Summer Reading Ep. 1: The Bell Jar

Well folks, I’m back from another rip-roaringly hectic semester at college, and I ought not to neglect this old blog so. For some reason, if you’re reading this from your WordPress feed, you’ve decided not to abandon ship, despite my inconsistent posting and subject matter. So allow me to say, it’s good to see you. And I hope you’ll stick around.

My plan for the time being is to take a more literary tack than I have in the past, reflecting on the books I read this summer and re-posting here the columns I’ve written for the school paper this semester. But Lord willing, I will find suitable words to praise His love and majesty in the process. 🙂

Without further ado, here’s the book with which I kicked off my summer reading, one I didn’t intend to pick up when I went to the library but which caught my eye because of its reputation:

The Bell Jar

By Sylvia Plath

(Heinemann, 1963)

The word “riveting” can take a number of different connotations when applied to a piece of literature. In the case of The Bell Jar, the famed (and only) novel by poet Sylvia Plath, the narrative is riveting in something of the same way a train wreck is riveting. Esther’s descent into psychological breakdown, which comprises the middle section of the book, is a disaster one cannot help but witness with rapt attention, hemmed into the view by the gnarled, interconnected details and memories which swirl through Plath’s prose.

But the allure of this book is not that of sensationalism. It’s existential malaise, crooked as it appears through the lens of Esther’s “glass jar”, is thus only magnified and brought into clearer consideration. The thing about viewing something through distorted lens is that the view is not entirely false. Some aspects of it are true even if others are bent out of proportion, like a caricature is to a human figure. The gray area between reality and perspective is something which haunts the pages of The Bell Jar – and the reader.

Plath never intended The Bell Jar to be an important work of literature – perhaps why the bookending narrative is less focused and engaging – but it cannot help but be what it is: a shocking and unique piece of literature, regardless of however one might feel about it.

The Bell Jar: 7.8/10

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