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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Currently reading

Visible Empire
Hannah Pittard
The Deptford Trilogy
Robertson Davies
Life on Mars
Jennifer Brown
The Family Under the Bridge
Natalie Savage Carlson

The Bell Jar CD

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath, Maggie Gyllenhaal The idea of The Bell Jar always seemed so... boring. The title alone elicits yawns. Plus it was an attempt to write a novel by a poet. And not just any poet, but Sylvia Plath. Now, in my head, Plath was born in the 1800s and was a boring and shy woman who locked herself in her house. It seems I may have merged the likeness of Plath with Dickinson. Knowing that The Bell Jar was semi-autobiographical, I didn't expect much.What a shock I received in the opening chapters of The Bell Jar. Not only was Plath not what I thought she was, but she was lively and interesting. I followed her words closely and was deeply involved in her character, Esther Greenwood. I adored her. I rooted for her.The first half of the book follows Ester through parts of her college career and her internship at a New York fashion magazine. There is a certain maturity which Esther exudes despite her juvenile antics which make her even more endearing--and which makes her eventual descent into "madness" more believable. Not much happens in the first half of the book, but it doesn't matter--Esther and her relationship with others is enough to propel the book forward.But The Bell Jar is largely about Esther's time in various mental institutions, the story of which comprises the second half of the novel. Plath wrote these scenes well. They are a vivid and accurate portrayal of asylums of the time. But they're just not as interesting as Esther's trials in "the real world." And with these stories as it's backbone, The Bell Jar begins to drag on.Overall, I liked The Bell Jar. Esther Greenwood is a wonderful protagonist and the insight into Plath's life is equally fascinating and haunting. It's unfortunate that she lived such a short life.---I'd also like to comment on the Audio Book version of this title. This is my second attempt at listening to a Book on CD. I resisted the idea for a long time, and my first attempt involved a narrator who felt the need to exaggerate every character's voice. Annoying. The Bell Jar was read by Maggie Gyllenhaal, and what a different experience it was. I was able to follow the story really well and found Gyllenhaal's voice to be pleasant. Honestly, I sort of fell in love with her voice (never before have I realized that I had an attraction to a particular tone of voice). Regardless, Gyllenhaal and The Bell Jar have supplied me with a belief that perhaps audio books aren't so bad after all.