Tag: novel

The Bell Jar’s Influence: Anniversary Edition

The first line in The Bell Jar is a hook: “It was a… sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” The person speaking is Esther Greenwood, a smart, straight-A, dark-humored and, as the story goes on, depressed protagonist.

The book was published in London on January 14th, 1963 under a pseudonym Victoria Lucas, one month before the actual author, Sylvia Plath, committed suicide. People had to wait almost a decade for its publication in The United States. It is the only novel Plath ever wrote.

image via vintag.es

The story itself is a coming of age tale about a college girl who is figuring out what she wants and who she wants to be. She wins a contest to write for a “girl’s” magazine called Ladies’ Day in New York. She takes the opportunity and moves to New York for the summer along with a group of other young women, and they all live in a hotel/dormitory called the Amazon. This is where the book begins. The experience is less than Esther expected it to be. Her editors give her uninspiring pep talks, and her friends lead her into dangerous situations where she is almost, at one point, raped. She feels lonely most of the time. Upon getting stuck in a room where one of her friends, Doreen, is getting close with Lenny Shepherd, a man they met by happenstance one night on the town, Esther says:

“There’s something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room. It’s like watching Paris from an express caboose heading in the opposite direction – every second the city gets smaller and smaller, only you feel it’s really you getting smaller and smaller and lonelier and lonelier, rushing away from all those lights and that excitement at about a million miles an hour.”

It is with similes like this one where we get a deep look into Esther’s intelligence and ability to discern the truth about what it means to be young and still forging your identity.

 

A lot of the novel is about forging identity, but Esther’s identity is so tied up with her depression that she has trouble separating the one from the other. After New York, she heads back home to Boston and spirals downward until she finds a crawlspace to hide in, and tries to commit suicide. This lands her in a sanitarium. She is eventually sent to a private hospital in the countryside paid for by the woman who sponsored her scholarship, Philomena Guinea. It is there where Esther is really attended to for her illness. She is given insulin, analysis, freedom to go into town with improvement in mood, and is treated with electric shock therapy; all of it leads her back to wellness. How do we know she’s well? She says, just before her dismissal, “There ought, I thought, to be a ritual for being born twice – patched, retreaded and approved for the road.”

This novel also gave Sylvia Plath a way to confront sexism and convention. Throughout the pages, Esther mentions how many times her mother has at one point told her to learn shorthand. “The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way. I wanted to dictate my own thrilling letters.” Esther doesn’t know how to cook, either. She doesn’t know how to dance. She can’t sing a note. “The one thing I was good at was winning scholarships and prizes…” In other words, Esther succeeds at competing with men.

image via sylviaplathinfo.blogspot.com

Plath’s writing style can be interpreted as dark, but also as darkly comic, elegiac, honest, and nostalgic. “When I was nineteen, pureness was the great issue.” This is both a joke and an admittance. After Esther finds out Buddy Willard, her boyfriend, has already had sex, she is filled with resentment over the hypocrisy he embodies but also feels a competitive edge. She rejects his proposal. He is a fraud in her eyes now, and it brings her a step closer to knowing something about herself: she cannot succumb to promises of chastity until marriage. Esther ends up losing her virginity to some guy named Irwin she meets on the steps of the Harvard Library. It leads to a slight hemorrhaging mishap that lands her in the Emergency room; what she loses in blood she gains in experience and independence. She is even fitted for a diaphragm with the encouragement of her female doctor. “I was my own woman.”

 

Esther also ponders a life of wifely duties with children and husband as her primary purpose in life and she grows deeply afraid. “I knew that in spite of all the roses and kisses and restaurant dinners a man showered a woman before he married her, what he secretly wanted when the wedding service ended was for her to flatten out underneath his feet like Mrs. Willard’s kitchen mat.”  While this characterization of family life may be exaggerated, Plath is pointing out the inherent gender inequality and unfair expectations society has for women.

