Friday, August 26, 2011

"That would fix a lot of people."

The more I thought about it the better I liked the idea of being seduced by a simultaneous interpreter in New York City. Constantin seemed mature and considerate in every way. There were no people I knew he would want to brag to about it, the way college boys bragged about sleeping with girls in the backs of cars to their room-mates or their friends on the basketball team. And there would be a pleasant irony in sleeping with a man Mrs Willard had introduced me to, as if she were, in a roundabout way, to blame for it.
When Constantin asked if I would like to come up to his apartment to hear some balalaika records I smiled to myself. My mother had always told me never under any circumstances to go with a man to a man's rooms after an evening out, it could only mean the one thing.
'I am very fond of balalaika music, I said.'

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, (1963)

What I like about Sylvia Plath's novel, after rereading it just now, is not only the vivid imagery and the huge number of quotable quotes about the poisonous effect of American society on the lives of women - it is the tone: the angry humour and the ultra-real depictions of the world. It is obviously the work of a poet, in the compression and precision, and in the structure, the frequent use of one word paragraphs that say much in few words.

On the verge of a mental breakdown, the narrator Esther Greenwood, after being turned down for a summer school writing course with a famous writer, ponders on what she will do with herself:

"Then I decided I would write a novel.
That would fix a lot of people."

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