04 Maria Popova on Loneliness

… i was about to title this Sylvia Plath, or the Journals of Sylvia Plath… MP’s thoughts here revolve around Sylvia Plath’s journals even as they evoke thoughts and feelings of sadness and loneliness that she herself feels… MP is talking as much about her own experience as she is decoding Sylvia Plath’s…

… i learn that she considers her upbringing less than optimal and that she has struggled in relationships with “people whose claws fit (her) wounds and deepen them,” an experience i certainly had with my first marriage…

… it is strange, though, to talk about the loneliness of love… i don’t really understand this… i suppose that a relationship can leave one unfulfilled (and therefore lonely?)… i suspect that one is lonely on their own when one isn’t good at being with themselves… would this have been Sylvia Plath’s problem?… is this Maria Popova’s problem?…

… i have spent very little of my life truly alone… there has almost always been a love interest and very brief times of solitude between those interests… even so, i have always required large amounts of solitude within my relationships… i wake up early in the morning just to have several hours of that solitude before H wakes up and the household begins to churn…

… i am so good at being alone that i don’t struggle with loneliness much at all… i like who and what i am in solitude… this was my pandemic super power… i did not have to change much about my routines during the height of it… often, it is enough to satisfy my need for human contact to be in a cafe full of strangers, or, during the pandemic, meet someone i know on the street and chat for a few minutes…

02 The Bell Jar, Chapter 09, Sylvia Plath

… the more i read, the more i realize that Bell Jar is a feminist work, carefully outlining the options available to women in the day and setting the heroine up to choose among unappealing alternatives… we’ve had the fatherly doctor-to-be proposing marriage already… it seems to be a fantasy that Esther doesn’t want… now we are following her and Hilda to work… Hilda, who is busy being a store mannequin and looking at herself in every window that bounces back her reflection… Hilda seems to have settled on the fantasy she wants…

… a dramatic twist, a blind date, Marco, attempts to rape Esther… her last night in the city… it prepares to spit her out…

05 Rabbit Hole D’jour Part II, James Baldwin

People can’t, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, anymore than they can invent their parents. Life gives these and also takes them away and the great difficulty is to say Yes to life.1

… the idea of saying yes to life immediately takes my mind to Camu’s Myth of Sisyphus, in which the opening salvo is a meditation on the most fundamental philosophical question of them all, To Be, Or Not To Be… that being the question… most of us say yes to life, but i read Sylvia Plath, who did not, and look at the photos of Francesca Woodman, who did not… i look poised to stay with life to the end, bitter or otherwise… my bigger question at the moment is whether i am happy, and if i am not, what i will do to be happier…

02 The Bell Jar, Chapter 08, Sylvia Plath

… Buddy Willard proposes, Esther demurs… well, so far, the chapter jumps oddly to skiing and a broken leg, Buddy plays the part of fatherly ski instructor then doctor… does this mean she will un-demure?… i find the scene descriptions a little forced, overwrought… H said it is depressing, i am wondering when i will get to the depressing bits, unless you count hurtling towards a life of wifely banality depressing, which it could be… if that is what we are heading for, it is uncertain at present…

02 The Bell Jar, Chapter 07, Sylvia Plath

… about Constantine taking her to lunch and her own inadequacies, which are legion… this chapter all about what nice girls do and don’t do, while she decides not to be a nice girl anymore… this chapter is about the place of women in the lives of men and our heroine does not like it… to wit…

And I knew that in spite of all the roses and kisses and restaurant dinners a man showered on 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.1

… sadly, she never has sex with Constantine… if SP lived in the current time, there would have been sex… and our heroine would not have been a virgin either…


  1. Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar (Modern Classics) (p. 65). Harper. Kindle Edition. [return]

02 The Bell Jar, Chapter 06, Sylvia Plath

… well, the trouble with Buddy seems to be that he wasn’t straight forward and honest about sleeping with a waitress two or three times a week for the better part of a summer while working on Cape Cod in a hotel… hmmm, why should anyone lead with that?… when i was growing up, most young men had significant sexual experiences at a relatively early age… many young women too… why are we supposed to lead with that?… i suppose you tell someone eventually if the relationship is serious and it seems important they know… or is it only in a world where virginity is important that it matters at all?…