Image via Lagan Online

The bell jar itself symbolizes Esther’s mental illness in all its stifling, alienating inescapability: ”…wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.” The bell jar warps reality, but there isn’t much difference, at times, between the distortion and the truth, as Esther discovers. On the day she is due to leave the hospital, Belsize, where she lived during her hospital stay, she wonders “what was there about us, in Belsize, so different from the girls playing bridge and gossiping and studying in the college to which I would return? Those girls, too, sat under bell jars of a sort.”n

If you’re curious as to how closely this novel relates back to Sylvia Plath, she did indeed have a guest editorship at a magazine called Mademoiselle. Philomena Guinea is based on a real woman, her literary patron named Olivia Higgins Prout, and Plath did try to commit suicide, and was sent to a hospital as a result. She even had Electroconvulsive Therapy just like Esther.

 

In 1979, there was a film adaptation starring Marilyn Hassett and Julie Harris. It did not do well with audiences or critics. There is a Showtime tv series (originally slated to be a film) starring Dakota Fanning based on the book supposedly in the works.

image via storenvy

The response to the book was positive, but Sylvia’s mother didn’t want it to be published in the United States because of the comparisons people made between Esther’s family and her own. It finally made it here in 1971, and fans did hyper-focus on the autobiographical similarities, though the NY Times gave it a positive review. The New Yorker’s review was mixed. In the end, it became one of the most influential novels of the 20th century.

Featured image via Deskgram


Bookstr is community supported. If you enjoy Bookstr’s articles, quizzes, graphics and videos, please join our Patreon to support our writers and creators or donate to our Paypal and help Bookstr to keep supporting the book loving community.
Become a Patron!



Four books stacked on top of each other (left side) beside an open book

Laugh out Loud with These 5 Insane Places to Read!

You can read anywhere. You can read in your house, on the bus, in a train, on a plane, you can read with the sunset behind you or with a sword fight in front of you.

 

Two people staring at each other through their respective books

Image Via NPR

 

But, using high tech sciencey things, we now know for sure, beyond any reasonable doubt, that these are the top five definite worst places to read.

 

5-In a burning building

 

Firefighters trying to put out a burning building

Image Via Practical Eschatology

 

The building is on fire. Well, time for a good book!

Don’t be that dude. The flames will destroy the pages and it’ll be too hot to properly read. You’ll get light headed. You will burn alive.

 

A book burning

Image Via The Guardian

 

And worst case, the book will burn into ash, and books shouldn’t be burned.

 

4-On Train Tracks

 

Don’t do this.

 

A POV shot of someone lying on traintracks

Image Via Time Magazine

 

There are two problems with this. For one, if you sit down normally then you could be sitting in a dark tunnel. Not good if you want to see what you’re reading without the assistance of a flashlight.

 

The subway arrives

Image Via Aliexpress

 

But let’s say the tunnel is lit up, like the picture above, or you’re outside, like the picture above that. Well, either way you’re sitting down on a terrain meant for a train that wasn’t meant for you to sit on. Sounds like your bum could be in a lot of pain. And if you lie down, that could hurt your spin. Not good.

ALSO A TRAIN COULD SMASH INTO YOUR FACE!

Picture this: You’re reading a good book. Completely engrossed. Eyes on the book, you don’t see that light coming for you at the end of the tunnel. But you hear it. You try to stand up, but you fall. It’s not so bad, you think, that could be something good. But here’s the thing…

 

Ben Affleck as Daredevil
Image Via Decider

“THAT’S NOT HEAVEN, THAT’S THE C TRAIN!”

And now instead of reading, you got hit by a train. Now that just sounds like a pain in the neck…

 

 

3-In the ocean

 

A person swimming (drowning?) in the ocean
Image Via Video Blocks

 

You’re underwater with a good book. Pacific ocean, let’s say? Yes, let’s say that.

The ocean is sparkling, glittering. Above you, colorful fish swim around you, dancing about like angels. You look down, but guess what? You can’t read. The water has washed the pages and smeared the ink.

 

Someone reaching above the surface of the water, straining to reach an unseen helping hand

Image Via Tony Evans

 

Now you have nothing to read while you drown. Life sucks sometimes, don’t it?

