PlathCandace Opper at Literary Hub:

Al Alvarez called suicide “a dubious immortality”: “All that anguish, the slow tensing of the self to that final, irreversible act, and for what? In order to become a statistic.” In 1971, Alvarez published The Savage God: A Study of Suicide, a literary and philosophical expedition into the places where creativity and suicide overlap; the book was also a tribute to his friend Sylvia Plath, who had taken her life less than a decade earlier. He had published several of her poems in the Observer, where he worked as poetry critic, and they grew closer after she split from Ted Hughes. In Plath’s final months, she and Alvarez would often sit in his London flat, talking about poetry, creativity, and sometimes suicide, though “with a wry detachment,” as he describes it. “It was obviously a matter of self-respect that her first attempt had been serious and nearly successful,” he writes. “It was an act she felt she had a right to as a grown woman and a free agent.”

The Savage God is not a memoir, although the prologue and epilogue that bookend it are intensely personal. “I want the book to start, as it ends, with a detailed case-history, so that whatever theories and abstractions follow can somehow be rooted in the human particular,” Alvarez writes; the haunting prologue presents his brief personal account of Plath’s last months, in which he carefully dissects her depression and the ways it contributed to her eventual death, an outcome that (he suggests) might have been a mistake. Alvarez ultimately believes Plath intended only to act out the allegory of death into which she had written herself, expecting, or perhaps gambling, that she would be saved at the last minute—a miscalculation from which the Myth of Sylvia Plath has grown. “The pity is not that there is a myth…” writes Alvarez, “but that the myth is not simply that of an enormously gifted poet whose death came carelessly, by mistake, and too soon.”

more here.