Mittwoch, 23. Januar 2019

What We Don’t Know About Sylvia Plath / Emily Van Duyne. In: Lit Hub January 22, 2019

Many biographies of Sylvia Plath end with the author making a visit to her grave. They are largely grim accounts. Paul Alexander, in his controversial biography Rough Magic, describes a barren place on a cold November day; at the time of his visit, the stone, which has famously been repeatedly defaced by people chiseling the “Hughes” off “Sylvia Plath Hughes,” had been removed entirely. A (presumably) local person had erected a handmade wooden cross with “stout two-foot long sticks tied … with a piece of cord.” They had written her name in green felt pen across the wood. Anne Stevenson, in her equally controversial Bitter Fame, the biography “authorized” by the Plath estate, ends the book by visiting “a pathetic patch of garden, a wind-beaten rose, and a chip of flat rock with ‘SYLVIA PLATH’ inscribed on it in black paint.” Stevenson writes that the “vandals who made the temporary removal of her tombstone necessary were women for whom the legacy of Sylvia Plath was no more than a simplified feminist ideology.”
No one knows who has repeatedly defaced the grave (no one has ever been caught in the act). I imagine, given its now famous nature, that it’s not the same person, again and again over the course of the last 50 plus years—although I am admittedly tickled by the idea of a serial Plath grave-defacer, huffing and puffing up that steep hill in the middle of the night with a lantern, ready to go to work. And men love Sylvia Plath just the same as women. When I met her two-time biographer, Carl Rollyson, for coffee last spring he told me, “I wrote about Sontag, too, and she fascinates—but Plath was firing on all cylinders.” The co-editor of both volumes of her Letters, and arguably the leading Plath scholar alive, is Peter Steinberg. Yet somehow, when we think or write about someone so devoted to Plath that they would smash Hughes’ name off her headstone, we think about women—“feminists” in scare quotes, too blind or stupid to understand the subject of their own obsession, armed with a hammer, instead. ... [mehr]

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