Monday, April 2, 2012

Reading Journal: The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath (1963)

Eminently quotable book about the coming of age of a woman writer - and later, unfortunately, depression and primitive therapy - that's worthy of its place in the canon. Take this example, from the end of the first chapter:

"I liked looking on at other people in crucial situations. If there was a road accident or a street fight or a baby pickled in a laboratory jar for me to look at, I'd stop and look so hard I never forgot it.

I certainly learned a lot of things I never would have learned otherwise this way, and even when they surprised me or made me sick I never let on, but pretended that's the way I knew things were all the time."

Or this one:

"I felt dreadfully inadequate. The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn't thought about it.

The one thing I was good at was winning scholarships and prizes, and that era was coming to an end."

The coming depression is evident, but so too is the weight of promise, of knowing that you're not going to fit into the type of life others around you do. As a book for young adults to read, I think this one has stayed more relevant than The Catcher in the Rye, and I think that the unlikelihood of male readers identifying with it has been greatly exaggerated. It tapers off in the end, churning through several institutions before tying off the loose ends, but generally, I kind of loved it.

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