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American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath Hardcover – January 29, 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
Well, the information is very promising, but I think I'm going to have to wait for a writer other than Rollyson to write about Plath in order to get a thorough portrait. It's painfully clear from the opening chapter that Rollyson isn't interested in presenting a humanizing and accurate portrait of Sylvia Plath, but wants to simply add to the fetishization of Plath's legacy. His prose is overblown and breathy, and after a rather off-putting introduction where he declares his intentions to avoid the standard "boilerplate" of most Plath biographies (which, in all honesty, is only boilerplate if he decided not to do his own research and obtain fresh insights) and write a book for the "Plath experts" rather than novices, he mostly indulges in scattered anecdotes. Most obnoxiously, particularly when dealing with a subject who was famous for rewriting her own history, he will often present the anecdote as Plath often gave it, then after a completely straightforward retelling will then explain the truth behind it. This is extremely frustrating because I would then have to go back and reread the Plath version to compare the two, since Rollyson would then fail to give any analysis on the changes beyond another sycophantic murmuring of how those changes were simply another indicator of Plath's brilliance in crafting a public persona as a "Primordial Child of Time" (what was horrifying was Rollyson's utter lack of irony in terms like this and how steadily he beat to death his own introduction of the Isis terminology).Read more ›
This biography of poet Sylvia Plath has some interesting pieces of new information, based on the author's research in archives and interviews with some of the people who knew her. The author clearly did a ton of work.
The author also takes clear and informative positions on the many unresolved questions about Plath's life and work and the way her husband handled her literary estate after her suicide. Since these questions have split scholars and fans of Plath and her estranged husband, poet Ted Hughes, into opposing sides for decades, the author's candor about certain disputes was refreshing and welcome.
However, the tone of the book is very cold. The author treats Plath, Hughes and many others connected with them in a manner that I perceived as condescending.
Newcomers to Plath biographies will be bewildered by the author's brief, cryptic references to incidents that are well-known to people who have read other Plath biographies and materials where these incidents are described in detail. This makes the biography more useful to scholarly insiders than the average reader.
The author did this deliberately, basically stating that he is not writing for the "Plath novice" but for "the knowledgeable Plath reader." This approach seems very patronizing to me. I am a "knowledgeable Plath reader" -- I've read a great deal about her -- but I am baffled as to why the author would ignore potential book purchasers who are new to Plath's work and life.Read more ›
Rollyson says this is not a conventional biography, and it is not. For a serious literary figure it is much too chatty. Squibs of information are tossed about. There are bits of dialog. The most orderly thing about it is that it is chronologically presented.
Like other parts of the book, the beginning on Plath's youth was sketchy with hints of meaning that could (or could not) be derived. For instance, Rollyson makes a lot of Plath's relationship with Eddie Cohen, but it's unclear how many times she actually saw him. Quotes from Plath as a teenager and twenty-something are taken very seriously when at this age many (if not most) are fickle and dream big. The three pages on the Guest Editorship at Mademoiselle do not show what was so stressful about it or why it triggered (or did it?) Plath's first suicide attempt.
While Rollyson is knowledgeable about the 1950's he says little about how gender roles confined Plath.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have been an admirer of Plath since my college days. I consider her to be the greatest of female poets of the twentieth century and, regardless of gender, a tremendous,... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Yukio
This biography won't appeal to the casual reader, but those who are familiar with Sylvia Plath and the 1940-1960 era in the US and Great Britain will find this book not only... Read morePublished 23 months ago by drfiddler1
Like many others, I am avid Plath admirer; I will not used the vapid word fan. Like Plath's other followers, I have many of the biographies on her, as well as all the poetry, the... Read morePublished 23 months ago by M. szymanski
This book focused, in a rather oblique manner, on the odd affairs of Plath's estate since her death. Read morePublished 24 months ago by Yukio
American Isis is the best book I have read this year. As an avid reader of biographies I appreciated getting an entirely new look into the house that Plath built. Read morePublished on April 26, 2014 by Michelle
I thought the book started off very tentatively, a little awkward – the writing unpolished, but the book got better as I read. This book is written by a fan. Read morePublished on March 24, 2014 by Ada Ardor
I confess that I approached this biography with a certain dread. What, another book about a middling poet who was badly treated by another middling poet and who put her head in an... Read morePublished on February 20, 2014 by Warbird
If "Sylvia Plath is the literary Marilyn Monroe" is the thesis, the book fails to establish it. Read morePublished on February 16, 2014 by amanda
Although this book is mainly about Plath, I actually really liked how it brought up a lot of Monroe. Read morePublished on December 27, 2013 by Sherri Griffin