Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath

Continuing in the review of books I've read while convalescing from surgery, today we'll discuss "The Bell Jar."  For those of you not "in the know," the book is a thinly veiled autobiographical account of Plath's own downward spiral into depression and psychosis.

TBJ was published in the UK after Plath's self-inflicted death, if I remember correctly the sequence of events, so obviously the psychiatric care she received as a young woman wore off at some point.  The book wasn't legally available in the United States until 8 or 10 years after its publication in the UK because her mother didn't want to upset people who would read the book and see themselves in it.

Unbeknownst to myself, the book has a strange sort of parallelism to my life at present.  No, I have no plans to become delusional and psychotic, nor do I have any desire to kill myself.  But the main character's depression is triggered by her rejection from a program she badly wants to enter (writing with a famous author at a summer program), and after her rejection, she is at a loss for what to do with herself.  See what I mean?  But where the main character in the book decides to kill herself, I have opted to further clutter the blogosphere with inanities and to devote my time to Facebook, a worthwhile cause if ever I found one.

Ms. Plath's writing is vivid and breathtaking, and she had the ability to create incredible mental images of the characters' situations, so that a fantastically detailed movie seems to run in the reader's head.

I can imagine that some people wouldn't want to read The Bell Jar because of its focus on depression and the havoc it wreaks on people: those depressed and those dealing with the depressed.  These people are most likely the same that think "Lolita" is just a dirty book and a work of no literary consequence.  These people should not read this blog.

I'm glad I read The Bell Jar; it's another book to mark off the list of Highly Respected Modern Literature I Have Not Read.  Whether it will become a book I read again and again, like some of my favorite biographies and Jeffrey Eugenides' "Middlesex" is doubtful.  Wonderful as it is, it was a heavy read, albeit darkly funny in places.  I had to steel myself in order to read it, and that's not something I like having to do.

But it will certainly look impressive on my bookshelves.

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