Terry Castle Says “Fuck You” to Iconic Feminine Suffering

“It will come as no surprise that I”m one of those who will always be turning away from Plath.  Or trying to.  I find her tasteless, grisly––unbearable, in fact––precisely because, even five decades after her suicide, she and her corpse-infected verses hold on with such ghoulish tenacity.  She seems never to tire of creating tragic inhuman mischief from beyond the grave.  That the infant ‘Nick’ addressed in those final poems from Devon, the very poems cited as ‘nature poems’ by the kindly Boland, hanged himself in 2009 seems only the latest malignant turn of the Plathian screw.  A respected fisheries biologist––he taught at a university in Alaska––Nicholas Hughes had apparently done everything possible to distance himself geographically and psychologically from his parents’ cursed history.  (Most of the people who worked with him knew nothing of his family story.)  Yet Lady Lazarus caught up with him at last.  He was said afterward to have been ‘lonely’ much of his life and depressed by his failure to find love.  His mother was by then long dead––he had never had any memory of her––yet even so I couldn’t help wanting to kill her.”


In the NYRB.

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