Before anyone gets all cranky with me, I am so not calling my beloved dearly departed Sylvia Plath a “slut” because I don’t slut-shame girls for being sexually active (or for what they wear blah blah) but reading this long article in the Daily Mail all about the new Sylvia Plath book it totally feels like there might be a little slut shaming in the book. But more on that in a moment.
Were you guys were you into Sylvia Plath as a teenager? Raise your hand if you were a black-turtleneck-wearin’, coffee-drinkin’, angst-wallowin’ , Sylvia Plath-readin’ teen? Because that is exactly what I was. Sylvia and Nick Cave were my entire reality at that age. I’m not sure who gave me my copy of Ariel, probably my own mother, but then it was on to The Bell Jar and her other poetry collections and there was a witchy type of magic there, in these words of whimsical cynicism and harrowing depression. I wanted to be Esther Greenwood, minus the rapes and shock therapy and suicide attempts. On occasion I will read a Plath poem, but I need to re-read The Bell Jar because it has been at least twenty-five years and I want to revisit it before letting my own children read it.
The Daily Mail has a huge article all about the new Plath book that will be released in February entitled Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted and is about Sylvia’s various love interests before she met the philandering and abusive Ted Hughes:
When the music came to a temporary halt, she saw out of the corner of her eye somebody approaching. It was the same ‘hunky boy’, the one she had seen earlier ‘hunching’ around over women. He introduced himself as Ted Hughes and Plath recorded this encounter – now one of the most famous in all literary history – in her journal the next day. The attraction was instant.
He told her he had ‘obligations’ in the next room, another Cambridge student named Shirley, and that he was working in London and earning £10 a week reading scripts for J. Arthur Rank. Then, suddenly, he leant towards her and kissed her ‘bang smash on the mouth’. As he did so he ripped the red hairband from her head and ravished her with such force that her silver earrings came unclipped. He moved down to kiss her neck, and Plath bit him ‘long and hard’ on the cheek. When the couple emerged from the room, blood was pouring down his face.
And that was just meeting Ted! The book claims that Sylvia had “hundreds” of other suitors and lovers, and she was troubled by her sexual desires:
One night, as Sylvia prepared to enter Smith College, she wrote in her journal that unexpressed sexual desire was driving her to the point of distraction. She was, she said, ‘sick with longing’.