Shifting the Focus From Sylvia Plath’s Tragic Death to Her Brilliant Life
The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath
By Heather Clark
Then again, it would be impossible for a work as voluminous and all-embracing as this one not to have its flaws. Despite its bulk and extensive scholarship, which Clark carries lightly, there are a few sections that lag — particularly the discussions of Plath’s juvenilia, none of which sounds especially remarkable, and the blow-by-blow reconstruction of her rather manic dating life before meeting Hughes. I was also struck by Clark’s strange disinclination to credit earlier accounts, such as Diane Middlebrook’s “Her Husband” (2003), which was the first book to examine Plath and Hughes’s union as an initially propitious (albeit ultimately damaging) one for both of them. That said, “Red Comet” (the title is taken from a poem of Plath’s called “Stings”) is nothing short of mesmerizing, bringing the reader inside a much-told but uncommonly intriguing narrative that has all too often been the object of fierce partisanship. Instead of depleting my interest in Plath, the book stimulated it further; I found myself going on to read two books of critical essays about her right after I was done reading it.
THE NEW YORK TIMES