The cult of Sylvia Plath has always been creepy, you have to admit. Now this year is the [sharp intake of breath] 50th anniversary of that time she stuck her head in the oven, so the cult has to get even creepier. (Why? I mean, why? Fifty years; so what? Why is that more significant than 49 or 51? Humans are so stupid sometimes. Honestly.)
Terry Castle thinks it’s stupid too. Terry Castle is right.
A clutch of new biographies (including the two reviewed here) are likewise among the morbid tie-ins. “Sylvia Plath may be the most fascinating literary figure of the twentieth century”—so the publisher’s copy for one of them gushes. “Even now, fifty years after her death, writers, students, and critics alike are enthralled by the details of her 1963 suicide and her volatile relationship with Ted Hughes.” Such ambulance-chasing fans no doubt also dote on Frida Kahlo’s near-fatal impaling by the tram rail.
Seriously? “Even now, fifty years after her death, writers, students, and critics alike are enthralled by the details of her 1963 suicide…”? Well get over it. Jesus.
It will come as no surprise that I’m one of those who will always be turning away from Plath. Or trying to. I find her tasteless, grisly—unbearable, in fact—precisely because, even five decades after her suicide, she and her corpse-infested verses hold on with such ghoulish tenacity.