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A new biography of Sylvia Plath: MAD GIRL'S LOVE SONG

A new biography of Sylvia Plath: MAD GIRL'S LOVE SONG

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Published by Simon and Schuster

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.

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.

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Publish date: Feb 5, 2013
Added to Scribd: Jan 16, 2013
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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09/17/2013

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vii
Contents
Introduction 11. Tis haunting nameless pain 132. My thoughts to shining ame aspire 333. Te ghost o somebody else 594. I I rest, i I think inward, I go mad 915. Who is Sylvia? 1136. I mysel am Heaven and Hell 1457. Drowning in sel-hate, doubt, madness 1718. Te beginnings o 
Te Bell Jar 
1979. I am chained to you as you are to your dreams 23310. Now, Voyager 25911. In the depths o the orest your image ollows me 287Aerword 313Acknowledgments 315Notes 319Index 345
 
13
1.
This haunting nameless pain
When Sylvia Plath was a child, her mother would sit down at the amily piano and play the “plaintive” nineteenth-century German song “TeLegend o the Lorelei.” Te ballad
written by Clemens von Brentanoin 1801
tells the story o a beautiul sorceress, Lore Lay, whose gazeprompts men to all immediately in love with her. A bishop sends orthe woman to be judged, but even he cannot resist her, and the LoreLay pleads with him to end her lie. Instead o condemning her todeath, he pledges three knights to accompany the young woman to aconvent, but on the way the group passes a steep rock on the east bank o the Rhine, and the woman asks the knights i they would grant herpermission to climb up to the viewpoint to see the majestic river orthe last time. At the top o the precipice, the Lore Lay throws hersel to her death.Te poem proved so popular that it was rewritten by various authorsduring the nineteenth century, with the Lore Lay variously representedas a witch, a mermaid who lures sailors to their deaths, and a virginwith golden hair. Te version that Plath heard as a child was Hein-rich Heine’s 1823 poem “Lorelei,” which was set to music by FriedrichSilcher and later translated by Mark wain in
 A ramp Abroad.
It’s sig-nicant that Plath associated the legend with her early years; in July 1958, as she was composing her poem “Lorelei,” she outlined in her journal the appeal o the story: not only had it originated in Germany,but it illustrated perectly one o Plath’s recurring themes, that o the“death wish.”
1
She described how the Rhine sirens were her “Own Kin”and, indeed, she came to see hersel as a modern-day Lorelei, a sorcer-

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etxgardener reviewed this
Rated 4/5
In the 50 years since Sylvia Plath's suicide, her biographic legacy has been controlled by people who had much to lose by an honest interpretation of her life - namely her mother and her ex-husband. Now, however, with those parties dead, a more honest assessment of Plath, both as an artist and as a woman can be made.The first step in the process, perhaps, was the publication in 2000 of Plath's unabridged journals. But Andrew Wilson's look at her life up until her marriage to Ted Hughes is much, much more.Drawing on her journals, letters and exhaustive interviews with her contemporaries from childhood through her college years, Wilson paints the portrait of a young woman who felt confined by the stultifying society of the 1950's as well as her smothering mother. The result was a that Plath was consumed with rage: against society, her self-sacrificing mother, her lack of money and social standing and a perpetual fear of not being good enough in her chosen vocation as a writer.That she was talented, there is no doubt. Would I have liked to have been her friend? I doubt that too.
pksteinberg reviewed this
Rated 5/5
" I lift my lids and all is born again."In Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted, Andrew Wilson has finally given due attention to Plath's first 23 year years, which even if you are bad at mathematics, you know if the overwhelming majority of her life. From the moment I learned of his project I was very excited as Plath's formative years have been embarrassingly under-represented. Wilson's thesis in his biography is that "Sylvia Plath was an angry young woman born into a country and in a time that only exacerbated and intensified her fury" (7). His book aims to "trace the sources of her mental instabilities and examine how a range of personal, economic, and societal factor...conspired against her" (10).Wilson successfully achieves these aims in a narrative that, given he is a good and compelling writer, steers its readers to reach the same conclusions to which he came. His interviews and access to public and private archival materials builds a solid foundation by which future scholars will better understand the world of Sylvia Plath, as well as to have a better understanding in how to conduct research for a biography. A book dense with relevant and important details, Wilson has given life and prominence back to Sylvia Plath before Ted Hughes.
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