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The Journals of Sylvia Plath Hardcover – 24 Mar 2000


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; First Edition edition (24 Mar. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571197043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571197040
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 4.7 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 168,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and studied at Smith College. In 1955 she went to Cambridge University on a Fulbright scholarship, where she met and later married Ted Hughes. She published one collection of poems in her lifetime, The Colossus (1960), and a novel, The Bell Jar (1963). Her Collected Poems, which contains her poetry written from 1956 until her death, was published in 1981 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

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Amazon Review

"I have experienced love, sorrow, madness and if I cannot make these experiences meaningful, no new experience will help me". --Sylvia Plath, November 15, 1959.

In the decades that have followed the suicide of Sylvia Plath in February 1963, much has been written and speculated about her life; most particularly her marriage to fellow-poet Ted Hughes and her last months spent writing the stark, confessional poems that became Ariel and that posthumously made her name. The myths surrounding Plath were intensified by the strong grip her estate--managed by Hughes and his sister Olwyn--had over the release of her work. Sylvia Plath kept journals from the age of 11 until her death at 30. Previously only available in an abridged American edition, with heavy black scorings out of passages that Ted Hughes did not at the time want read, The Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962 is the first unabridged publication of Plath's diaries, scrupulously transcribed (with every spelling mistake and grammatical error left intact) and annotated by Karen V. Kukil, curator at Plath's US alma mater, Smith College.

The Journals show the breathless adolescent obsessed with her burgeoning sexuality, the serious university student competing to get the highest grades while engaging in the human merry-go-round of 1950s dating, the graduate year spent at Cambridge University where Plath's auspicious first meeting with Ted Hughes took place; their marriage a few months later ("He is a genius. I his wife"). Plath's documentation of the two years (1957-1959) the couple spent in the US teaching and writing highlights explicitly the dilemma of the late 1950s' woman--still swaddled in expectations of domesticity, yet attempting to forge her own independent professional and personal life. This period also reveals in detail the therapy sessions in which Plath lets loose her antipathy for her mother and her grief at her father's death when she was eight--a contrast to the bright, all-American persona she presented to her mother in the correspondence that was published as Letters Home. There are some notable omissions in terms of chronology. Plath's breakdown during the summer of 1953, attempted suicide and hospitalisation are not covered in any great detail in her journals, but she recorded the events minutely in her one novel, The Bell Jar. Fragments of diaries exist after 1959, which saw the couple's return to England and rural retreat in Devon, the birth of their two children, and their separation in late 1962. An extended piece on the illness and death of an elderly neighbour during this period is particularly affecting and was later turned into the poem "Berck-Plage". Much has been made of the "lost diaries" that Plath kept until her suicide--one simply appears to have vanished, the other was burnt by Hughes after her death. It would seem rapacious to wish for more details of Plath's despair in her final days, however. This was crystallised in the poems that became Ariel, and this is what the voice of her journals ultimately send the reader back to: Plath's life has for too long been obfuscated by anecdote, distorting her major contribution to late 20th-century literature. As she wrote in "Kindness": "The blood jet is poetry. There is no stopping it". --Catherine Taylor

About the Author

Sylvia Plath (1932–63) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and studied at Smith College. In 1955 she went to Cambridge University on a Fulbright scholarship, where she met and later married Ted Hughes. She published one collection of poems in her lifetime, The Colossus (1960), and a novel, The Bell Jar (1963). Her Collected Poems, which contains her poetry written from 1956 until her death, was published in 1981 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 April 2001
Format: Paperback
Since Plath's suicide in 1963, many people have attempted to search for answers in Plath's writing as to why she chose to take her life. This collection of journals is satisfying not because it can provide answers to why she killed herself (we will never have the definitive answer to that, and besides, her last two journals prior to the suicide are not included here - one was lost, the other destroyed by Ted Hughes). No, reading these journals is satisfying because the writer exudes pure talent. Whilst reading you are forced to stand back, awe-struck, at the skill with which she could write, even at the age of eighteen. What we see is someone who is driven, someone with aspirations, and a desire to be successful in everything she does. And yet, alongside this ambition, is someone full of rage and insecurity. Plath's desires battled against one another - the need to be a well-respected, published writer: 'I depend too desperately on getting my poems, my little glib poems, accepted by the New Yorker', and the desire to be a wife and mother, and enter the world of pleasant domesticity: 'I long to permeate the matter of this world: to become anchored to life by laundry and lilacs, daily bread and fried eggs...'
I could not recommend this book more highly, whether you are an admirer of Plath's work or not, and anyone wishing to become a writer themselves could certainly do worse than to look to collection for inspiration.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 29 Mar. 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was skeptical about this publication. I already own the abridged edition of Plath's journals and wasn't sure that this book would provide new information. But I'm glad I ordered it. The wealth of material provides a more comprehensive perspective. The book follows Plath from the insecure teenage years through her first breakdown, her first serious love affair and up to her marriage and finally motherhood. It details her struggles with depression, but most of all her incredible vitality and love of life - of colours, textures, food, sex and literature - seem to jump off the pages. Plath's journals for her last three years are not available; one was destroyed, the other stolen. And the remaining journals are full of fragments and missing bits, raising more questions than they answer. The fascination of this book is that the enigma of Sylvia Plath remains. At times she is a trite, boy crazy college girl, then she is suicidally depressed, then struggling with sinusitis, writing and working, hoping and dreaming, loving and despising, posing for an audience, manipulating to hide her vulnerability, paradoxically always striving for authenticity in her life and work. This book doesn't answer the question: Who was Sylvia? - except maybe in her own words: "A passionate, fragmentary girl".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 April 2000
Format: Hardcover
"The Journals of Sylvia Plath" is essential reading for those who truly desire to get to the heart of Plath's brilliant poetry. Because she is one of the innovators of "confessional" poetry (along with her friend and contemporary, Anne Sexton), the direct inspiration for Plath's verse is nothing less than her very personal life, and without a grasp of that life, it is impossible to fully appreciate the poetry. The "Journals", now in their most complete form to date, are the very best source of insight into the intricate workings of a mind of pure genius as it both processed and reacted to the numerous hurdles that life threw its way. Of course, it was precisely how she struggled with these hurdles that Plath painstakingly versified and concealed under layers and layers of metaphorical language and complicated structural schemes, the end result of which is poetry that at once screams of raw truth while actively challenging the reader to channel all of his/her faculties toward the difficult but exhilarating task of excavating this truth from the artistry. But even apart from the poetry, Plath's "Journals" is quite simply one of the most beautifully written and heartrending works of American prose of the twentieth century.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 May 2000
Format: Hardcover
Whilst studying Ariel in English literature at a-level, it seemed only appropriate to read Plath's journals. They give such an insight to her deteriorating state of mind and indeed, her whole existance. Plath's reasoning behind her poems becomes clearer having read her journals. Even the things that, to us as readers appear to be very trivial are vital clues to implications made in her poems. It is a moving set of diary entries that, in conjunction with The Bell Jar make us really start to understand Plath's final years.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mandy on 8 Aug. 2002
Format: Paperback
Not knowing much about Plath, I read 'The Bell Jar' before finding this book. As a great reader of people's journals I thought it would give me a closer look at one of the most famous writers, well, ever. In so many places it could have been me talking, and in so many more I wish it was. As her private journals for her eyes only, they show how Plath's expression of the world around her could be re-created on the page, showing the same care and precision that was used in her novel and poetry. How many other people's diaries are as expressive as this?
A great read for anyone interested in Plath or Hughes, or anyone just interested in reading the private thoughts of a great writer!
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