Thursday, August 15, 2019

Reflections on her legacy / Sylvia Plath by Lionel Shriver

Reflections on her legacy
Sylvia Plath 
by Lionel Shriver

8 February 2013

Lionel Shriver
 Lionel Shriver
Photo by Rolph Gobits

I read The Bell Jar as an adolescent, and like most teenagers had no problem identifying with a young woman who had everything going for her – looks, talent, opportunity, with her "whole life ahead of her," yadda, yadda, yadda – yet was spiralling into misery. These days depression is the stuff of postprandial dinner-party prattle, but Plath explored the condition with no sense of its being a "condition" that others shared, no established therapeutic vocabulary, and no Prozac. It was really only when William Styron published Darkness Visible in 1990 that depression entered mainstream social discourse and began to lose its stigma (even growing into a badge of honour for a while). Ironically, now that we regard it as a standard, hardly shameful diagnosis, routinely treatable with drugs, we may have lost a raw sense of how awful, terrifying, and bleak is the real thing. The Bell Jar restores the horror. 

Lionel Shriver is the author of We Need to Talk about Kevin (Serpent's Tail)

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