Mad girl's love song Sylvia Plath and life before Ted

Andrew Wilson, 1967-

Book - 2013

In 1956, 23-year-old Sylvia Plath walked into a party and immediately spotted Ted Hughes. This encounter--now one of the most famous in all literary history--began what has become a modern myth. Sylvia viewed Ted as something of a colossus, and to this day his enormous shadow has obscured her life and work. Before she met Ted, Plath had lived a complex, creative, and disturbing life. Her father had died when she was only eight; she had gone out with hundreds of men, had been unofficially engaged..., had attempted suicide, and had written more than 200 poems. This book chronicles these early years, traces the sources of her mental instability, and examines how a range of personal, economic, and societal factors conspired against her. Drawing on exclusive interviews with friends and lovers who have never spoken openly about Plath before, and using previously unavailable archives and papers, this is the first book to focus on the early life of the twentieth century's most popular and enduring female poet.--From publisher description.

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BIOGRAPHY/Plath, Sylvia
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Subjects
Published
New York : Scribner 2013.
Edition
1st Scribner hardcover ed
Language
English
Physical Description
vii, 368 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (p. 319-344) and index.
ISBN
1476710317
9781476710310
Main Author
Andrew Wilson, 1967- (-)
  • This haunting nameless pain
  • My thoughts to shining fame aspire
  • The ghost of somebody else
  • If I rest, if I think inward, I go mad
  • Who is Sylvia?
  • I myself am Heaven and Hell
  • Drowning in self hate, doubt, madness
  • The beginnings of "The bell jar"
  • I am chained to you as you are to your dreams
  • Now, Voyager
  • In the depths of the forest your image follows me.
Review by Library Journal Reviews

Poet and novelist Plath (1932–63, Ariel; The Bell Jar) became a literary legend in part because of her highly personal writing and the publicity surrounding her suicide in 1964 at age 30. Unlike other biographies of Plath, journalist Wilson's (Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith; Harold Robbins) effort details her life before she met and married writer Ted Hughes, revealing the nuances of her desperate and success-driven personality. As a scholarship student at Smith College, Plath was writing for major periodicals, engaged in a highly active social life with men, and achieving high honors academically. Wilson draws heavily from Plath's diary entries to divulge her deeper struggles, particularly those with her mother. Her writings offer clues to the possible reasons for her breakdown, suggesting that personal insecurities, financial instability, and loss of her father were significant factors. VERDICT While Wilson takes readers inside the character of a gifted writer, the detailed accounts of Plath as a teenage socialite seem endless. Nonetheless, the biography succeeds in illuminating her exploits while making a significant contribution to Plath scholarship.—Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo, NY [Page 80]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

To curtail fears that this latest Plath biography forges already blatant connections between her work and her torrid inner life or her relationship with Ted Hughes, be assured, it is something altogether new. Wilson (Beautiful Shadow) fulfills his title's promise, divulging her impressive string of romances, love-hate relationship with her mother, and "vampiric" interactions with those close to her, among other atypical and unconventional issues. While the significance of some seemingly frivolous details may appear momentous, it's refreshing that Wilson does not make Plath's suicide his focus, just as he examines her earlier, formative publications in magazines such Seventeen, Mademoiselle, and Ladies Home Journal as often—if not more so—as he does her better known work. This is a rare biography whose narrative style is artful enough that its appeal will range from those who're utterly unfamiliar with Plath's work to those who've inundated themselves in it. Wilson incorporates previously unpublished correspondence, interviews, and creative work to bring to life a rarely illuminated time within a great mind. As he follows Plath in her search for identity and struggle with a threatening darkness, he casts her not as he would have her, but as she was. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander (UK) (Jan.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Review by PW Annex Reviews

