American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath

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On the fiftieth anniversary of her death, a startling new vision of Plath—the first to draw from the recently-opened Ted Hughes archive

The life and work of Sylvia Plath has taken on the proportions of myth. Educated at Smith, she had an epically conflict-filled relationship with her mother, Aurelia. She then married the poet Ted Hughes and plunged into the sturm and drang of married life in the full glare of the world of English and American letters. Her poems were fought over, rejected, accepted and, ultimately, embraced by readers everywhere. Dead at thirty, she committed suicide by putting her head in an oven while her children slept.

Her poetry collection titled Ariel became a modern classic. Her novel The Bell Jar has a fixed place on student reading lists. American Isis will be the first Plath bio benefitting from the new Ted Hughes archive at the British Library which includes forty one letters between Plath and Hughes as well as a host of unpublished papers. The Sylvia Plath Carl Rollyson brings to us in American Isis is no shrinking Violet overshadowed by Ted Hughes, she is a modern day Isis, a powerful force that embraced high and low culture to establish herself in the literary firmament.

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About the author

CARL ROLLYSON is professor of journalism at Baruch College, The City University of New York and the author of twelve biographies including Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress and, with his wife, Lisa Paddock, Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon. He reviews biographies regularly for The Wall Street Journal, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Washington Post, The New Criterion, and other papers. He writes a column every two weeks for bibliobuffet.com. He lives in Cape May Court House, New Jersey.

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Additional Information

Publisher
St. Martin's Press
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Published on
Jan 29, 2013
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9781250023155
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Literary
Biography & Autobiography / Women
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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A new biography of Sylvia Plath, a literary icon who continues to haunt, fascinate, and enthrall even now, fifty years after her death

On February 25 , 1956, twenty-three-year-old Sylvia Plath walked into a party and immediately spotted Ted Hughes. This encounter—now one of the most famous in all of literary history—was recorded by Plath in her journal, where she described Hughes as a “big, dark, hunky boy.” Sylvia viewed Ted as something of a colossus, and to this day his enormous shadow has obscured her life and work. The sensational aspects of the Plath-Hughes relationship have dominated the cultural landscape to such an extent that their story has taken on the resonance of a modern myth.

Before she met Ted, Plath had lived a complex, creative, and disturbing life. Her father had died when she was only eight; she had gone out with literally hundreds of men, had been unofficially engaged, had tried to commit suicide, and had written more than two hundred poems. Mad Girl’s Love Song chronicles these early years, traces the sources of her mental instability, and examines how a range of personal, economic, and societal factors—the real disquieting muses— conspired against her.

Drawing on exclusive interviews with friends and lovers who have never spoken openly about Plath before and using previously unavailable archives and papers, this is the first book to focus on the early life of the twentieth century’s most popular and enduring female poet. Mad Girl’s Love Song reclaims Sylvia Plath from the tangle of emotions associated with her relationship with Ted Hughes and reveals the origins of her unsettled and unsettling voice.
"I dreamed of New York, I am going there."

On May 31, 1953, twenty-year-old Sylvia Plath arrived in New York City for a one-month stint at "the intellectual fashion magazine" Mademoiselle to be a guest editor for its prestigious annual college issue. Over the next twenty-six days, the bright, blond New England collegian lived at the Barbizon Hotel, attended Balanchine ballets, watched a game at Yankee Stadium, and danced at the West Side Tennis Club. She typed rejection letters to writers from The New Yorker and ate an entire bowl of caviar at an advertising luncheon. She stalked Dylan Thomas and fought off an aggressive diamond-wielding delegate from the United Nations. She took hot baths, had her hair done, and discovered her signature drink (vodka, no ice). Young, beautiful, and on the cusp of an advantageous career, she was supposed to be having the time of her life.

Drawing on in-depth interviews with fellow guest editors whose memories infuse these pages, Elizabeth Winder reveals how these twenty-six days indelibly altered how Plath saw herself, her mother, her friendships, and her romantic relationships, and how this period shaped her emerging identity as a woman and as a writer. Pain, Parties, Work—the three words Plath used to describe that time—shows how Manhattan's alien atmosphere unleashed an anxiety that would stay with her for the rest of her all-too-short life.

