Tag Archives: Sylvia Plath

A yearly dose of The Bell Jar.

22 Dec

For the past 4 years, ever since I was 16, I have read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar around this time of year. Though I never planned to re-read it every year around the holidays, that’s just how it turned out. In all honesty, The Bell Jar is probably one of the most depressing books I have ever read, but it is also one of the most accurate portrayals of madness, or descending into madness, from a literature standpoint that I have discovered as well. I guess you could say I love it because of its psychological aspects. However, despite how depressing the novel is, there is a reason Sylvia Plath is viewed as an acclaimed poet and writer. Her words, when put together, form sentences that allow you to feel something. Granted, the feelings her words bring to light aren’t necessarily happy ones, but in all honesty, Sylvia Plath wrote about life, her life. She didn’t sugarcoat it. She didn’t pretend she was happy when she wasn’t. She threw her readers right into the darkness and the loneliness of her life and her mind, and in a strange way, it’s beautiful.

Here are some quotes from The Bell Jar I thought I’d share:

  1. “Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences.”
  2. “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”
  3. “I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.”
  4. “At this rate, I’d be lucky if I wrote a page a day. Then I knew what the problem was. I needed experience. How could I write about life when I’d never had a love affair or a baby or even seen anybody die? A girl I knew had just won a prize for a short story about her adventures among the pygmies in Africa. How could I compete with that sort of thing?”
  5. “I am sure there are things that can’t be cured by a good bath but I can’t think of one.”
  6. “Piece by piece, I fed my wardrobe to the night wind, and flutteringly, like a loved one’s ashes, the gray scraps were ferried off, to settle here, there, exactly where I would never know, in the dark heart of New York.”
  7. “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they executed the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
  8. “I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant loosing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
  9. “Secretly, in studies and attics and schoolrooms all over America, people must be writing.”
  10. “I had hoped, at my departure, I would feel sure and knowledgeable about everything that lay ahead — after all, I had been “analyzed.” Instead, all I could see were question marks.”
  11. “The sun, emerged from its gray shrouds of cloud, shone with a summer brilliance on the untouched slopes. Pausing in my work to overlook that pristine expanse, I felt the same profound thrill it gives me to see the trees and grassland waist-high under flood water—as if the usual order of the world had shifted slightly, and entered a new phase.”

Is there a specific book you make a point to read every year?

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Photo Friday: First Instagram Photo.

16 Nov

The first Instagram photo taken with my iPhone!

“Perhaps some day I’ll crawl back home, beaten, defeated. But not as long as I can make stories out of my heartbreak, beauty out of sorrow.” -The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

The magic of first lines in literature.

14 Nov

Throughout my time spent as a writer and a genuine lover of words and literature, I have been told over and over of the crystal importance of the first line. From a fiction summer workshop professor to a news writing professor, I have been told the same thing: The first line of any poem, article, short story, or novel is what stands between your reader picking up a different piece of writing or sitting down to spend the evening engrossed in your words on the page, so you’ve got to make it not just good…but damn good.

I remember the very first time a first line of literature completely pulled me in. It was Christmastime in South Carolina, and instead of playing outside with all the other kids on my block talking about what we hoped to get for Christmas, I was sitting in my room reading the very first line of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenburgs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”

I don’t know what it was about this first line that grabbed me, but after I read it, I couldn’t help wondering who the Rosenburgs were and why they had been executed. Maybe it grabbed me because of how the summer was described as “queer” and “sultry,” or maybe even though I didn’t know why the main character, Esther Greenwood, was in New York, I wanted to find out just as much as she did. Or maybe I just liked the way each word in the sentence combined to form the perfect combination of sounds and emotions.

I don’t remember putting down the book that first night, after being completely hooked by the first line. I most likely fell asleep with the book in my hands, only to wake up the next morning and keep on reading. That’s when you know you’ve found an incredible work of literature: when life stops until the last page is turned. To this day, the beginning of The Bell Jar comes to mind when I think of first lines. However, is another first line that has held just as much impact for me as Plath’s words did. Here’s the first line of Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons, which is also an incredibly amazing, though quite depressing read.

“When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy.”

Yes, I warned you it was morbid. However, first lines aren’t exactly supposed to make you squeal with joy. They are supposed to make you think. They are supposed to make you want to stay up late into the night just because you want to know what happens to a character that has entered your heart, though you have told yourself over and over that the character isn’t real. First lines are supposed to cause you to stretch your mind and question your beliefs. If first lines often stated things that we strongly believed in, they wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. It’s the first lines that keep us up at night that are the most powerful. Though we may not openly admit it, we like to be challenged. Being challenged allows us to open our minds to other possibilities, which helps us to grow as people and as a society. It’s the first lines that have you begging for more even after you have turned the last page that hold the most promise. And it’s those gripping first lines that push readers of all ages to come back to literature, again and again. It’s not just enough to read one book and be done with it. We must read them all. We must make each book a part of us, another world waiting to be discovered, another life filled with all new characters and places that we are ready to welcome home.

Photo Friday: Yearning for new insights.

12 Oct

Part of my driveway at home covered in fall leaves.