To curtail fears that this latest Plath biography forges already blatant connections between her work and her torrid inner life or her relationship with Ted Hughes, be assured, it is something altogether new. Wilson (Beautiful Shadow) fulfills his title's promise, divulging her impressive string of romances, love-hate relationship with her mother, and "vampiric" interactions with those close to her, among other atypical and unconventional issues. While the significance of some seemingly frivolous details may appear momentous, it's refreshing that Wilson does not make Plath's suicide his focus, just as he examines her earlier, formative publications in magazines such Seventeen, Mademoiselle, and Ladies Home Journal as often—if not more so—as he does her better known work. This is a rare biography whose narrative style is artful enough that its appeal will range from those who're utterly unfamiliar with Plath's work to those who've inundated themselves in it. Wilson incorporates previously unpublished correspondence, interviews, and creative work to bring to life a rarely illuminated time within a great mind. As he follows Plath in her search for identity and struggle with a threatening darkness, he casts her not as he would have her, but as she was. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander (UK) (Jan.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Draws on exclusive interviews as well as previously unavailable archives to illuminate the writer's life outside of her relationship with Ted Hughes, offering insight into her poetry and prose while revealing the origins of her unique style.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Draws on exclusive interviews with friends and lovers as well as previously unavailable archives and papers to illuminate the famous writer's life outside of her relationship with Ted Hughes, offering insight into her lesser-known poetry and prose while revealing the origins of her unique style. By the award-winning author of Beautiful Shadow.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

In 1956, 23-year-old Sylvia Plath walked into a party and immediately spotted Ted Hughes. This encounter--now one of the most famous in all literary history--began what has become a modern myth. Sylvia viewed Ted as something of a colossus, and to this day his enormous shadow has obscured her life and work. Before she met Ted, Plath had lived a complex, creative, and disturbing life. Her father had died when she was only eight; she had gone out with hundreds of men, had been unofficially engaged, had attempted suicide, and had written more than 200 poems. This book chronicles these early years, traces the sources of her mental instability, and examines how a range of personal, economic, and societal factors conspired against her. Drawing on exclusive interviews with friends and lovers who have never spoken openly about Plath before, and using previously unavailable archives and papers, this is the first book to focus on the early life of the twentieth century's most popular and enduring female poet.--From publisher description.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Many volumes have been written about poet and author Sylvia Plath (1932-62), but much of the myth surrounding her has been filtered by, and focused on the years after her marriage to, fellow poet Ted Hughes--who some blame for her suicide. Drawing on unpublished papers and interviews with relatives, boyfriends, and former classmates at Smith College, journalist Wilson offers insights into her brilliance and mental illness prior to meeting Hughes. The title derives from one of Plath's favorite poems, which Hughes did not include in her Collected Poems. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Review by Publisher Summary 5

From an award-winning author comes a groundbreaking biography of Sylvia Plath, focusing on her childhood, adolescence, and early years of writing, creating a new portrait of this iconic yet still mysterious literary legend.A new biography of Sylvia Plath, a literary icon who continues to haunt, fascinate, and enthrall even now, fifty years after her death On February 25 , 1956, twenty-three-year-old Sylvia Plath walked into a party and immediately spotted Ted Hughes. This encounter—now one of the most famous in all of literary history—was recorded by Plath in her journal, where she described Hughes as a “big, dark, hunky boy.” Sylvia viewed Ted as something of a colossus, and to this day his enormous shadow has obscured her life and work. The sensational aspects of the Plath-Hughes relationship have dominated the cultural landscape to such an extent that their story has taken on the resonance of a modern myth. Before she met Ted, Plath had lived a complex, creative, and disturbing life. Her father had died when she was only eight; she had gone out with literally hundreds of men, had been unofficially engaged, had tried to commit suicide, and had written more than two hundred poems. Mad Girl’s Love Song chronicles these early years, traces the sources of her mental instability, and examines how a range of personal, economic, and societal factors—the real disquieting muses— conspired against her. Drawing on exclusive interviews with friends and lovers who have never spoken openly about Plath before and using previously unavailable archives and papers, this is the first book to focus on the early life of the twentieth century’s most popular and enduring female poet. Mad Girl’s Love Song reclaims Sylvia Plath from the tangle of emotions associated with her relationship with Ted Hughes and reveals the origins of her unsettled and unsettling voice.