This Rough Magic: 2a Biography of Sylvia Plath

Paul Alexander, Author Viking Books $24.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-670-81812-9
Nearly 30 years after Plath's (1932-1963) suicide, her troubled life proves to be fertile ground for biographers, as witness this work by Alexander (editor of Ariel Ascending ), which may be the most objective portrayal yet of the controversial American poet. Choosing to write Plath's life without the consent and probable constraints of the estate, Alexander eschews quoting from Plath's work; his is not a literary study. Yet the results are impressive: a thorough, beautifully fashioned chronicle rich in new materials and significant minutiae, beginning with the convergence of her parents' lives, continuing with Plath's precocious childhood and tumultuous adulthood, and concluding with her posthumous literary career. The book's achievement is to record Plath's notable vicissitudes with respect and sensitivity, implying but not imposing an interpretation on complex, often ambiguous evidence. Though at times we may desire more direct analysis, Alexander's understated approach has the considerable virtue of allowing readers to determine for themselves--insofar as such questions can ever be answered--what forces nurtured Plath's extraordinary lyrical gifts and what finally ended them. Photos. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
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