15 December 2010

A Comparison

In England currently the cold weather is big news and is drawing comparisons to the cold, brutal winter of 1962-1963, which is relevant to this blog in so many ways. In fact, in the Daily Mail article "Will it be even colder than the winter of 1962-3? Big freeze returns tomorrow... and it's going to last for a MONTH" by Paul Bentley, Becky Barrow and Sophie Freeman (how many Britons does it take to write about the weather?), the boxed off text "The Great Freeze of 1962/63" seems a paraphrase of Sylvia Plath's prose piece "Snow Blitz." One of my favorite things to do is review the Times and Guardian microfilm from Boxing Day through early February to try to get a sense of what he media coverage was saying about the weather conditions. That the winter is still memorable speaks to its severity.

Unfortunately we do not know the date "Snow Blitz" was written, but in all likelihood it was written before she completed what would be called "Ocean 1212-W." Another prose piece Plath wrote at this time was "America! America!," which was if memory serves a commissioned piece by Punch. The recently released audio track of Plath's review of Donald Hall's Contemporary American Poetry anthology for "New Comment" on the BBC is another excellent example of her prose writing; and in a different genre to the previously mentioned works.

One thing is for sure, Plath's late prose - like her last poems - was amongst her finest writing... And I do not think Alvarez was wrong when on 17 February he wrote, "[t]he loss to literature is inestimable."

Thanks to Kim for the link!

10 comments :

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

There have also been some photos of the terrible winter of 1962/1963 - including some of London - in the British press. You can get a closer feel of the immediate context Plath was dealing with at that time:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/gallery/2010/dec/15/weather-big-freeze-1962-pictures#/?picture=369779567&index=14

All the best, ~VC

Peter K Steinberg said...

Wow, ~VC, thank you for the link. The photograph of Whiddon Down is particularly awesome given that that was just 6.8 miles south of North Tawton. Kind of re-enforces that it was a good decision for Plath to leave Court Green in favor of London where, no matter what, getting around must have been easier.

The Plath Diaries said...

The winter over here in the UK/Ireland last year was so dreadful that people compared it to the 1962/63 winter. I don't know if we've just been unlucky with cold spells or if the notoriety that particular winter had is what keeps it etched on memory - and not just that of Plath fans!

I definitely agree with you about "Snow Blitz". Was reading a Marjorie Perloff article about "The Two Ariels" earlier where she comments on how the actual specifics of getting through day-to-day life would have been so difficult for any individual, much less a recently-seperated young American woman with two children in tow.

The loss to literature.. Looking out my window at this weather, I can't help but become fixated on this point.

Peter K Steinberg said...

You know I recall people making the same comparison last year. Glad I'm not going crazy.

As an American from New England, Plath would have been somewhat accustomed to heavy snow and cold. But primarily as a child or young adult herself. However, with those few additional factors: being an adult, being on her own, with two small children, etc. I think this is a pivotal factor in the realism of the piece but also that the witty, smart/fresh tone of "Snow Blitz" betrays itself.

panther said...

That remark at the end of "Snow Blitz", the "if the gas, too, is not kaputt" is a little bit eerie, don't you think ?

Whole tone of that piece is someone trying desperately hard to not go under. Upbeat, but very brittle.Marvellous piece of writing.

panther said...

Must say that certain British newspapers are rather fond of this Disaster Round the Corner tone. If the weather's getting cold, we face a winter like 1962-63 (or 1947, also famously awful). If a few unfortunate people die of flu, we face an epidemic as devastating as the one in 1918. And so on. I think that such people are known as Job's comforters ?

Anonymous said...

i did a quick -but deep-research on google and all i was able to find about the time Snow Blitz was written is this (i paste) Sylvia Plath Forum: Nov-Dec 1999
- [ Traduci questa pagina ]
89 post - 60 autori - Ultimo post: 31 gen 2002
This is why Sylvia Plath might of put an end to this situation. ..... I agree that the short story "Snow Blitz" is a brilliant highlight of the Johnny ... my opinion) being 'snow storm' , a short piece of prose written in early 1963 and ...
--------------
EARLY 1963. IT SAYS
So it can mean maybe January, since she died in February. early can mean only January, to me.

i hope i was of help,some way.
i wish u ALL a happy Christmas and wonderful new year.

Best regards,
Alessandra
Florence,Italy

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thank you Alessandra, Though I said we didn't know when it was dated, I meant the specific day in January 1963. I appreciate the trouble you went through for your comment.

Happy holidays to you as well!

pks

Anonymous said...

oh i see!! (blush)
im sorry, it's my fault, i dont know english well and i didnt understood right. No "trouble"at all, it's always a pleasure to have to "deal" with Sylvia Plath and Plathians like me ;)and i just love making researches about her--just this very morning i was making deep researches about "Double Exposure"(or "Doubletake", original title)

Again I wish you all the best,and the merriest season holiday ever.
(and me,in the meantime i have a week free,i'll surely make some new researches to discover the specific day. --stubborn is one my best(?)characteristics ;)

Again all the best&merry Christmas, Alessandra

Anonymous said...

hi again, oh so soon, yes, i told u im stubborn and since i wrote the above comment i was,and still i am, looking for the date..and maybe,MAYBE,i ve just found out something interesting.here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0750934220?ie=UTF8&p=S00L&checkSum=xMO5UtBI6ZEZ%2Fpmxw3G6HG5z5V77iPBYnbQNEzoDCIc%3D#reader-link

on page 3, of "The End of a Short Life", at the half of the page itself, we read: "In the second week of december she'd brought her two children to London and settled them into the maisonette, where they had to survive a ferociously cold winter, with burst pipes, flu and head-colds. Heaped-up snow stayed frozen on the pavement for six weeks."

Then we read in the book that on the evening of 27 january she went downstairs to ring the doorbell of her neighbor Trevor Thomas to ask him for help,she was crying and feeling terrible, and he gave her sherry and some candles to better face the cold and the dark because electricity was cut.
On the many sites on internet i ve looked for sofar, i havent found any specific date/day, and this was the only document more accurate and explanatory i have found among all. It doesnt say the exact day she wrote Snow Blitz,but according to me we can understand it/find it out more or less by ourselves if we keep in consideration that we are told "the 2nd week of December" ,and that the frozen stayed there for "6 weeks". Well we dont have still the specific date but only the general time. But one thing now jumps in my mind that is that it can be also that Sylvia-and things now change!- wrote Snow Blitz maybe at half month of december.
I dont think we will be able to discover it..on internet says nothing more than this. and im sorry for this neverending and chaotic and tortuous post i know my english is terrible and express myself is so difficult,i hope u can understand what i meant/wrote.
and apologize if i was of disturb and of no help. but i wanted to co-operate and give it a try.

again, my best regards.

unsuccessfully Alessandra.

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