Sunday, August 11, 2019

Reflections on her legacy / Sylvia Plath by Jennifer Egan

Sylvia Plath

Reflections on her legacy
Sylvia Plath 
by Jennifer Egan

8 February 2013

Jennifer Egan
Jennifer Egan by Murdo Macleod

I read The Bell Jar as a teenager and was enthralled by it. I had never encountered a narrative voice so much like the one inside my head: fluttery, self-conscious, goofy, melodramatic. Plath and I were alike, I was sure, yet what I retained from The Bell Jar was mostly a sense of the narrator's irrepressible effervescence. Her suffering, and the foreshadowing of tragedy, made less impact. I felt the same kinship with Plath reading her diaries from her early years at Cambridge, when she met Ted Hughes, which I encountered a few years later. By then I was mature enough to muse over how Plath's self-dramatising highs and lows could have devolved into pure horror, but I never found the clear link between her exuberance and what followed. It occurs to me only now that my confusion about Plath's fate may have partly inspired my first novel, The Invisible Circus, in which a teenage girl tries to solve the mystery of her older sister's suicide: a lively, charismatic girl who threw herself from a cliff. Phoebe, my protagonist, runs away from home in search of the link between the exuberant sister she remembers, and her inexplicable end.


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