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Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 (P.S.) Paperback – 1 Apr 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 265 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (1 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062085557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062085559
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 617,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Pub Date: 2014-04-01 Pages: 304 Language: English Publisher: HarperCollins Pain. Parties. Work by Elizabeth Winder is a compelling look at a young Sylvia Plath and the life-changing month that would lay the groundwork for her seminal novel. The Bell Jar.In May of 1953. a twenty-one-year-old Plath arrived in New York City. the guest editor of Mademoiselle's annual College Issue. She lived at the Barbizon Hotel. attended the ballet. went to a Yankee game. and danced at the West Side Tennis Club. She was supposed to be having the time of her life. But what would follow was. in Plath's words. twenty-six days of pain. parties. and work. that ultimately changed the course of her life.Thoughtful and illuminating. featuring line drawings and black-and-white photographs. Pain. Parties. Work: Sylvia Plath in New York. Summer 1953 offers well-researched insights as it introduces us to ...

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 6 Jun. 2013
Format: Hardcover
I've read a lot of Sylvia Plath biographies and her time in New York is often given less attention so writer can skip to the part with Ted Hughes. Lots of interesting social context about the period and interviews with other guest editors, it seems a lot of original research was done rather than just taking through old stuff. An interesting and enjoyable read.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie De Pue TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 13 April 2013
Format: Hardcover
"Pain, Parties, Work." by the American poet Elizabeth Winder is a look at a young Sylvia Plath, whom many consider to have been the greatest American female poet of the 20th century. Plath is legendary for her collections of poetry, her novel The Bell Jar, her courtship and marriage to British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, and her suicide, at age 30. With dirty hair, pasty white skin from the unusually severe British winter of 1963, as Winder says, "London's coldest since the days of King James when the Thames froze over." And, as is well-known, Plath did it by means of her oven, with her children in the house. But the book at hand gives us a look at a 21 year old Sylvia Plath. On May 31, 1953, as she settled into New York City to be one of 20 guest editors of the prestigious annual College Issue of what was then - but is now defunct--"the intellectual fashion magazine," for young women, MADEMOISELLE.

The author says," Sylvia Plath was fully immersed in the material culture of her time. She took pleasure in clothes, makeup, magazines, and food - a fact that runs counter to the crude reductions of Plath as a tortured artist. Sylvia was highly social - she volunteered, joined clubs, attended lectures, parties, and dances. At twenty, she was more likely to view herself within the context of her peer group than as an isolated individual. "

Mademoiselle had made it clear to its young guest editors in advance that, sweltering New York summer or not, it expected them always to wear gloves, acceptable earrings, smart hats, stockings, girdles, and no white shoes.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 92 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
"People are like boxes. You would like to open them up and see what's inside, but you can't." 16 April 2013
By Amelia Gremelspacher - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this eminently readable book, Syliva Plath is quoted as saying this to her startled friend Laurie after a day at the zoo. Her friend thought she might have been referring to the people watching they had done, but I think Sylvia meant herself. This book centers around the dream job of junior editor at Mademoiselle given to Sylvia and nineteen other girls. Curiously, a covert hand writing expert had warned her staff that she was likely to suffer a breakdown, something she found out by accident. Her editor saw her to be all facade. "You might be there another day and find an entirely different personality."

Interspersed within the discourse are a multitude of quotes and observations made by the people who interacted with this brilliant young woman. Her own journal is quoted where possible. And her works at Mademoiselle are cited. This technique should make for boxy and irritating flow to the prose, but in fact achieves just the opposite. And I believe this interspersing of stories emphasizes the inner contradictions suffered by Sylvia. If nothing else, she experienced the conflict of needing solitude to write while working in a deeply social setting.

The "normalcy" of the bright and shining writer has long confounded readers. She adored fashion, ate to satiation, and enjoyed luxury. When not pulled back into herself, she could be entertaining and wryly funny. To me this work actually seems to complete a piece of the puzzle of the illness of the golden girl. Now, years later, psychiatry is well acquainted with the tragedy of the young person glinting with potential returning home from college and or work in complete breakdown. At the age of twenty, Sylvia was ripe for the breathrough of genetic predisposition or for the expression of neurochemicals or for the appearance of whatever theorized function of this breakdown that can occur in early adulthood. While the stress of Mademoiselle probably hastened the process, it seems unlikely to have caused it.

