Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sylvia Plath - Part III (Edward Butscher: Trailblazer)

I give Edward Butscher a lot of credit. I think this was the earliest truly comprehensive study of Sylvia Plath and her poetry. I noticed it in a bookstore in Michigan in 1977; I already knew Plath's poems, had already read Alvarez's essay on Plath's suicide, but wanted to know more and more, and this book told me a good part of that more and more that I wanted to know. It was what amounted to a godsend to one poised to fall into an obsession. What amazed me then and even more now is that while doing a tremendous amount of research for this book, and with continual frustrations dealing with the Plath estate over permissions to quote from her work and other matters, Butsher was simultaneously teaching English at a high school on Long Island; despite all the difficulties he got the book written. There were at the time just a few books about Plath. Today there must be close to a couple hundred. In my opinion, all of Plath's subsequent biographers owe Butscher gratitude; he cleared many trails. ((Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness was updated by Butscher and re-issued in 2003.)

I wrote Butscher after I read the book in early 1977, complimenting him and, apparently, pointing out an error; I no longer remember what the error was.

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