claire.r.foster, February 22, 2007 (view all comments by claire.r.foster)
Although at face value, this book is only for serious Plathites, it soon unfolds into a more generous portrait of Plath's era for poetry. Over the course of twelve years, Plath's writing style changes significantly, mirroring her own advances in her craft. As she ages, and undergoes several serious life changes (admission to Cambridge, end of a love affair, hospitalization for suicide attempt, marriage), her journaling style changes similarly. The result is a written account of her life that becomes more terrifying and streamlined as it goes on -- the portrait of a frighteningly intelligent, hyper-aware, talented woman.
Of course, it is difficult to read The Unabridged Journals without an eye to the final tragedy. Readers with literary inclinations may find it heavy-handed, thematically. Plath often devotes pages and pages to "practice" and can describe scenes of nature at great length. However, this demonstrates her unconsciousness of her own significance. She is not a memoirist, and does not seek to place herself in a historical position. (In fact, this can be maddening; Plath omits important dates, names and events that any third-rate biographer would include.) This is much more a portrait of the evolution of Plath's work than of her persona. A few helpful notes from editor Karen Kukil ease reading, as well as extensive notes and a few journal fragments that are added as appendices.
This is a rich read, a total immersion into the mind of a shy but budding genius. The effect is not angsty, nor too self-indulgent, but a luscious portrait of an artist's coming-of-age.
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