08 January 2011

The Bell Jar, Annotated

Last summer I found this interesting website called Book Drum. On it, people more or less bring the books to life through annotations. Naturally when I saw The Bell Jar was included, my interest was piqued. This would have been a dream project for me to do but now that its done, and done well by Siân Cleaver, I can move on to something else I suppose.

The Bookmarks section is the meatiest, in which Cleaver explores and illustrates many of the commercial aspects and non-fiction events, people, places, etc. that Plath wove like a tapestry in the novel. The entire site is informative and I hope you enjoy Cleaver's work. My particular favorite is the YouTube video of Art Ford (the inspiration for Lenny Shepherd).

I meant all fall to post this link but with "Last Letter" and other posts and the end of the year, this one kept getting bumped. However, with the below information to present to you too, I am almost glad that it did!

In addition to this website, I recently found a older Barbizon Hotel booklet/brochure... It is eleven pages long and features photographs & captions of the Barbizon from circa 1936, or, about 17 years before Plath was a resident there in June 1953. How much change would have been made to the hotel in that period? It is probable that we will never know, but for what it is worth I imagine these images would have been familiar to Plath.

The hotel was 24 stories and had, at the time of the publication, 700 rooms. The hotel boasted also a recital room, library, indoor swimming pool, restaurant, coffee shop, and louge, among others. Plath was in room 1511.

The first picture here is the lobby.

In the center of the picture is a stairway that leads to a mezzanine. At some point later, the Barbizon lobby was completely remodeled as can be seen in this image.

The second picture here is of the coffee shop Plath places a memorable scene with Hilda, the hat maker.

Before the hotel closed, I had the opportunity to have a coffee in the coffee shop. It was neither tasty nor cheap. Like Esther, I found the coffee "over-stewed" and "so bitter it made my nose curl..."

The third picture is a bedroom.

It appears tiny, but I imagine this would have been the approximate size room Plath had during her residence there (I imagine that to fit 700 rooms in a 24 story building the bedrooms need to be this small). The impression I have always had of the hotel room Plath places Esther Greenwood in in The Bell Jar was much bigger; but I am not certain if familiarity with modern hotel room sizes taints my imagination. Nevertheless, to quote Plath herself, "it is good to have the place in mind."


Annika said...

Isn't it about time for a World's Classic-Bell Jar edition? You should offer your services Peter.

Julia said...

Cool! Thanks for sharing these.

panther said...

Quite a small room, yes, but with a nice armchair and a desk and desk-chair. Don't know how it would compare with students' rooms at Smith ? (Did each student even have her own room, not sharing ?)

Thanks, Peter, for posting these. I like to picture people in context.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing this!
looking at the pictures i could feel and"touch" the places Sylvia was in.
yes,i had imagined me too also Esher's room bigger by her description..who knows why i had imagined there a huge huge window and more place in the room.

by the way..after reading here i googled a bit,looking for more pics of the Barbizon Hotel but i found nothing but this(maybe can be interesting also to you all): http://www.bookdrum.com/books/the-bell-jar/9780571226160/bookmarks.html

have all a nice sunday!


Anonymous said...

i found the picture of another bedroom!
but it's taken in 1942 :(

anyway..here it is: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pnp/gsc/5a08000/5a08400/5a08401r.jpg

again xoxo! Alessandra

Hector Macdonald said...

Thank you for your kind comments about Sian Cleaver's excellent profile of The Bell Jar on www.bookdrum.com.

We're currently running a £2,250 Tournament, so please do pick another title and join in!

Kind regards

Hector Macdonald
Editor, www.bookdrum.com

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