 

2-Space

 

Space

Image Via Wired

 

This seems romantic. Hurdling through the cosmos, a book in your hands, flying with the cosmos to the stars beyond the stars. Your eyes go to that first line and-

 

Even Starload nearly died in space...and he's half Celestial

Image Via Guardians of the Galaxy

 

You’re dead now. Wanna know why? Because you can’t breathe in space.

 

 

1-Skydiving

 

Skydiving

Image Via Skydive Mossel Bay

 

So you have your favorite book with you, but then a strange man in a red costume tells you to get ready. You put your trust bookmark in (don’t dogtail the page, you monster) and you put it at your side. There’s a parachute on your back. The plane opens up. You’re about to go skydiving.

With the wind whipping your face, you look below and see the ground. It looks like a painting. You take a breath and fall.

 

Skydiving

This is you, but you have a book in your hand  / Image Via Skydive Oz

 

As you tumble to the ground, you realize this might not ever happen again. You could die. Your blood is drumming through your veins. Your heart is going fast. With adrenaline pumping through you, you could just speed through the lines. When are you going to get another opportunity like this?

You open up your book and start to read. You’re reading fast, so fast, and you read both pages at breakneck speed. You flip the page, but you’re fighting against the wind. This is going to be harder than you think.

With all your might, you flip the page and readjust your hand, but the wind is too much. Not only is the wind literally shredding pages out of the book, but it feels like it could tear the skin off your hand.

The book flies out of your hand. That book cost a lot of money and you need to finish it before you give it back to mother earth. You look to where it’s gone, and you maneuver your body after it.

 

Skydiving

Image Via Fatherly

 

The light is harsh against your eyes. You squint, reaching out. But, Ghosh, what is that light? It’s yellow and it’s orange and it’s-!

 

A burning building, with leaping flames and billowing clouds of smoke.

Image Via Dissolve

 

A burning building. You can manage this. Reaching down, you grab the book. Yes, you have the book, and you will make this work. See that burning building? What a perfect place to read, you think, having not read this list.

 

Parachuting
Image Via BBC

You pull the parachute and gently glide into the burning building. But guess what?

 

A book burning

Image Via The Guardian

 

The book will burn into ash, and books shouldn’t be burned.

 

 

 

Featured Image Via INC


Bookstr is community supported. If you enjoy Bookstr’s articles, quizzes, graphics and videos, please join our Patreon to support our writers and creators or donate to our Paypal and help Bookstr to keep supporting the book loving community.
Become a Patron!




Elif Shafak

Turkey Puts Novelists, Including Elif Shafak, Under Investigation

According to The Guardian Turkish prosecutors have begun investigations into numerous writers of fiction, including famed author Elif Shafak. The campaign has been described as a serious violation of free speech rights, all breaking off from recent, rather vicious debates on social media about authors who write about difficult topics, such as child abuse and sexual violence. After a page from a new novel Abdullah Sevki was shared on Twitter, the novel quickly generated deep controversy when the chapter showcased featured a first person account of a child being sexual assaulted from a sexual predator’s POV. The government of Turkey has issued a formal complaint to ban the book and has charged Abdullah Sevki with criminal acts such as potential child abuse.

 

Turkey novelist with a close up of her face
IMAGE VIA THE GUARDIAN

Elif Shafak has described the campaign as a serious attack on free speech, having received thousands of abusive messages about her work published in the last few years, which deals with similar themes. She said her work is intended to put a spotlight on sexual violence in Turkey, especially against children, as Turkish courts have dragged their feet actually investigating reported incidents. She notes that instead of going after real life rapists, the Turkish courts are attacking writers instead, using them as a scapegoat without having to actually investigate the true problem.

Numerous speech organizations are deeply concerned about this campaign against Turkish novelists and have been quoted as saying:

“Freedom of expression in Turkey is increasingly under serious threat. Too many writers are in prison whilst others have been forced into exile.”

 

Shafak was previously tried for her novel, The Bastard of Istanbul, where she referred to the massacre of Armenians in World War I as a war crime and genocide. Shafak acknowledged that she deals with difficult subjects, such as sexual violence, but does not condone it and does the exact opposite with her work. She further notes she has always been a campaigner for women, children, and minority rights.

