18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 20 October 2003
‘I think I am worthwhile just because I have optical nerves and can try to put down what they perceive. What a fool’
I ‘discovered’ Sylvia Plath while dusting down shelves in the second-hand bookstore where I worked. The blurb on the back of that book said something about her being married to Ted Hughes, and so I bought it using my employee discount...bought it because I knew that Ted Hughes was a Poet Laureate and reckoned he knew a good poet when he came across one………………ten years and a university education later I bought this unabridged volume of Sylvia Plath’s journals simply because in the intervening years I had found a voice in her work that I recognized and devoured… I, along with countless thousands – Sylvia Plath is now recognized as one of the most remarkable poets of the Twentieth century with her life and work being the subject of Hollywood movies, review articles and many, many books.
Edited by Karen V. Kukil, this volume contains material taken directly from original journals now housed at Smith College, Massachusetts where Plath began her student life in 1950. While unabridged the journals are by no means complete – they begin with entries from 1950, include two previously sealed journals for the first time and continue right up to fragments written just seven months before her death in 1963. However, the two complete journals she wrote in the last three years of her life are not included – one was destroyed by Ted Hughes after her death, the other has famously disappeared.
In this volume Plath’s wondrous, wondrous use of language and imagery to recount her daily life, musings, desires and fears leave you gasping at their sheer brilliancy. Even if you had never heard of her, and some pure chance had placed this book in your hands, you could not help, upon reading the first few pages, to be but enthralled by her startling intellect, her innate grasp of the powers of description as a tool to portray life.
The journals have been superbly supplemented in this volume by photographs throughout, and additional notes at the end giving details about people, places and events mentioned throughout the journals which, along with physical descriptions of the various notebooks and pages she used, make this volume a truly fantastic book.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 13 October 2009
I wish I could have given this book 5 stars, the content is riveting, but I decided to give it four because of the editing by Karen V. Kukil.
The Journals of Sylvia Plath as we all know are incomplete, they were edited (sanitized) by her husband Ted Hughes. No doubt whatsoever that the material he 'lost' was detrimental to him. The only thing he allows in the book is her account of his dalliance with a student, after which she begins to see him in a different light. It leaves you at the end of the book feeling very sorry for this woman, and wanting to find out more. (Which one can't help feeling was a marketing ploy by Hughes, who sold the rights to her book the Bell Jar to the Americans after her death in spite of her mother's objections, so that he could raise the money to buy a third home).
Sylvia Plath was brilliant, sexy, vivacious and sociable. She was also completely obsessed with analyzing the working of her mind, her emotions and sensitivities. She was narcissistic, selfish and critical to the point of meanness. The rawness of her emotions is hard to take sometimes. What a normal person would consider to be a rough sea of life and cope accordingly, she turns into a force 10 hurricane. One cannot help feeling that the journals were written to be published, that the author KNEW someday they would be discovered and read by everyone. The writing is beautiful. The very first entry July 1950 is a delight:-
"I may never be happy, but tonight I am content. Nothing more than an empty house, the warm hazy weariness from a day spent setting strawberry runners in the sun, a glass of cool sweet milk, and a shallow dish of blueberries bathed in cream......"
Once started, it is hard to put the book down.
A word now about the editing. I think the book could have been better organized for the general reader, it is formatted like a text book. All the cross-referencing! I had to use two bookmarks all the way through the reading of the book. The 'Notes' could have been at the bottom of each page instead of hidden at the back of the book. The Appendices could have been Notes at the end of each appertaining journal section, and the Index could have been better arranged. The section on Sylvia Plath (which takes up 5 1/2 pages of the index) should have been separated from the rest, to make it less confusing.