The Bell Jar: a novel

The Bell Jar: a novel

The Bell Jar — Sylvia Plath

One of those books everyone said I needed to read, and that was some time back, thirty years or more? The author — Sylvia Plath — was introduced to me through a survey of modern American poetry since the WWII, and she was listed as an example of the confessional poets.

As a local library1 book though, it caught my attention, and I don’t know why. In part, the pandemic has made is possible to carve out whole swaths of time for reading books, and in part, I was not happy with my steady diet of thriller/procedural, and my long-standing love of Science Fiction has grown largely dystopian, and perhaps too realistic. Given current conditions, it’s no wonder.

Married to the poet Ted Hughs (citation needed), and the book was first published under a pseudonym (citation needed), does it introduce elements that show up a few years later? The style made me think about several2 semi-historical3 pieces I’ve read, same kind of flavor4, to me.

The novel creaks with historical data, making a place in the material from New York when New York was but a babe in the woods, right around the corner of the beginning of the 1960’s. Some material must be forgiven, but recall, I was first introduced to Sylvia Plath as a poet, not a novelist, and what brings joy is that poet’s economy of words.

As a part of my education, sure, it fits with what’s important. As literature, the styling, to me, treads that thin line between being a hyper-aware caricature of itself, and the roots of the artist’s own dilemma and mental health. Writing can be mental health hygiene.

The melliferous prose, drifting backwards to see the book’s scenes as black and white TV, old-style with oval edges. Swept away with the words themselves, I never grasped the central conceit implicit in its title.

King Claudius, to confuse the issue? The regicide/fratricide archetype?

“Madness in great one must no unwatched go.”
(Hamlet, 3.1)

The Bell Jar — Sylvia Plath

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