13 October 2010

Karen Kukil on Plath's letters to Clarissa Roche

Karen V. Kukil, Associate Curator of Rare Books and Curator of the Sylvia Plath Collection at the Mortimer Rare Book Room, was interviewed today by WFCR's Jill Kaufman about the new letters from Plath to Clarissa Roche and the Plath collection at Smith College. Listen to it here.


Anonymous said...

Excellent - thanks for posting this, Peter. These letters will be very helpful in researching her writing from that time, especially since the journals are not available. kim

panther said...

These letters sound fascinating, with their mixture of daily detail, major upset. . .and humour, too !

But Plath drafted THE BELL JAR while at Smith ? No, no, no. Given that the events it fictionalizes didn't happen until the end of her third year there, that would be almost impossible. THE BELL JAR was written in England, partly in London, partly in Devon. . .It frustrates me that so many journalists are sloppy with easily-checked facts.

Peter K Steinberg said...

I agree Panther! And right off the bat, too. I thought Karen did an amazing job of talking the letters, describing the thrill of receiving them and fitting them into not only their collection at Smith, but within the collection of information available on Plath too. & she's right, Plath's letters to her friends are such a different thing to anything else she wrote, especially letters to her mother.

Not to be too nit-picking but evidence suggest Plath was finished drafting The Bell Jar by 22 August 1961, which was about 9 days before they moved to Court Green. Plath likely only dealt with revisions and galley correcting in Devon. It was accepted quickly between 22 August 1961 and November of that year.

There are three largely incomplete "drafts" at Smith, as well as two "later" drafts. The later draft is really one draft: the original and its carbon copy. The original has edits both by Plath and her editors at Heienemann.


panther said...

I think many of us write different sorts of letters to our friends than we do to our relations, don't we ? Especially if a relationship with a relation is strained, which Sylvia's ceratinly was with Aurelia. Close, certainly, in many ways, too close. Suffocating.

The quotes that Karen Kukil reads out give the impression of a determined and humorous woman who will not be easily downed.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Absolutely I agree. As Plath's letters to her mother are the only widely available material in this genre, though, I think Karen's point is that the pictures some paint of Plath is missing some color.

Very nice impression of Karen's selected quotes; I couldn't agree more!


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