This is a reasoned meditation on the art of biography, a work of criticism and literary detection and an examination of the means by which biographers justify their ends. The author takes as her example the various biographers of the poet Sylvia Plath and their conflicts with the Plath estate. This is not a book about the life of Sylvia Plath, but ...
This is a reasoned meditation on the art of biography, a work of criticism and literary detection and an examination of the means by which biographers justify their ends. The author takes as her example the various biographers of the poet Sylvia Plath and their conflicts with the Plath estate. This is not a book about the life of Sylvia Plath, but her afterlife: how her reputation was forged from the poems she wrote just before her suicide; how her estranged husband, the poet Ted Hughes, as executor of her estate, tried to serve two masters: her art and his own need for privacy; and how it fell to his sister, Olwyn Hughes, as literary agent for the estate, to protect him by limiting access to Plath's work; and how five biographers, variously thwarted in their attempts to give what they felt to be a true account of the life have turned much of the literary world against Ted and Olwyn Hughes.
Fair. A readable copy only. All pages and the cover are intact, may not include dust jacket. Pages may include considerable notes in pen or have highlighting. Possible ex library copy. May not contain accessories.
Janet Malcolm's work is an immensely satisfying read about some of the writing and publishing problems encountered by the biographers of Sylvia Plath; partly due to the over -zealous protection of the " facts of her life" by her literary heirs. Always impeccable in its facts, this work of non-fiction still manages to be extremely witty and to read like a novel.
Publishers Weekly, 1994-03-07 The story of the marriage of poets Sylvia Plath (1933-1963) and Ted Hughes has continued to fascinate readers and biographers since Plath's suicide, as somehow representative of our common lot and yet also inscrutably dramatic. In a cunningly resourceful look at Plath's life, at her posthumous existence and at the struggles of her biographers to penetrate, document and interpret her history and her husband's role in it, Malcolm seizes the opportunity to reflect on the moral contradictions of biography itself (``the biographer . . . is like the professional burglar''), somewhat as she examined journalism in The Journalist and the Murderer . The book, reprinted from the New Yorker , is a highly skillful, intrinsically arguable exploration of mixed motives, considering in detail the characters of several figures: Anne Stevenson, one of Plath's biographers; Hughes, whom she regards with more sympathy than many do; his sister Olwyn; and some of Plath's friends and neighbors (e.g., A. Alvarez). Malcolm's characteristic mingling of observation and criticism, her self-scrutiny, her finely modulated tonal shifts and the strategies of her skepticism expose, with a generous range of nuance, the stories that tend to emerge from any story and complicate it--while writing one herself that is of surpassing interest. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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