lady lazarus


It is hard to believe that if Sylvia Plath had not taken her own life — in 1963, at the age of 30 — she would quite possibly still be alive today. Her rival Adrienne Rich, three years her elder, died just last year. But how could Plath live to comb gray hair? Her suicide does not seem like something that just happened to happen. In her poetry, she forces us to see her death as a destiny and a culmination: “The woman is perfected. / Her dead /Body wears the smile of accomplishment, / The illusion of a Greek necessity,” she wrote in her last poem, “Edge,” just six days before she died. Plath imbued her life with the kind of interpretability that usually belongs only to art. It’s no wonder, then, that on the 50th anniversary of her suicide Carl Rollyson and Andrew Wilson should want to add to the already full shelves of Plath biographies, even though neither of them radically changes our picture of her life and death. With Plath, biography is a kind of criticism, and vice versa.

more from Adam Kirsch at the NY Times here.