New York Icons: The Bell Jar

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

It's good to meet you as Clark is the author of the forthcoming nine hundred page biography of Platt I meet up with her and we take a look at the magazine Plath oversaw that summer you know what struck me the first time I looked through this was the number of ads you just can't quite believe how many ads are in this Zine it's almost page after page and of course fashion spreads to fashion magazine so in a back room of the New York Public Library where flipping through a copy of the magazine Clark points out one ad in particular it's for shape wear that's also sportswear so this Janssen add anyone for action anyone for beautiful perform an action there is a woman with a Barbie Physique wearing a hat and gloves connect with a bra and girdle as she gets ready to serve in a game of tennis this is positively the most pleasant to wear slimming trimming smoothing soothing figure maker ever devised and there's a poem called the applicant where she uses this kind of language I noticed you were stock naked how about this suit blackened stiff but not a bad it when you marry it it is waterproof shatterproof proof against fire and bombs through the roof believe me they'll bury you in it Mademoiselle had become interested in her after a story she had submitted a year earlier one it's national fiction contest but Clark says that Platt Struggle old in her role as managing editor she had wanted to be fiction editor at just nineteen years old plath had already published poems and won awards Mademoiselle published some of the top writers of its day Dylan Thomas Tennessee Williams Truman capote but instead of selecting editing short stories plan throats fashioned blurbs including one praising the versatility of sweaters I think plath found her self suddenly embedded in this fashion and beauty industry and she's become part of this vast propaganda machine that woman's women into objects and she wanted to be the subject of her own life she didn't want to be the objective someone else's life so I think that contributed to her sense of disillusion that summer suddenly it was her job to kind of objectify women bio green they were promoting it for fall title green with black bio green white bio green with Nio green it's kissing cousin fashion blurb silver and full of nothing sent up there fishy bubbles in my brain they surfaced with a hollow pop but it isn't just the limitations of fashion and magazines that got to plant she was also troubled by the limitations placed on women in the nineteen fifties even in New York City that place of possibility I made a point beating so fast I never kept the other people waiting who generally ordered only chefs salad and grapefruit juice at one point in the bell jar she says everyone in New York to reduce PAS not trying to reduce plath has an enormous appetite is her actual appetite was legendary she wants emptied out hosts refrigerator before a dinner party but she had an appetite for everything you know she wanted to be the best writer she wanted to so I'm close she wanted to raise honeybees you went to make her own honey and she just wanted it all can women have it all it's a question still asking it had just started to come up in the nineteen fifties when women who've done the whole rosie the riveter thing during the war were now expected to be homemade occurs again even though many thrived in the workforce and developed real professional aspirations it was an ongoing discussion within society about whether women could do three things at once dying Johnson got married one month after the gas ownership Mademoiselle the summer had changed her and given her a greater sense of what her life could be but then she had four children within the span of six years so I was home with these little kids but they had naps and that's when somebody said why don't you the novel about something that you can do during nap time you know that's the way things evolve house of naptime Johnson has since written more than a dozen books and been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Plath during a man who would support her as a writer was a major anxiety when she wrote about extensively in her journals in the Bell Jar Esther Greenwood reflection in her sort of boyfriend a medical student at Yale who everyone told her was such a good guy I also remembered Buddy Willard saying innocent minister knowing way that after I had children I would feel differently I wouldn't want to write poems anymore so I began to think maybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed and afterward you went numb as a slave in some private totalitarian state a few years later plath thought she found a man who would not brainwash her as a graduate student at Cambridge she met fellow poets Ted Hughes who she married in Nineteen fifty sex both enjoyed growing reputations as writers when they were interviewed by the BBC's Owen Leeming in nineteen sixty one you'll have to give the impression that Oh you spend your whole Mary lives thinking poems and reading to each other I think our domestic life is is practically indistinguishable from all the people who live around I'm not the only main difference is that Ted doesn't go out to work at nine and come home at five he retires about nine to to his room and and works but I certainly having a life just like all the other housewives and mothers district shopping dishes and taking care of the baby in four so for Hughes Writing was a fulltime job a career but plath was a wife and mother who happened to write perhaps like Johnson during nap time plath was actually writing the bell jar at the time of that interview she alluded to it when she was interviewed again the next year this time by the BBC's Peter or he asks plath if there are particular themes that she's interested in exploring and he rambles off this list of ingredients that she's baked right into the bell jar Robert lulls poems about his experiences in a mental hospital for example interested very much these peculiar private and to move subjects it's I feel have been explored in recent American poetry I think particularly the poorest and Sexton who writes also about her experiences I always wanted to write the long short story I wanted to rise Nawfal now that I have attained shall I say a respectable age and have had experiences I feel much more interested in pros in the novel I feel that Plath published the bell jar under a pseudonym because she was so worried about offending the people she fictionalized as characters in it one of those characters was her editor at Mademoiselle who she called JC in the Bell Jar JC asks esther what she wants to do after college and suddenly she draws a blank unable to list off for am visions of being a professor writer or an editor and a writer. I've always thought I'd like to go into publishing I tried to recover thread that might lead me back to my old bright salesmanship I guess what I'll do is apply at some publishing house you ought to read French and German. JC said mercilessly and probably several other languages as well Spanish and Italian better still Russian hundreds of girls flood into New York every June thinking they'll be editors Utah for something more than the run of the mill person you better learn some languages. JC is a tough editor who cuts her down to size in that way she calls to mind another memorable story said Ed Women's magazine in New York so you don't read runway no for today you had never heard of me now you have no style or something fashion while similar take down to Andy Sacks her would be assistant that's a complete exaggeration of winter is the longtime editor of Vogue and the basis for maranda priestly

Coming up next