One month before Sylvia Plath committed suicide in 1963, her book, The Bell Jar, was published to rave reviews. That autobiographical story chronicles her mental breakdown of a decade earlier, when Sylvia was a popular, prize-winning student-poet, spending her summer in New York as a guest editor at Mademoiselle magazine.
From the first chapter:
I was supposed to be having the time of my life. I was supposed to be the envy of thousands of other college girls just like me all over America who wanted nothing more than to be tripping about in those same size-seven patent leather shoes I’d bought in Bloomingdale’s one lunch hour with a black patent leather belt and black patent leather pocketbook to match. And when my picture came out in the magazine the twelve of us were working on—drinking martinis in a skimpy, imitation silver-lame bodice stuck on to a big, fat cloud of white tulle, on some Starlight Roof, in the company of several anonymous young men with all-American bone structures hired or loaned for the occasion—everybody would think I must be having a real whirl. Look what can happen in this country, they’d say. A girl lives in some out-of-the-way town for nineteen years, so poor she can’t afford a magazine, and then she gets a scholarship to college and wins a prize here and a prize there and ends up steering New York like her own private car.
Only I wasn’t steering anything, not even myself….
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Sent by my friend Steve King, publisher of Today in Literature