Plath was twenty-years-old when she submitted this story to Mademoiselle magazine, who rejected it, though she had won the publication’s fiction contest the year before. According to The New Yorker, critic and academic Judith Glazer-Raymo unearthed the story while doing research into Plath’s works and other archives.
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Harper Perennial is expected to publish the book with an alternative book cover design—illustrated with train tracks following the sunset—available on Amazon, January 15th. Here is how the cover looks like along with its Amazon synopsis:
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Never before published, this newly discovered story by literary legend Sylvia Plath stands on its own and is remarkable for its symbolic, allegorical approach to a young woman’s rebellion against convention and forceful taking control of her own life.
Written while Sylvia Plath was a student at Smith College in 1952, Mary Ventura and The Ninth Kingdom tells the story of a young woman’s fateful train journey.
Lips the color of blood, the sun an unprecedented orange, train wheels that sound like “guilt, and guilt, and guilt”: these are just some of the things Mary Ventura begins to notice on her journey to the ninth kingdom.
“But what is the ninth kingdom?” she asks a kind-seeming lady in her carriage. “It is the kingdom of the frozen will,” comes the reply. “There is no going back.”
Sylvia Plath’s strange, dark tale of female agency and independence, written not long after she herself left home, grapples with mortality in motion.
Are you a Lana Del Rey fan? Are you a Sylvia Plath fan? Then you are going to love this! Lana posted a snippet of a song titled Hope Is A Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have – But I Have it on Instagram during New Years Day.
How did this not occur sooner? Lana expressed in the past she was inspired by the poet and always had a flair for the melancholic—and paying homage to one of the greatest poets of the 20th century with similar artistic charisma is exciting to see—better late than never I always say! Lana also expressed interest in publishing a poetry book on Beats 1 Radio to Zane Lowe after her debut of Venice Bitch on September 18th.
Maybe I’d get less stressed, if I was tested less like
All of these debutantes
Smiling for miles in pink dresses and high heels
On white yachts
But I’m not
Baby I’m not
No, I’m not
That I’m not
I’ve been tearing around in my fucking nightgown
24/7, Sylvia Plath
Plath is known for her poetry collections The Colossus (1960), Ariel (1965), The Collected Poems (1982) which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and her first and only novel The Bell Jar (1963). In 2018, The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume 2 1956 – 1963 were published.
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The poet committed suicide at age thirty-one on February 11th, 1963. She would have been eighty-five today.
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Hope Is A Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have – But I Have it will be released on January 9th.
It’s time for National Novel Writing Month, a hellish and delightful month-long exercise for writers of all skill levels and prior experience. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words of fiction by the end of November, creating a bit more every day (1,667 words, to be exact). The outcome of NaNoWriMo is often a mix of joy and incredible frustration. Here are six pieces of serious advice from famous classic and contemporary authors to help get you through every step of the NaNoWriMo process.
Few authors ever write the proverbial ‘Great American Novel,’ but many believe that classic writer and humorist Mark Twain is one of these few. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn author advises: “get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.” While you don’t need to, say, drop everything and move to London to write your WWII period piece, you should also know more about WWII than to say for sure it happened. Make sure you have insight into the small details of the places, times, and circumstances you address— even if you feel familiar with them already! Others may share your experiences but feel differently about them. You may also find that immersing yourself in the mood and tone of a topic can make your work more atmospheric.
If J.K. Rowling, international celebrity author of the Harry Potter series, needs to warm up… don’t feel bad about needing the same thing! She writes:
“You have to resign yourself to the fact that you waste a lot of trees before you write anything you really like, and that’s just the way it is. It’s like learning an instrument, you’ve got to be prepared for hitting wrong notes occasionally, or quite a lot, ‘cause I wrote an awful lot before I wrote anything I was really happy with.”
First drafts are more than just mistakes to be rewritten— they’re actually a necessary part of the process. If you’re a new writer just starting out, every sentence you despise is just the next step towards a sentence that you love. The only way out of the self-hate spiral is through it!
5. Consider your words.
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So you’ve gotten to the most important part of writing your novel— writing it. Conveniently, this part is usually also the hardest. It’s a challenge to be objective about your own work, and while it’s easy to tell whether or not you’re meeting the word count, it can be substantially less easy to tell whether or not the words are what you hoped they would be.George Orwell, classic author of 1984and Animal Farm, has a series of blunt but helpfulquestions:
A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:
1. What am I trying to say?
2. What words will express it?
3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
And he will probably ask himself two more:
1. Could I put it more shortly?
2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?
