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Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953

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  • Posted June 11, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Pain, Par­ties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Sum­mer 1953 by

    Pain, Par­ties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Sum­mer 1953 by Eliz­a­beth Winder is a non-fiction book about time men­tioned in the title. The book paints a por­trait of Ms. Plath dur­ing a stress­ful, event­ful and per­sonal emo­tional sum­mer of her life.

    Twenty-year-old Sylvia Plath arrives in New York City with 20 other col­lege aged women to work as guest edi­tors for Mademoiselle's col­lege issue. This is a pres­ti­gious posi­tion which, they hope, will get them ready for life in the big city and even big­ger world.

    The ladies live at the Bar­bi­zon Hotel, attend shows, bal­lets, pro­fes­sional sports and par­tic­i­pate in glam­orous events.

    Pain, Par­ties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Sum­mer 1953 by Eliz­a­beth Winder is the kind of book which seems to be gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity, a short non-fiction book about a spec­i­fied time-frame of a per­son. These books seem to replace the all encom­pass­ing biographies.

    At this day and age where a some­what descent, encom­pass­ing biog­ra­phy on almost every impor­tant, not-so-important and, let's face(book) it, not-important-at-all peo­ple is at one's fin­ger­tips 24/7 these type of short bio­graph­i­cal por­traits are flour­ish­ing. I can cer­tainly under­stand why, when I ran a restric­tive search for "Sylvia Plath biog­ra­phy" on Google I got 6,430 results (417,000 results came back with just a sim­ple search). With that much infor­ma­tion at hand a book which high­lights a cer­tain period does, espe­cially if one is inter­ested only in that spe­cific sub­ject, sounds enticing.

    There seems to be a lot of infor­ma­tion about Sylvia Plath this year which marks the 50th anniver­sary of her untimely death. To be hon­est, this is the first book I read about, or by, Ms. Plath. I have heard of her before, but her work never sparked my inter­est. There was some­thing in the descrip­tion of this book though, that did sound inter­est­ing, maybe the locale (NYC), the time period (1950s), or the sub­ject. But what prob­a­bly made me pick up this book is a vari­ety of rea­sons, a com­bi­na­tion of the ones men­tioned pre­vi­ously plus oth­ers which I can­not put my fin­ger on at the moment.

    When I received the book I thought I had made a mis­take just by look­ing at the cover. A pic­ture in which the color pink (or some vari­a­tion of it) is pre­dom­i­nant, a woman wear­ing a fancy ruf­fle dress, long Cin­derella gloves, jew­elry on her arms, a pearl neck­lace, dia­mond ear­rings and a fancy hairdo sit­ting face for­ward on a chair/couch which seems to be made for the sole pur­pose of act­ing out a most dra­matic and pas­sion­ate faint­ing.
    Not too attrac­tive for some­one who loves to read about World War II, espi­onage and other "manly" books.

    Once I started read­ing the book all my trep­i­da­tions went away, this a remark­able story of an amaz­ing woman liv­ing out an extra­or­di­nary adven­ture. Ms. Winder did an amaz­ing job research­ing, includ­ing talk­ing with first hand sources (other guest-editors) whose rec­ol­lec­tions of Ms. Plath are vivid and enchant­ing. The depressed image I had have of Sylvia Plath is con­tra­dic­tory to the image the author paints, that of flam­ing red lip­stick, posh clothes and high heels.

    The book does a great job describ­ing the pro­fes­sional envi­ron­ment of 1950s New York City as well as mak­ing the month long adven­ture come to life. The asser­tion that the gig of "guest edi­tor" was a defin­ing event in Plant's life seems to have much merit and essen­tial to under­stand­ing her char­ac­ter and writing.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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