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

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

4.8 4
by Elizabeth Winder
 

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Pain, Parties, Work by Elizabeth Winder is a compelling look at a young Sylvia Plath and the life-changing month that would lay the groundwork for her seminal novel, The Bell Jar.

In May of 1953, a twenty-one-year-old Plath arrived in New York City, the guest editor of Mademoiselle’s annual College Issue. She lived at the

Overview

Pain, Parties, Work by Elizabeth Winder is a compelling look at a young Sylvia Plath and the life-changing month that would lay the groundwork for her seminal novel, The Bell Jar.

In May of 1953, a twenty-one-year-old Plath arrived in New York City, the guest editor of Mademoiselle’s annual College Issue. She lived at the Barbizon Hotel, attended the ballet, went to a Yankee game, and danced at the West Side Tennis Club. She was supposed to be having the time of her life. But what would follow was, in Plath’s words, twenty-six days of pain, parties, and work, that ultimately changed the course of her life.

Thoughtful and illuminating, featuring line drawings and black-and-white photographs, Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 offers well-researched insights as it introduces us to Sylvia Plath—before she became one of the greatest and most influential poets of the twentieth century.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Marking the 50th anniversary of Plath’s death, poet Winder, in her nonfiction debut, sets out to reveal a lesser-known side of the iconic poet/novelist, paradoxically by chronicling one of the best-known periods in her life. The summer Plath spent as an intern at Mademoiselle magazine’s Manhattan offices, which inspired The Bell Jar, provides the heady context for Winder’s case that Plath was more than the “tortured artist” who committed suicide at age 30. Instead, Winder presents a woman who was an active participant in her midcentury cultural moment and pre–Feminine Mystique peer group. Extensive quotations from Plath’s fellow Mademoiselle “guest editors” reveal a fiercely ambitious young writer and a high-pressure workplace. We also visit the Barbizon Hotel, Grace Kelly’s one-time residence and the interns’ home for the summer—a “debutante’s pretty flophouse.” The former interns’ words are complemented by a lovingly detailed inventory, as Technicolor-vivid as a Douglas Sirk film, of the fashions and foods that filled Plath’s summer. Winder convincingly shows that Plath should be recognized as much for her enjoyment of life and her enduring works as for her tragic death. Readers already familiar with the starkly unromantic facts of Plath’s biography may be thrown by the glamorous, nostalgic picture of the author given here. Agent: David Kuhn, Kuhn Projects. (Apr.)
Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger
“A pixilated gem of a book. . . . In prose as delightful and lively as the champagne Sylvia liked to sip at the St. Regis ball, Winder has made Pain, Parties, Work a prose poem of the senses, and a true account of The Bell Jar.”
New York Times
“An illuminating biography . . . which floods clarifying light on a chapter of the poet’s early life that Plath painted in jaundiced tones in The Bell Jar.
More magazine
“Will recalibrate your mind and heart. . . . We knew about Plath’s ambition - and angst - but her penchant for flaming-red lipstick and princess heels was a bit of a surprise”
Slate
“Winder resuscitates a young woman who, while sick, is electrically alive to her first real adventure. . . . Captivating . . . [Winder] makes a compelling argument that in New York…Plath moved closer to finding the voice that would define her writing.”
Bookslut
“Winder describes the aesthetics of the era beautifully. . . . Reading this book sparks feelings of impossible nostalgia for someone who didn’t live through the fifties; in this way, it is an experience akin to watching Mad Men.”
Women's Wear Daily
“The book offers a new perspective on Plath’s life courtesy of Winder’s exhaustive research.”
USA Today
“Winder has painstakingly sketched a fully fleshed out portrait of Plath’s life during that hot, seminal summer, offering a glimpse into the raison d’etre behind Plath’s revered 1963 roman a clef, The Bell Jar. . . . Winder goes into the dizzying, delightful detail.”
O Magazine
“[An] accessible, eye-opening new biography.”
Meg Wolitzer
“The world of ’50s NYC, in all its glamour, is irresistible reading.”
Library Journal
February 11, 2013, marked the 50th anniversary of Sylvia Plath's death and a plethora of new Plath-related publications. Here, poet Winder focuses on May 1953, the month Plath spent in New York City as a guest editor at Mademoiselle. Winder contextualizes this brief, intense period as the basis for Plath's autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar. Her life that month was harried, filled with glitz and exhaustion, and may have contributed largely to Plath's subsequent breakdown and first suicide attempt. The book is loosely organized, contains extensive sidebars, and possesses a poetic sensibility. Although the tone and arrangement appear more artistic than academic, the volume isn't frivolous and is largely based on original interviews or correspondence with 15 of the other 19 "girls" who were, along with Plath, guest editors. VERDICT Winder poignantly captures a snapshot of a time that directly inspired one of Plath's most famous works. She also captures Plath as bright, vivacious, and even brittle. For fans, particularly devotees of The Bell Jar.—Audrey Snowden, Orrington P.L., ME

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062085498
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/16/2013
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
743,876
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Winder is the author of a poetry collection. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Review, Antioch Review, American Letters, and other publications. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, and earned an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University.

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Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
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.