The campaign into investigating Shafak and other authors like her is sparking an international debate, both over free speech rights and content allowed in novels. What are your thoughts on this complicated issue? This could be easily be a slippery slope to go down for Turkey as a whole.

 

 

Featured Image by Random House Books 

Sad Writer

The 5 Stages of Writing a Novel

Writing a novel is a traumatic experience. Experts agree that the process happens in five distinct stages.

 

1. Denial and Isolation

 

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life… For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”

—Ernest Hemingway

 

 

A Lonely Writer

Image Via Pando

The writer secludes herself from society. The writer tries to write. She puts words on a page. So many words, yet still too few. It’s common at this beginning stage for the writer to attempt to rationalize why she isn’t writing more. There’s just not enough time in the day or she needed to binge watch the latest Netflix show. The writer lies to herself but she cannot lie to her novel. It sits there, on the screen or typewriter, unfinished. Until one fateful day it is finished.

 

2. Anger

 

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

—Maya Angelou

 

A Man Made From Discarded Drafts

Image Via Screencraft

 

It’s garbage. The manuscript is complete garbage. The writer knows he is a hack, a wannabee, a good-for-nothing. The writer gets mad. He tantrums. He throws things. His favorite mug is broken. Now he cannot drink coffee. He shoves his manuscript through a paper shredder. The writer lashes out at friends and family for never supporting his dreams. The writer’s father tells him he should do something practical instead of writing a damn book. The writer fumes.

 

3. Bargaining

 

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

—Stephen King

 

Frustrated Writer

Image Via Writers Digest

 

The writer painstakingly reassembles the shreds of paper. Maybe if she rewrote the beginning, middle, and end of her novel it could be good. She secretly prays to a higher authorial power to bestow her manuscript with the spark of genius that she so desperately wishes to possess. The writer makes a few edits, changes her mind, and tries to undo what has already been undone. She tries to save a chapter that she absolutely loves but hurts the story. It’s too late. It’s already gone.

 

4. Depression

Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.”

—Isaac Asimov

 

 

A Sadder Writer

Image Via Fantasy-Faction

 

Sadness. The rejection letters piling up are longer than the manuscript itself. The writer sits at home, more alone than ever, and writes query letter after query letter. Nobody wants his novel. He mopes around the house and thinks about self-publishing. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

 

5. Acceptance

“Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.”

—Sylvia Plath

 

Buy My Book!

Image Via Giphy

 

The sad aspect of this stage is that not every writer gets to this point. An editor or agent somewhere has seen a hint of potential in the manuscript. It has been accepted for publication. The writer is going to get published. The writer is at peace.

 

 

Image Via Through the Tollbooth

book cover and author

Apple Adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s ‘Pachinko’ in the Works

Remember last time I shared my serendipitous encounter with new novels on the morning 7 train? One book on the list is Korean American author Min Jin Lee’s best-selling novel Pachinko. Well, the news has just been released that the novel is going to be adapted into TV series!

 

 

Pachinko was a 2017 finalist for the National Book Award for fiction and was named by The New York Times as one of the 10 Best Books of 2017. Six companies fought for the rights, however in the end, the king of technology-Apple-won, and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the show will be among the most expensive in the TV series history, with a budget similar to Netflix’s The Crown.

 

 

d

Image via Parnassus Musing

 

 

Set in the early 20th century, Min Jin Lee describes Sunja, the poor but lovely Korean daughter of the fisherman, who, without warning, falls in love with a rich married man. When she finds out she’s pregnant and the man is married, she cuts off the relationship without hesitation, and moves to Japan with a sick but kindly diplomat. The story focuses on the tough and bloodied history of Korean immigrants in Japan.

 

 

Soo Hugh, the Korean American showrunner and screenwriter of The Terror, will take the lead on the screen adaptation, serving as the program leader and producer. The production company will be Media Res, established by Prometheus (2012)’s producer Michael Ellenberg. The TV series will be presented in Korean, Japanese, and English.

 

 

I’m glad to see more representations about Asian American communities and their histories, lives, and identities. Will the show be a good adaptation to the original work? Let’s wait and see!

 

 

Read articles regarding upcoming Asian American representation: 

 

 

Featured Image Via PBS