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Despair of the Writer

June 8, 2017

 

 

Sylvia Plath, "The Unabridged Journals", 2000, Anchor, edited by Karen V. Kukil

 

Is this ever "read"? Because I know I will pick it up again and again.

A book not only for those who love Sylvia, but also for those who love writing. And who struggle with it. The "Unabridged Journals" are a gripping account that makes Sylvia seem like the privileged but passionate, the approachable woman constantly at war with her own ideas of what life (and literature) should be.

 

I am in a fix: how to get out of it? Some little daily external ritual - I am too ingrown - as if I no longer knew how to talk to anyone but Ted - sat with my face to a wall, a mirror. My odd publications here and there argue writing is no vain dream, but a provable talent - I am in a vicious circle - too much alone, with no fresh exterior experiences except the walking around, about, staring at people who seem, simply because they are other, to be enviable - the responsibility of my future weighs, terrifies. […]


Hope, careers - writing is too much for me: I don’t want a job until I am happy with writing - yet feel desperate to get a job - to fill myself up with some external reality - where people accept phone bills, meal-getting, babies, marriage, as part of the purpose of the universe. 

 

(p. 422)

 

This is not about Sylvia Plath as a lover, or a mother, but about Sylvia Plath as a writer. For this, not enough credit can go to Karen V. Kukil. Sylvia's husband Ted and even her children seem like no more than footnotes to a life lived to its fullest on the pages. Such desperate love for writing, yet constant doubt and anguish: to an extent, she seemed more smitten with the ideas of things than with the things themselves. 

And if the thoughts she has on writing vs. the outside world, on the cost of inspiration, of solitude, are not the essence of that simplest, most profane writer's despair, I don't know which are. A book for remote islands.

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