Tag Archives: Sylvia Plath

New books: September 2015

[This post was typed up in October, but I haven’t got round to posting it. Some of the things that I say in it are out-of-date by now, but I’m leaving the post as it was written. I’ll add the amendments at the bottom and maybe elaborate in a subsequent post.]


September threw up an unexpected surprise, as well as an unexpected sadness. I was going to do a separate post on both of these at the time, but didn’t get chance to, and it seems a tad pointless now. Anyhoo.

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  • Edmund White –  Chaos*
  • Valeria Parrella –  For Grace Received: Four Stories of Modern Naples*
  • Antoine Francois Prevost –  Manon Lescaut*
  • Todd Solondz –  Storytelling*
  • Malcolm Bradbury –  Inside Trading*
  • Gavin Young –  Something of Samoa**
  • Imme Dros –  Annelie in the Depths of the Night*
  • Philip Gross –  Marginaliens*
  • Sylvia Plath –  Collected Poems*
  • Marivaux –  The Game of Love and Chance*

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  • Nathaniel West –  The Day of the Locust.    50p
  • Thomas de Quincey –  Confessions of an English Opium Eater.    99p
  • Virginia Woolf –  Orlando
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez-  Love in the Time of Cholera***  –  In Evil Hour  –  Chronicle of a Death Foretold
  • Jon McGregor-  so many ways to begin***
  • Charles Dickens –  Martin Chuzzlewit***
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  • Thomas de Quincy –  On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.    80p
  • Charles Dickens –  The Signalman: A Ghost Story.    £1.99
  • Pu Singling –  Wailing Ghosts.    80p

* 20p

** 10p

*** Library book sale

Now the sad news. All of the books in the first picture were from Webberley’s, which we learnt over the summer is to close in the new year. Webberley’s is the only independent book shop in the city that sells new books (we have several second hand bookshops), and so will be a big, big loss to the city when it closes. On the plus side, there may be another sale… No, I think I’d prefer to have the bookshop still open rather than a few more bargains.

However, some good news that I wasn’t expecting this month. I knew that following the publication of ‘Autobiography’, Morrissey was working on his first novel. However, I only learnt on about the 21st that this was to be published on the 24th, so we rushed to Amazon to place an order. Yes, I know we should have gone to an independent bookshop (or at least Waterstones), but… we can be fickle. I read a few reviews of this on the day it came out, and was slightly surprised that they were so negative. I’d expected there would be some that were less-than-glowing (coz, hey, it’s Moz, and the British press love to hate him just because he is), but was shocked by just how scathing they were. This has coloured my opinion somewhat even before I read it, which I wish it hadn’t. I want to be impartial, or at least not be negatively influenced from the outset. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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[Since this post was originally written, Webberley’s has closed (mid-Jan.), and I read ‘List of the Lost’ (Nov?). Despite the rather unnatural dialogue, I didn’t think it was that bad. There are some wonderful turns of phrase in it, and the ending is actually quite shocking, even if the plot is a tad odd. I do hope he writes more, even if it is just to write a novel that is on the same level as the sublime ‘Autobiography’. I’ll do a full review eventually, but will definitely re-read it, as there are things to pull out of it with repeated readings.]

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Bus Reads 4: Thoughts on Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’

On the left, a very good cover for the book, with concentric circles suggesting a spiralling and trapped mental state...and on the right... my copy. Garish and rather hideous.

On the left, a very good cover for the book, with concentric circles suggesting a spiralling and trapped mental state…and on the right… my copy. Garish and rather hideous.

I’ve got a long way to go to be up-to-date with my book reviews, but this is another off the list. The problem is that I can’t really remember what I wanted to say about some of the texts, or even if I really wanted to say anything particularly about them at all. This is one such book that has been causing me issue.

Now, don’t get me wrong- I like this book. It is on the list of my favourite novels. However, I can’t really say why I like it. It’s not as though the subject matter is a cheery one that makes you want to read it for light relief, and considering how sublime a poet Plath was, her prose falls somewhat flat in comparison. Indeed, I often found the writing somewhat cold, but it could be said that this matches well the narrator’s mental state, suggesting one of detachment and introspection. The plot is not that elaborate, but I did like the way in which this allows Plath to focus on some of the mundane details and the actual mental state of her voice in the text. The novel also seems somewhat cyclical, with Esther being pretty much where she begun despite her sexual awakening, realisation of her freedom as a woman, and seemingly successful treatment, and this works well to suggest that her recovery is perhaps temporary and the clarity is transitory. I can’t fault Plath on the way in which she describes and illustrates the slow collapse of a person’s sanity and mind, and the sparse plot allows for this to be shown almost imperceptibly, taking the reader along with the narrator and really dragging them into the place of the character.

I feel that I also must comment on the opening line of the novel:

It was a queer, sultry summer; the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.

This works to introduce the novel in miniature, with her confusion and isolation hinted at, along with the electro-shock therapy that Esther will undergo, and the fact that this was a summer that would stand out as being different and defining. I also like it for the fact that the juxtaposition of the summer and the death, almost glanced over, instantly startles and unnerves the reader, and conjures up the images of Plath’s poems. Definitely one to reread and reanalyse.

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Writing and the threat of rejection

I’ve said on the ‘About’ and ‘Poetry and Literature’ pages along the menu near the top of the page that I am currently writing poetry with the distant hope of getting published. The only thing that is stopping me is the fear of almost certain rejection when I come to submit my work to various publishers. Annoyingly, many companies that take on poets will only accept a handful of individual poems as a submission, rather than entire manuscripts, and so when I have finished this book I need to somehow single out the best few poems to send off. The only problem is that the book does not really contain many stand-alone poems, with most working with others to form a part of a much larger whole with a central narrative and interconnected themes- a bit like Ted Hughes’ ‘Crow’. Or, perhaps more accurately, Ted Hughes’ ‘Birthday Letters’ (Hell, I love that book).

One thing that has made me feel better about future rejections is that I’ve just read C.S.Lewis got rejected around 800 times (!), as well as Sylvia Plath, Rudyard Kipling, William Golding, Jack Kerouac, George Orwell, H.G.Wells, Anne Frank and Louisa May Alcott also facing rejection. Then of course there is J.K.Rowling, whom we all know the story of. Perhaps I shouldn’t despair before I’ve even begun…

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