanging on for the bees–the bees
So slow I hardly know them,
Filing like soldiers
To the syrup tin

To make up for the honey I’ve taken.
Tate and Lyle keeps them going,
The refined snow.
It is Tate and Lyle they live on, instead of flowers.
They take it. The cold sets in.

Now they ball in a mass,
Black
Mind against all that white.
The smile of the snow is white.
It spreads itself out, a mile-long body of Meissen,

Into which, on warm days,
They can only carry their dead.
The bees are all women,
Maids and the long royal lady.
They have got rid of the men,

The blunt, clumsy stumblers, the boors.
Winter is for women–
The woman, still at her knitting,
At the cradle of Spanis walnut,
Her body a bulb in the cold and too dumb to think.

Will the hive survive, will the gladiolas
Succeed in banking their fires
To enter another year?
What will they taste of, the Christmas roses?
The bees are flying. They taste the spring.

Sylvia Plath on Amazon.

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