Duly Quoted

"A library is a hospital for the mind."

“But what I would do too is the hardest thing for me, with my absurd streak of idealism and perfectionism…”

Book: The Journals of Sylvia Plath

The sun is shining (a novel situation ’round these parts…thanks Portland); the birds are chirping; the world cup is almost over and I’ll get to sleep in again soon (thanks neighbors). My coffee has a decadent cardamom hint to it–a brilliant idea i discovered at some Indian restaurant–and next week is my summer vacation from work. Life is good.

But here I am, reading Sylvia Plath! Many individuals, I suspect, would say that something in this picture is not right. They are wrong! I am here to tell you: just because I am no longer the stereotypical Sylvia Plath reader dressed in mostly black who doggedly refuses to smile, doesn’t mean I no longer read (and love) Sylvia Plath.

This is one of the most-read books on my shelf for many more reasons than my stint with profound teenage angst. It’s easy to pick up when I need something to pass those 10 minutes between bedtime and sleeptime; its contents are very real and often (at least tangentially) relevant to my own experiences; finally, Plath’s writing is just plain gorgeous. She’s just undeniably brilliant, as far as I’m concerned. Seriously. Read her journals; read her poems (especially the Ariel collection); read The Bell Jar. I will always have a deep love for Ms. Plath. And I want to encourage people to resist the two misconceptions that seem to follow her name:

1) Oven jokes aren’t funny. If you want dark humor, google search dead baby jokes til you find the one about trash cans and laugh your ass off (I’m sorry if anyone out there takes offense at dead baby jokes, I really am). But yeah, laugh at that instead. Sylvia Plath didn’t want to die–she wanted her depression to die. Let’s not mock the fact that it took her with it. Which brings me to…

2) There is nothing glamorous about suicide or mental illness. Please, please, please read my favorite paragraph of Prozac Nation–the second to last excerpt (the last bolded paragraph) on this page. Because I don’t think it’s said enough: there is nothing appealing about madness. Nothing. It is nothing more than a loss. There are better places for creative drive to come from–less costly places.

R.I.P. Sylvia Plath.

Lawdy that was long! To make up for it, I resisted the temptation to recopy the entire book, and chose my excerpts carefully. I’d love to hear your responses, to my rambling or to Ms. Plath. Without further ado!


It would be easy to say I would fight for you, or steal or lie; I have a great deal of that desire to use myself to the hilt, and where, for men, fighting is a cause, for women, fighting is for men. In a crisis, it is easy to say: I will arise and be with thee. But what I would do too is the hardest thing for me, with my absurd streak of idealism and perfectionism: I do believe I would sit around with you and feed you and wait with you through all the necessary realms of tables and kingdoms of chairs and cabbage for those fantastic few moments when we are angels, and we are growing angels and when we together make the world love itself and incandesce.

the kind of radiance that suddenly comes over you when I look at you dressing or shaving or reading and you are suddenly more than the daily self we must live with and love, that fleeting celestial self which shines out with the whimsical timing of angels.

that confident surge of exuberance in which I wrote you has dwindled as waves do, to the knowledge that makes me cry, just this once: such a minute fraction of this life do we live: so much is sleep, tooth-brushing, waiting for mail, for metamorphosis, for those sudden moments of incandescence: unexpected, but once one knows them, one can live life in the light of their past and the hope of their future.

in my head I know it is too simple to wish for war, for open battle, but one cannot help but wish for those situations that make us heroic. living to the hilt of our total resources. our cosmic fights, when I think the end of the world is come, are so many broken shells around our growth.

sunday noon: very stingily blue whipped to white by wind from russian steppes. the mornings are god’s time, and after breakfast for those five hours somehow everything is all right and most things are even possible. the afternoons however slip away faster and faster and night cheats by coming shortly after four. the dark time, the night time is worst now. sleep is like the grave, worm-eaten with dreams.”

Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything it is because we are dangerously near to wanting nothing. There are two opposing poles to wanting nothing: When one is so full and rich and has so many inner worlds that the outer world is not necessary for joy, because joy emanates from the inner core of one’s being. When one is dead and rotten inside and there is nothing in the world.

I want to live each day for itself like a string of coloured beads, and not kill the present by cutting it up in cruel little snippets to fit some desperate architectural draft for a taj mahal in the future.

Me dos!


Filed under: Sylvia Plath,

6 Responses

  1. autofreckle says:

    i love you emilie christian

  2. Alanna says:

    I love you and Sylvia Plath!

  3. french dog says:

    “I want to live each day for itself like a string of coloured beads, and not kill the present by cutting it up in cruel little snippets to fit some desperate architectural draft for a taj mahal in the future”
    This is amazing prose. Some people would say ” live in the moment “. But Sylvia Plath paints with her words. She takes us through the process and each step she takes is a surprise for us, common people. Absolutely beautiful. ” I want to live each day for itself like a string of coloured beads…”

  4. verbalpolaroids says:

    that was beautiful. thank you for such nice snippets. I love Sylvia Plath’s use of words. her story is a sad one, but one beautifully expressed nonetheless :)

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