Thoughtful and illuminating, this captivating portrait invites us to see Sylvia Plath before The Bell Jar, before she became an icon—a young woman with everything to live for.

From hefty biographies and fact-based novels to photograph collections and memoirs, more books have been written about Marilyn Monroe than any other female over the past century. However, no biography—regardless how authoritative—can contain all of the facts and events of an individual’s life, and Marilyn’s is no exception.

In Marilyn Monroe Day by Day: A Timeline of People, Places, and Events, Carl Rollyson provides a documentary approach to the life and legend of this singular personality. With details of her childhood, her young adult years, her ascent to superstardom, and the hour by hour moments leading to her tragic early death, this volume supplements—and, in some cases, corrects—the accounts of previous biographies. In addition to restoring what is left out in other narratives about Marilyn’s life, this book also illuminates the gaps and discrepancies that still exist in our knowledge of her. Drawing on excerpts from her diaries, journals, letters, and even checks and receipts—as well as reports of others—Rollyson recreates the day-to-day world of a woman who still fascinates us more than fifty years after her death.

In addition to the calendar, Rollyson also profiles important figures in Marilyn’s life and includes a brief biography of the actress, providing a context for the timeline. An annotated bibliography of books and websites highlights the most reliable sources about Marilyn. With its vivid recreation of the key events in her life, Marilyn Monroe Day by Day is the perfect book for fans who can’t get enough of this cultural icon.
In American popular culture, Marilyn Monroe(1926-1962) has evolved in stature from movie superstar to American icon. Monroe's own understanding of her place in the American imagination and her effort to perfect her talent as an actress are explored with great sensitivity in Carl Rollyson's engaging narrative. He shows how movies became crucial events in the shaping of Monroe's identity. He regards her enduring gifts as a creative artist, discussing how her smaller roles in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve established the context for her career, while in-depth chapters on her more important roles in Bus Stop, Some Like It Hot, and The Misfits provide the centerpiece of his examination of her life and career.

Through extensive interviews with many of Monroe's colleagues, close friends, and other biographers, and a careful rethinking of the literature written about her, Rollyson is able to describe her use of Method acting and her studies with Michael Chekhov and Lee Strasberg, head of the Actors' Studio in New York. The author also analyzes several of Monroe's own drawings, diary notes, and letters that have recently become available. With over thirty black and white photographs (some published for the first time), a new foreword, and a new afterword, this volume brings Rollyson's 1986 book up to date.

From this comprehensive, yet critically measured wealth of material, Rollyson offers a distinctive and insightful portrait of Marilyn Monroe, highlighted by new perspectives that depict the central importance of acting to the authentic aspects of her being.

Dana Andrews (1909-1992) worked with distinguished directors such as John Ford, Lewis Milestone, Otto Preminger, Fritz Lang, William Wyler, William A. Wellman, Mervyn Le Roy, Jean Renoir, and Elia Kazan. He played romantic leads alongside the great beauties of the modern screen, including Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Greer Garson, Merle Oberon, Linda Darnell, Susan Hayward, Maureen O'Hara, and most important of all, Gene Tierney, with whom he did five films. Retrospectives of his work often elicit high praise for an underrated actor, a master of the minimalist style. His image personified the "male mask" of the 1940s in classic films such as Laura, Fallen Angel, and Where the Sidewalk Ends, in which he played the "masculine ideal of steely impassivity." No comprehensive discussion of film noir can neglect his performances. He was an "actor's actor."

Here at last is the complete story of a great actor, his difficult struggle to overcome alcoholism while enjoying the accolades of his contemporaries, a successful term as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and the love of family and friends that never deserted him. Based on diaries, letters, home movies, and other documents, this biography explores the mystery of a poor boy from Texas who made his Hollywood dream come true even as he sought a life apart from the limelight and the backbiting of contemporaries jockeying for prizes and prestige. Called "one of nature's noblemen" by his fellow actor Norman Lloyd, Dana Andrews emerges from Hollywood Enigma as an admirable American success story, fighting his inner demons and ultimately winning.

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