This interpretation of Plath's illness added a dimension to this novel for me. But one certanily can find contradictory meanings to mine and still feel trememdously fulfilled by the skill of this work. The author has taken a risk in format and I think it paid off well. The prose is deeply compelling and one can almost feel that you can put down your book and find yourself in the newly stylish New York of the middle of the century. I highly recommend that you read this book.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Nonfiction Companion Book for The Bell Jar 28 April 2013
By FatChickDancing - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Part of author Elizabeth Winder's title,(Pain, Parties, Work,) may derive from a line early in the first chapter of Sylvia Plath's novel, The Bell Jar, page 3, "Only I wasn't steering anything, not even myself. I just bumped from my hotel to work and to parties and from parties to my hotel and back to work like a numb trolleybus."

The Bell Jar is a classic novel. A fictionalized autobiography about a woman's descent into mental illness in the middle of the twentieth century. The power of this deeply personal story is as iconic as that of Marilyn Monroe, a contemporary, who was faced with some similar pressures in the pre-feminist world of the 1950's and early 1960's. Winder even recounts a dream Sylvia had about Marilyn.

In testimony to it's popularity, The Bell Jar still fetches a fairly high price on this website, as well as elsewhere, and is still required reading in some literature courses. Sylvia Plath's poetry is what appeals to me the most, so when I saw the title of Winder's book, I knew I wanted to read and review it.

As a nonfiction book, it has an extensive bibliography and provides comments from the other guest editors who were invited to that summer internship at Mademoiselle, as well as minute details of the fashions, the food, the wild nightlife. I hadn't read The Bell Jar before Winder's book, so I felt overwhelmed by the amount of detail and facts, wondering what purpose it all served.

So I read the novel, and suddenly all those details and facts corroborated the thinly veiled truth of Sylvia's story. I believe each book strengthens the other, that's why I rate Winder's four stars. By itself, it isn't nearly as important as it becomes as a companion reader to The Bell Jar.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Captivating Attention to Detail 20 April 2013
By Richard Sims - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I've little/no interest in the standard "tortured artist" tropes about Plath, and that's why this book appealed.

Instead of focusing on the negative - Plath's later depression, unhappiness and eventual suicide - the book celebrates the life and times of a young woman discovering young adulthood in New York City.

Winder's attention to detail is utterly captivating, and central to the books appeal. Want to know what the carpet looked like in the Barbizon Hotel? Check. Want to know what lipstick Plath wore? Check. Want to know what she thought of her peers? Check.

Instead of supposition and speculation, we've first hand testimonial and recollection from Plath's friends.

Highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Fresh Look at Plath 26 May 2013
By lectrice - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's finely constructed, rich in nostalgia, and totally fun. It doesn't attempt to be the definitive word on the Plath psyche, but rather offers a completely unique and refreshing perspective on the young poet, one to which any woman can identify. Plath's suicide, like most, will remain an enigma. So to focus on the lighter side of the collegian and future literary icon was a dare, one the author pulls off famously.

Winder is obviously a Plath devotee, and as a poet herself, no doubt knows her life and work by heart. So it's to her credit that she concentrates on one vital month in Plath's short life, of which very little is written--not even by the 20-year-old Sylvia herself in her journals. Winder cleverly uses what resources exist to delicately piece together a captivating account of those 26 days Sylvia spent in a sweltering 1950s New York. The result is a solid piece of nonfiction, as effortless to read as the lightest novel.

Pain, Parties, Work left me wanting to read more on Plath and more by Elizabeth Winder. It will compel you to reread and appreciate even more The Bell Jar, which sixty years on remains timeless.

A delightful read--recommended for women of all ages.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
I was so enchanted with this book 7 May 2013
By Tiffany A. Harkleroad - Published on
Format: Hardcover
During the summer of 1953, Sylvia Plath spent a month in New York City, as a guest editor at Mademoiselle. The month ended up being a pivotal point in Sylvia's life, and affected her mental state in ways she never imagined. She saw this as an opportunity to meet people, socialize, and drink in the sites of Manhattan. Instead, she ended up overworked, exhausted, and disenchanted with the city. In this book, we see an entirely different side of Sylvia.

I absolutely loved this book. My first experience of Sylvia Plath was in a college literature class, where we studied some of her poetry. Like many who experience her in a literary sense, I always thought Plath was so dark, and melancholy. And while there is no denying that, later in life, she was both of those things, this book gave me a chance to see a lighter side of Sylvia, buoyant with hope and vitality. She was barely an adult when she went to New York, but she was mature beyond her years.

I really loved that this book showed the readers Sylvia from other people's perspectives. Many of the other women who were guest editors that summer were interviewed for the book, not only about their own experience, but also about their views of Sylvia. I really enjoyed getting such a robust portrait of Sylvia. There was something slightly decadent about this book, like a guilty pleasure. I felt very wrapped up in the story, completed transported to mid-century Manhattan.

I think fans of Plath will really love this book, as it gives such a different view of her. But I also think that fans of biographies in general will appreciate this book.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.
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