02 The Bell Jar, Chapter 05, Sylvia Plath

… this chapter about Buddy Willard, handsome Yalie, whom she decided she couldn’t love… the chapter a flashback about when he asked her to some dance… these two sentences are highlighted 855 times…

 I decided to expect nothing from Buddy Willard. If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.1

… a double edged thought… expect nothing, get nothing goes the saying… it might be better to be disappointed in the long run…

… so far, i am feeling this novel is not the work of a full fledged novelist, that it has, here and there, clunky descriptions, that the story is not especially engrossing, the kind of novel one might read on the beach in the summer… H says it is depressing… i haven’t gotten to any bits that are depressed, unless you count the general malaise of being a human in this book…


  1. Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar (Modern Classics) (p. 46). Harper. Kindle Edition. [return]

02 The Bell Jar, Chapter 04, Sylvia Plath

… a line about learning short hand as a practical skill… i think about learning to touch type, way back in High School, the most useful skill i ever learned…

… an extended description of puking ensues… the whole chapter seems about puking… i am wondering in what way that moves the story forward… metaphor for how it sucks to be a woman?…

02 The Bell Jar, Chapter 03, Sylvia Plath

… paragraph upon paragraph about food and how the protagonist can eat as much as she wants and never gain weight… and then, this…

Physics made me sick the whole time I learned it. What I couldn’t stand was this shrinking everything into letters and numbers. Instead of leaf shapes and enlarged diagrams of the holes the leaves breathe through and fascinating words like carotene and xanthophyll on the blackboard, there were these hideous, cramped, scorpion-lettered formulas in Mr. Manzi’s special red chalk.1

… there is something elemental about this paragraph, the difference between a feminine and masculine outlook?… she couldn’t stand the shrinking of things into letters and numbers… she couldn’t stand the draining of texture, color, life, from the cosmos… she couldn’t stand the reduction of qualities into quantities… she couldn’t stand the basis of capitalism, which is to turn everything in to quantities to be bought and sold…


  1. Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar (Modern Classics) (pp. 27-28). Harper. Kindle Edition. [return]

02 The Bell Jar, Chapter 02, Sylvia Plath

I don’t believe in baptism or the waters of Jordan or anything like that, but I guess I feel about a hot bath the way those religious people feel about holy water.1

… those of us who don’t believe the prevailing mythology have to find sacred in other places… a hot bath or, in my case, a hot shower, is one of those places… we, the secular, find religion in what makes us feel good, feel ourselves, feel alive, and perhaps this is why we don’t transcend…

… i suspect this chapter is the beginning of descent, but it is a descent brought on by the external world, filled with girlfriends that are prettier than you and catch the man who gets them drunk to the point of throwing up at your feet…


  1. Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar (Modern Classics) (p. 16). Harper. Kindle Edition. [return]

04 The Bell Jar, Chapter 01, Sylvia Plath

… it’s a novel, but reads autobiographical, written in the first person… it opens up with death, the electrocution of the Rosenbergs, the experience of seeing a cadaver, foreshadowing?…

… the introduction to Buddy Willard, who went to Yale, is that he is stupid because ”he didn’t have one speck of intuition.”, hmmm… i suspect that is right, true intelligence requires intuition, an ability to leap…

03 The Bell Jar, Foreword, Sylvia Plath

… in the forward, i read…

Plath’s suicide on February 11, 1963 brought her instant fame in England, where she had made occasional appearances on the BBC and was beginning to be known through her publications.1

… how is it the world pays particular attention the moment an artist dies, especially if they were promising and commit suicide?… how does that work?… we become frantic to gather everything the artist ever did, to preserve it, because there will be no more?…


  1. McCullough, Frances. Foreword to The Bell Jar (Modern Classics) (p. 1). Harper. Kindle Edition. [return]

05 Suicide

… a post on Sylvia Plath in Brain Pickings resurfaces a thought that viewing the youthful suicides of Plath and Francesca Woodman in parallel might be fruitful, informed by Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus, the fundamental philosophical question being whether to continue to live or not… most of us, me included, ferociously hold onto life and fear death… some do not, for whatever reasons…