Bitter Fame (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
In the preface to Sylvia Plath: A Biography (1987), Linda Wagner-Martin explains the difficulty that she had in dealing with Sylvia Plath’s estate. In particular, she mentions Olwyn Hughes, who demanded revisions that would have fundamentally altered Wagner-Martin’s biography. Several friends of Plath and Hughes would not speak to Wagner-Martin. Now they have not only assisted Anne Stevenson but also included their own vivid reminiscences as appendices to her biography. Indeed, Olwyn Hughes’s contribution is so great that Stevenson calls their collaboration “almost a work of dual authorship.”
Both the dust-jacket blurb of Stevenson’s biography and her preface imply that the truthful story of Sylvia Plath is being told for the first time. While there is no question that Stevenson’s book provides a new view of Plath, it does not supersede Wagner-Martin’s book, nor should it be regarded as the definitive biography. In the case of a protean figure such as Plath, a poet who had many sides and moods and a highly subjective imagination which turned nearly everything into the story of herself, there can be no such thing as “the truth” as told to a biographer. For all her parade of Plath insiders, Stevenson cannot produce the thoughts of the one source, Ted Hughes, who might have made her biography definitive. Hughes checked her text...
(The entire section is 2009 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Library Journal. CXIV, August, 1989, p. 135.
London Review of Books. XI, October 26, 1989, p.28.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. August 20, 1989, p.3.
The New Republic. CCI, November 6, 1989, p.98.
The New York Review of Books. XXXVI, September 28, 1989, p.34.
The New York Times Book Review. XCIV, August 27, 1989, p.11.
Newsweek. CXIV, August 28, 1989, p.60.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXV, June 23, 1989, p.44.
The Times Literary Supplement. October 27, 1989, p.1179.
The Washington Post Book World. XIX, August 20, 1989, p.5.
(The entire section is 66 words.)