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Heather Clark (1) (1974–)

Teoksen Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath tekijä

Katso täsmennyssivulta muut tekijät, joiden nimi on Heather Clark.

3 teosta 351 jäsentä 8 arvostelua

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Heather Clark is Professor of Literature at Marlboro College in Vermont and Adjunct instructor of Irish Studies at New York University.

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University of Huddersfield



This is the most fascinating and comprehensive book on the life, influences, relationships, mental health, and poetry of Sylvia Plath that I've ever read.
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DonnaMarieMerritt | 6 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Aug 16, 2022 |
There’s no consensus on whether Sylvia Plath was a great poet. But both detractors and admirers agree on one thing: her fame rests more on how her life ended more than sixty years ago than on her writing.
Heather Clark, an admirer, seeks to redress this with this biography. Yet an eleven hundred page tome to document a thirty-year life seems ironic if the aim is to turn attention from Plath’s life (and death) to her literary achievement. I felt Clark came closest to her purpose in chapter 31, “The Problem of Him,” with her close readings of the poems in Ariel. I had mixed feelings about the collection, but Clark argues persuasively for their greatness. And yet, I guess I can’t entirely shake the fact that I studied back when New Criticism was still the dominant school. So while Clark does an excellent job of reading the poems in light of what was going on in Plath’s life when they were written leaves me less than totally convinced. I’ve no doubt that knowledge of life and times (as so many biographies are entitled) of an author can enhance our understanding. But it’s another thing if a poem needs the context of biography to convince us of its greatness.
Clark attempts the same in chapter 34, “What Is the Remedy?”, in which she argues for the greatness of Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar. When Clark quotes from the letter Plath’s editor at Knopf wrote when that publisher passed on the book, it accorded with my memory of reading it. Yet Clark calls it a “brutal” rejection. Indeed, given the state of her mind at the time, the effect on Plath was overwhelming and unfortunate.
But let’s turn aside from the question of whether Clark is successful in arguing that the interest in Plath should center on the excellence of her writing. How is this book as a biography? It is excellent. Clark appears to have had access to everyone worth talking to (an exception seems to have been Frieda Hughes, since she’s not listed in the acknowledgments. In addition, she had access to troves of unpublished Plath-related documents. She handles the task of relating all that she recounts understandably, broadly chronological, with little of the repetition that often plagues such works. I was sorry that her publisher’s services didn’t include more-thorough fact-checking (one example: Khrushchev was not Soviet foreign minister, p. 788).
I admired Clark’s balanced treatment of the charge of spousal abuse and her navigation of the complex and shifting feelings of mutual and self-recrimination among those close to Plath after her suicide.
While the book’s heft may put off many readers, for those who are fascinated by the brilliant person that Sylvia Plath was, this book is worth the time invested in reading it.
… (lisätietoja)
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HenrySt123 | 6 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Apr 6, 2022 |
Red Comet is an in-depth biography of Sylvia Plath's short life based on her journals and letters. A thorough analysis of her poetry and other writings is woven into her story. Plath was the daughter of hard-working immigrant parents (the book goes into detail about her parents), and maintained an intense work ethic throughout her life. She was a brilliant overachiever, a bit of a hypochondriac with extreme mood swings, and fully devoted to her husband, the poet Ted Hughes. Women poets were not held in the same light as their male counterparts and Plath's place in history was not fully realized during her lifetime. Having graduated from Smith College, I loved reading about her time in college and am looking forward to re-reading the Bell Jar and deep-diving into her poetry. The book is long - it took me 2 months to listen to the audiobook.… (lisätietoja)
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KatherineGregg | 6 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Mar 16, 2022 |
An exceptional literary biography of Sylvia Plath and those who peopled her life.

As with many people, I knew more about her life, than familiarity of her work. I read some of the poems, and The Bell Jar in my twenties, many moons ago. Along with reading this biography, I am slowly reading/rereading the complete poems. I'm in 1958.

What really embeds itself reading this is actually how young Plath (Hughes et al) were. She died at 30, and he was only two years older. On the one hand how much she packed in and what maturity in many aspects, on the other, how unformed she was in many regards.

Sylvia Plath had many sides, but she at least was a double. Someone who could be very light, and very dark. Very strong and very vulnerable.

Clark draws a young woman who is very committed to whatever she does. Someone who knows she will attain, if she puts the effort in. At different times in her life she understood how good she was at what she did. But it was clear from early on that she had mental health problems that would and did undermine her.

The daughter of a single parent, her father died when she was young.

She worked hard to get into Smith College, and worked hard when she got there. She had what we would describe as an OCD personality. She wanted everything, and to do everything to a very high standard. When she failed to achieve this was when depression set in.

She did a lot herself to try and fund her education, got scholarships and relied quite heavily on her mother's limited resources.

She wanted to become a writer, and she wrote and had things published from an early age. She learned quickly to be efficient at submitting work in a commercial way. From the outset, her life and that of those around her were grist for the mill.

Although her primary goal was always that of becoming a poet, she wrote, submitted and had many short stories accepted. Clark narrates some of these stories alongside Sylvia's life, as she does with the poetry.

She made her first suicide attempt in 1953, she had disappeared and been searched for for several days, and was found in a crawl space under her building. As part of her treatment was badly administered electro shock treatment. She feared ever being subjected to this again.

During her Smith years she had a lot of good friendships with the women around her, as well as many boyfriends. In many ways it would appear almost fluke that she ended up with the man she would become most known to be partnered with. Only weeks before meeting Ted Hughes, she had been in Paris in search of a man she had been having an on/off relationship with for some time.


It is impossible to summarise even such a short life in a short review. A few things that stuck in my mind about the Plath/Hughes years:

- For a short time they were bound together by their work practices. Hughes encouraged rigour in her work, Plath was responsible for getting him published. Even after they separated, and while they were being monstrous to each other, they always loved and acknowledged the work.

- So many people in their lives were dealing with mental health issues, many had attempted, and some would succeed at suicide.

- In England, the women in Sylvia's life were often the wives of poets. She didn't have the same kind of female support that she had had in America.

- There was certainly a number of things that occurred around the same time that led her to a successful suicide. I suspect if it hadn't happened when it did, it would have happened later.

- The poems that made her reputation where written after the separation, in the October before her death.

- There was more coverage about Plath's first suicide attempt in 1953, the missing bright young thing, than there was in 1963.

- As much as he has been criticised for how he did it, Hughes, and Al Alvarez were very much the people who ensured she had a legacy.

Here is an interview about their work with Plath and Hughes, from 1961:

… (lisätietoja)
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Caroline_McElwee | 6 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Mar 14, 2022 |



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