I read The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath a couple years ago. Here’s what I learned:
- Plath was really, brilliantly smart. I have read The Bell Jar a couple times, so I already ‘knew’ she was smart, but reading her journals really hit it home.
- She loved Lord of The Rings (see the last quote)
- She considered her baking speciality to be Lemon Meringue pie.
- She’s not perfect–there are definitely some unconfronted class privilege and racism in her entries
- I’m torn about whether or not she’d be a Ravenclaw (see comment #1) or a Slytherin–she was very ambitious, and most of her entries were about how badly she wanted to write, be a good writer, write something great, write more, etc. She was obsessed.
- She wrote very little about her immediate family
- She really wanted kids and to get married, but even once she did, she wrote mostly about writing (or at least that’s the impression I got)
- Like many other famous writers, she loved fashion
Here are some of my favourite/most interesting quotes from these journals.
Writing breaks open the vaults of the dead and the skies behind which the prophesying angels hide. The mind makes and makes, spinning its web.
I may never be happy, but tonight I am content. Nothing more than an empty house, the warm hazy weariness from a day spent setting strawberry runners in the sun, a glass of cool sweet milk, and a shallow dish of blueberries bathe din cream. Now I know how people can live without books, without college. When one is so tired at the end of a day one must sleep, and at the next dawn there are more strawberry runners to set, and so one goes on living, near the earth. At times like this i’d call myself a fool to ask for more.
I live in two worlds and as long as we are apart, I always shall.
I love people. Everybody. I love them, I think, as a stamp collector loves his collection. Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me. My love’s not impersonal yet not wholly subjective either […] But I am not omniscient. I have to live my life, and it is the only one I’ll ever have. And you cannot regard your own life with objective curiosity all the time…
What horrifies me most is the idea of being useless: well-educated, brilliantly promising, and fading out into an indifferent middle-age.
I think baby would make me forget myself in a good way. Yet I must find myself.
And yet, does it not all come again to the fact that it is a man’s world? For if a man chooses to be promiscuous, he may still aesthetically turn up his nose at promiscuity. He may still demand a woman be faithful to him, to save him from his own lust. But women have lust, too. Why should they be relegated to the position of custodian of emotions, watcher of infants, feed of soul, body and pride of man? Being born a woman is my awful tragedy. From the moment I was conceived was doomed to spread breasts and ovaries rather than a penis and a scrotum; to have my whole circle of action, thought and feeling rigidly circumscribed by my inescapable femininity. Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, bar room regulars—to be part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yet, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night.
Lord knows what is happening to me: I am dying of inertia.
the kind of radiance too 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, once can life life in the light of their past and the hope of their future.
It’s hopeless to “get life” if you don’t keep notebooks.
[…] because I see every now and then how one must live in this world even if one’s true full soul is not with one; i give of my intensity and passion in minute homeopathic spoonfuls to the world […] to all these, I can give my fantastic urges of love, in little parcels which will not hurt them or make them sick, for being too strong.
I feel we are as yet directionless (not inside, not so much as in a people community way—we belong nowhere because we have not given of ourselves to any place wholeheartedly, not committed ourselves).
Finished the Tolkien trilogy. A triumph. A battle of pans and kevas. I don’t know when I have been so moved.