9 Must-Read Books for June 2013
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D
Poet Elizabeth Winder's Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 (Harper) reveals the writer as a young woman about town—a fashionista and foodie with a retinue of male admirers. Through conversations with most of the 19 other guest editors who lived and worked alongside her, all now around 80, a Plath emerges who is in many ways ordinary: She loved high heels and nursed hangovers by drinking juice and eating cold peaches in bed. Except for her intellectual gifts, she "could have been an airline stewardess or the heroine of a B movie." Adventurous, flirtatious, and ambitious, Plath reflected the aspirations and ambivalences of her generation. But traces of sadness were starting to show, in between dates, readings and hours at the office, and by the time she returned to her mother's house in Massachusetts, those fissures had begun to "split open and gape." Less than two months later, she attempted suicide for the first time.
Winder's biography reconsiders the familiar portrait, illustrating what makes Plath, for fans of The Bell Jar, "as Holden Caulfield is for young men."