Three-martini afternoons at the Ritz The rebellion of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton

Gail Crowther

Book - 2021

"A dual biography of poets, friends, and rivals Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton"--

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BIOGRAPHY/Plath, Sylvia
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2nd Floor BIOGRAPHY/Plath, Sylvia Due Jun 16, 2022
Subjects
Genres
Biographies
Published
New York : Gallery Books 2021.
Edition
First Gallery Books hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xix, 280 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 23 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 273-280).
ISBN
9781982138394
1982138394
9781982138424
1982138424
Main Author
Gail Crowther (author)
  • Introduction: Kicking at the Door of Fame
  • Rebels
  • Early Days
  • Sex
  • Marriage
  • Mothering
  • Writing
  • Mental Illness
  • Suicide
  • Epilogue.
Review by Library Journal Reviews

That two among the 20th century's most influential poets grew up in the same town at the same time and ended up sharing a poetry workshop under a third, Robert Lowell, seems almost unbelievable. And yet here they are, two towering figures of modern American poetry: Sylvia Plath (1932–63) and Anne Sexton (1928–74), not only living strangely parallel lives, but also struggling with depression, societal expectations, gender roles, and—sadly—similar ends: suicide. In this compelling and extremely informative dual biography, feminist scholar Crowther (coauthor, Sylvia Plath in Devon) explores the sometimes-strained relations between these two writers and the forces that drove them. The focus is less on literary analysis than psychological and societal influences. Nevertheless, it is a thrilling read. Crowther skillfully walks readers through those inebriating early years when Plath and Sexton met as nervous young poets through their blossoming into major literary figures and into the darkness of their struggles with difficult marriages and depression. Offering a powerful and disturbing look into the forces that drive us to creativity and to our own destruction, with all its details of infidelities and hardships, cigarettes, and sorrows, this book leaves readers hungering for more of what these two literary comets burned with: the power of a little poetry. VERDICT Deliriously fast-paced and erudite, this is highly recommended for all literature, poetry, and women's studies collections.—Herman Sutter, St. Agnes Acad., Houston Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Crowther (The Haunted Reader and Sylvia Plath) places poets Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton side by side in this solid study that illuminates two "hugely ambitious women in a cultural moment that did not know how to deal with ambitious women." The poets met in 1959 in a workshop offered by Robert Lowell at Boston University and, though rivals, they admired each other's work. Both were unabashed about sex at a time of strict social mores, had tumultuous marriages, juggled child care and their writing careers, and died by suicide. Crowther also details their differences: while in class "Sexton was often late, all breezy and open, jangling with jewelry," Plath "was mostly silent and often turned up early"; Sexton was not private with her writing, while Plath "definitely was." Despite her excellent research, Crowther's style is sometimes distracting (After Plath discovered her husband was having an affair, the author writes, "It feels like she would have benefited from Sexton's support," as she "likely would have done Plath's hair and makeup and dragged her out to drink too much"). Nevertheless, this insightful account is a slick addition to the body of work on these two influential poets. Agent: Carrie Kania, Conville & Walsh. (Apr.) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Based on in-depth research and unprecedented archival access, this vividly rendered and empathetic book explores how two of the greatest poets of the 20th century—Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton—became bitter rivals and, eventually, friends. 75,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"A dual biography of poets, friends, and rivals Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Named a Best Book of 2021 by the Los Angeles TimesA vividly rendered and empathetic exploration of how two of the greatest poets of the 20th century—Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton—became bitter rivals and, eventually, friends. Introduced at a workshop in Boston University led by the acclaimed and famous poet Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton formed a friendship that would soon evolve into a fierce rivalry, colored by jealousy and respect in equal terms. In the years that followed, these two women would not only become iconic figures in literature, but also lead curiously parallel lives haunted by mental illness, suicide attempts, self-doubt, and difficult personal relationships. With weekly martini meetings at the Ritz to discuss everything from sex to suicide, theirs was a relationship as complex and subversive as their poetry. Based on in-depth research and unprecedented archival access, Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz is a remarkable and unforgettable look at two legendary poets and how their work has turned them into lasting and beloved cultural figures.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

A vividly rendered and empathetic exploration of how two of the greatest poets of the 20th century'sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton'became bitter rivals and, eventually, friends. Introduced at a workshop in Boston University led by the acclaimed and famous poet Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton formed a friendship that would soon evolve into a fierce rivalry, colored by jealousy and respect in equal terms. In the years that followed, these two women would not only become iconic figures in literature, but also lead curiously parallel lives haunted by mental illness, suicide attempts, self-doubt, and difficult personal relationships. With weekly martini meetings at the Ritz to discuss everything from sex to suicide, theirs was a relationship as complex and subversive as their poetry. Based on in-depth research and unprecedented archival access, Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz is a remarkable and unforgettable look at two legendary poets and how their work has turned them into lasting and beloved cultural figures.