6. Finish the story.
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While the Internet is full of awesome writers’ resources, too much of a good thing can turn into a thing that distracts the absolute !@#$ out of you. The purpose of something like a character sheet isn’t to help you end up with a filled-out character sheet. The point is to end up with a complete character… who then lives inside a complete story. As John Green, celebrity author of heart-wrenching novels Looking for Alaskaand The Fault in Our Stars, so eloquently puts it: “go spit in the face of our inevitable obsolescence and finish your @#$&ng novel.” You can find this wisdom and the rest of his NaNoWriMo pep talk here for advice, inspiration, and blatant common sense.
One last piece of blatant common sense: always save your drafts!
Sylvia Plath is a figure of both tragedy and genius. A pioneer of the confessional poetry genreand posthumous Pulitzer Prize-winner, she lived to be only thirty-years-old. Plath’s raw depiction of her personal struggles continues to resonate with many who share her feelings. All readers carry the impact of writing that touches them, but these seven tattoos help people to keep Plath’s words especially close.
In the whole of Sylvia Plath’s career, she only ever published one novel. The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical account of a young woman who suffers from a depressive breakdown after returning home from a prestigious editing internship in New York. The bulk of Plath’s work was devoted to poetry, and the original publication of The Bell Jar was done under a pen name.
Plath did not want the novel’s reception to detract from her poetic legacy, nor did she want the people who made their way into The Bell Jar as characters to become aware of what Plath had written about them. Plath’s concerns were valid, as many readers of The Bell Jar have noted that the people who populate Esther Greenwood’s (Plath’s autobiographical protagonist) world come off as flat, unsympathetic, and even grotesque.
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For Plath to write honestly about illness, she had to honestly describe what illness does to one’s relationships. Esther’s illness renders her unable to thoughtfully engage with the people around her; she harbors hostile feelings for her friends, for her fellow patients at the mental health facility where she stays, and even for her own mother. This cold lack of sympathy has put readers off since the book’s release. We never get to see how a healthy Esther would interact with others, so it is easy to interpret this coldness as a trait, rather than a symptom. But there’s something many readers and Plath fans may not be aware of: Plath never intended for The Bell Jar to be the end of Esther’s story.
Image via The New Yorker
The Bell Jar ends just as Esther is about to stand before a panel of doctors who will determine whether or not she may be released from their care. It appears to be a cliffhanger, but the beginning of the novel holds a clue as to what becomes of Esther. Early in the novel, Esther briefly describes what became of the various gifts she had received as an intern in New York:
For a long time afterward I hid them away, but later, when I was all right again, I brought them out, and I still have them around the house. I use the lipsticks now and then, and last week I cut the plastic starfish off the sunglasses case for the baby to play with.
This simple passage implies that The Bell Jar is written by an older, healthier Esther, who may even be a mother, if “the baby” is meant to be interpreted as her own. This means that there is a significant period of time during which Esther becomes “all right again” to which we are not privy. But historical documents indicate that Plath intended on filling in this gap and showing us Esther’s world through the eyes of her recovery.
Image via Hallie Shepherd
Plath referred to The Bell Jar as her “an autobiographical apprentice work which I had to write in order to free myself from the past.” To Plath, The Bell Jar was an exercise in catharsis, and one could even say that The Bell Jar’s true purpose was to act as the foundation for the novel on wellness Plath intended to write— it is worth noting that Plath began writing the sequel between when The Bell Jar was accepted for publication and when it was actually published.
Plath’s mother Aurelia was open about her daughter’s unfinished projects, and it is because of Aurelia that we have so much information about the unfinished sequel. She once said that
The companion book [to The Bell Jar] which was to follow this—and I have this all spelled out in letters from her—was to be the triumph of the healed central figure of the first volume and in this the caricatured characters of the first volume were to assume their true identities.
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Unfortunately, Plath’s wellness was inextricably tied to her relationship with Ted Hughes. Plath’s marriage to Hughes had a powerful effect on her mental health, and when things in the relationship began to deteriorate, so too, did Plath’s psyche. When Plath discovered that Hughes had been having an affair, she set fire to not only his manuscripts, but hers as well, including what would have been the sequel to The Bell Jar. With the sequel obliterated from existence, Plath began to work on a different novel, one in which the protagonist is betrayed by her unfaithful husband (this version of the novel seems to have disappeared, according to Hughes).
Neither The Bell Jar‘s sequel, nor its permutation were ever released. About a month after the first publication of The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath died by suicide. The novel, or novels, she intended to write would never be.
Sylvia Plath’s legacy as one of the first writers to thoughtfully and honestly write about mental illness has reverberated throughout the reading community ever since its release.
If you, or a loved one is struggling with mental illness, don’t suffer alone. Seek professional help; call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or if you prefer, chat with them online here.