 

“I want to taste and glory in each day, and never be afraid to experience pain; and never shut myself up in a numb core of nonfeeling, or stop questioning and criticizing life and take the easy way out. To learn and think: to think and live; to live and learn: this always, with new insight, new understanding, and new love.”-Sylvia Plath 

Walking down the empty streets.

13 Aug

“There is a certain unique and strange delight about walking down an empty street alone. There is an off-focus light cast by the moon, and the streetlights are part of the spotlight apparatus on a bare stage set up for you to walk through. You get a feeling of being listened to, so you talk aloud, softly, to see how it sounds.” – from The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

I don’t know what it is about this quote that resonates with me, but I love it. I think it has something to do with the certain level of contentment that can be achieved through merely being alone. So many people have said that writing is a lonely business to go into. However, what about for those people who enjoy time to themselves to mull over their thoughts? Is it as lonely? Or does it provide a sense of delight that allows you not only to mull over your own thoughts, but to hear how they sound when they’re spoken aloud?

My favorite author, Jodi Picoult, has said that writing is an acceptable form of schizophrenia, and I believe that’s true in certain ways. However, as writers, we don’t view it as a negative thing. All we’re doing is trying to get on the same level as the words we’re writing in order to make sure that we are being as true and honest and authentic as possible. And what’s so crazy about that?

The Paperclip Award!

12 Mar

Another award, oh goodie! Thanks to Laura of Cheesecake Summer for giving me the opportunity to accept this award. Laura’s pretty awesome, so all of you should check out her blog!

1. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer. And though I’ve gone back and forth from then until now, I know I still want to be one. Though I also want to be a counselor, it’d be nice to be a counselor and then write on the side. Then I get the best of both worlds!

2. What is your ultimate favorite place to be?

The Blue Ridge Mountains. Even if I leave for just a short time, I am always so excited when I spot the first glimpse of the Blue Ridges. I’ve always been a mountain person instead of a beach person, and having the opportunity to live in the mountains is so incredible!

3. Name one famous person who inspires you. (Just one!!!)

Jodi Picoult. She’s a New York Times bestselling author, and her books have the power to move me. I’m inspired by her ability to evoke so much emotion just by using words. I only hope that one day I can accomplish the same thing.

4. Tea or Coffee?

Coffee ALL THE WAY! I love it so much! I do love sweet tea (since I’ve grown up in the South, and it’s just so good), but if I had to choose, I’d definitely pick coffee. A medium vanilla latte to be exact! YUM!

5. If you could be any other person for 48 hours, who would you be?

My best friend, Skidmore. She’s so amazing, and she also makes designs and all sorts of other creative stuff. She wants to go into the college apparel business once she’s finishes college, and I’d love to be her for 48 hours (but only if it can with all her talents, ha!). Plus, I’d love to be able to truly call myself a Hokie (she goes to Virginia Tech), if only for 2 days!

6. What is your earliest memory?

That’s really hard. I remember spending hours on my bedroom floor reading The Polka Dot Horse. I remember going to daycare and always getting excited for snack time because they brought out these really yummy lemon cookies, and I also remember the days when I’d sit in the dirt for hours in our backyard making mud pies with my Barbie kitchen. I’m not sure how old I was in those instances, but the latter memory is one that I remember pretty vividly.

7. If you could ask anyone in the world, living or dead, anything, who would you ask, and what would you ask them?

I’d ask Jodi Picoult what it was like for her growing up and what the moment was like when she knew she wanted to be a writer.

8. What is the scariest thing you have ever done?

I think my past was probably the scariest, partly because it’s the mindset I’m in since I’ve been working on my book recently. I think it was still the scariest though. I can’t think of a time when I was more scared. I mean, I knew I would be feeling pain, but I could never be sure of when my legs would decide to spasm…and I could never be sure of when they’d stop either. I really can’t even imagine any other experience more terrifyingly painful.

9. What is your favorite book?

Wow. That’s hard. Here are my favorites by my favorite authors: Harvesting The Heart by Jodi Picoult, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. There are definitely many more favorites, but these are just the ones I thought of off the top of my head. If you haven’t read these, I encourage you to add them to your TBR (to be read) list!

10. Briefly explain one of the weirdest dreams you have ever had.

I actually hardly ever remember any of my dreams. The one I remember specifically is the recurring dream I had during the spans of time I was in and out of the hospital. In the dream, I’d wake up during surgery, but I wouldn’t be able to speak. I’d see the doctors straightening my femurs, I’d see lots of blood, and I’d see the places on my legs that would eventually hold the scars that even the worst sunburn can’t cover up.

11. What one song best describes you? (Feel free to post a link to a YouTube vid)

Best describes me? Hmm…I think I’d have to say “Blackbird” by the Beatles. Though it is a sad song, it emphasizes what I’ve dealt with my entire life: learning how to overcome my disability in order to fully be able to accept who I am and the life that I was given. It’s a song of hope and courage that reminds me that I have the ability to overcome all of this, even if it feels impossible sometimes. It’s also the central concept of the book I’m writing. I’m writing a book about my life in order to be able to reach a point of acceptance within myself. However, if it helps future families that are dealing with CP, then that’s great too.

12. Pen or pencil?

Pencil. I make too many mistakes to use a pen.

13. Is 13 an unlucky number or not?
I’m not really a believer in luck actually.