Thursday, July 28, 2011

There was no stopping it

Emily Gould has a pretty good meditation on the 40th anniversary of the (re-)publication of The Bell Jar, which I think tends to be underappreciated; I would dare anyone to explain to me how The Catcher in the Rye is a superior book.

Gould does fall into the usual trap of trying to "read" Plath's suicide. Having spent a fair amount of study on the two most renowned female-author suicides of the 20th century (Plath and Woolf), I don't think you can explain clinical depression by cultural patriarchy, work vs. family, etc. Mistaking the subject matter of Plath's last poems for "why she killed herself" seems to me to treat mental illness as if it were a matter of reasons, and that makes about as much sense to me as trying to interpret Flannery O'Connor's lupus.

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