50 things that make me happy.

To be Happy is something subjective, but I wanted to count my blessings, and put on a post what makes me happy.

  1. Planning! Because it is a comfort, and it is always something that I can fall back on. You can tell I’m an Aspie, can’t you?
  2. My family. Obviously.
  3. Blogging. I never thought that this would be a project that’s taken me forward for half a decade, and as far as I have come.
  4. Twitter. Because the people on it are usually nice to me.
  5. CHIPS!
  6. Chatting about the Presidents.
  7. Getting an email from a brand that I would love to work with, saying that they would love to work with me!
  8. Washi tape.
  9. CATS!
  10. Anything Queen related, because I LOVE their music.
  11. A new pair of shoes.
  12. Netflix, late at night, with a bowl full of ice-cream.
  13. Anything that comes in the post-I love to receive Blogger mail, or letters from my correspondents.
  14. Sylvia Plath’s poetry.
  15. Downloading new albums on iTunes.
  16. Being included in the Freddie Friday hashtag.
  17. People online who are autistic, and leave me lovely comments on my posts about ASD.
  18. Blog chats.
  19. Cheese toasties.
  20. A good hair cut.
  21. When an author that I love makes a new book announcement,
  22. The smell of Taylor Swift’s Wonderstruck.
  23. The song ‘I Thought I Told You That’…
  24. And ‘Left Outside Alone’.
  25. Getting an honest blog comment.
  26. Being tagged in a blog award.
  27. Running into friends that I have not seen in a while.
  28. Blogger mail.
  29. Browsing Paperchase for new planner related materials.
  30. Seeing Sylvia Plath in the newspaper.
  31. A good joke.
  32. Visiting the cat cafe.
  33. Lemon sherbets.
  34. A good manicure.
  35. Writing on the first page of a new notebook.
  36. looking through fountain pens.
  37. The feeling after a prayer, when I feel at one with myself.
  38. Strawberries!
  39. When people appreciate me baking-because I don’t cook, but making cakes is something I’m half decent at.
  40. Collecting Vinyl and finding a gem of a record.
  41. The feeling at a concert, when everyone is just so caught up in the music, and it’s almost as if time has stopped.
  42. Playing Articulate.
  43. Red nail varnish.
  44. Uploading several posts at once.
  45. Watching Highlander and being able to sing along.
  46. A peaceful pint of Cider at the pub.
  47. Queen Rock Montreal, the album.
  48. A new biography of Jacqueline Kennedy.
  49. A visit to Foyles bookshop.
  50. A visit to the British library.

What makes you happy?

 

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I am pleased to announce that I am working with Basic Beauty Tools. If you go to their website via this link , and order the Spongedry, you can get an extra free foundation blender by adding under ‘Note To Seller’ your colour code: LYDIAPINK for pink, LYDIAPURPLE for purple, and LYDIABLACK for black.

 

Sylvia Plath And The Haunted Reader By Gail Crowther; Review. 

Disclaimer: this book was sent to me from Fronthill Media, the publishers, in exchange for an honest review. I wanted to read this book, and asked to review it. What follows constitutes my truest thoughts.

As readers will know, I am an avid fan of Sylvia Plath ; I have been that way since about the age of thirteen, having been introduced to her via (the now defunct) Company Magazine. (Because wonders will never cease!)
There is a rather stereotyped image of Plath, which I think is now partially down to her committing suicide. But she was not just this image of a Depressed wife, seemingly stuck in  shadow of her husband, Ted Hughes. Rather, she was vibrant, seemingly dancing to the beat of her own drum; she wrote almost as with this electric energy. And if anyone sees me reading one of her books, they always raise their eyebrows, making ‘oh’ noises as the perceived content.

At the time of writing this post, I have yet to finish the book; I’m sort of muddling through, due to other commitments such as revision. I’m not sure I necessarily understand it as much as I should, in spite of the fact that it has been coached from an easy writing style. I’ll let you know how I get on with it.

I also think this book is quite radical in its thinking-in the sense of being a new way of thinking about Plath. Rather than being a mere academic subject, she is personal to every reader, meaning different, vibrant, and almost as if alive in our own heads. And I’m grateful to Crowther for doing this, as it’s a brilliant concept.

Score: 11/15

Click here to buy the book.

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In need of a new Foundation Blender? Go to Basic Beauty Tools via this link , and order the Spongedry, you can get an extra free foundation blender by adding under ‘Note To Seller’ your colour code: LYDIAPINK for pink, LYDIAPURPLE for purple, and LYDIABLACK for black.

Gail Crowther Interview; On Her New Book, Sylvia Plath, And Other Projects…

If you’re a regularly reader, you’ll know that I live to investigate Sylvia Plath; the confessional poet has been of great importance to me since I read The Bell Jar at thirteen. Recently, Doctor Gail Crowther has written the book, The Haunted Reader And Sylvia Plath;I spoke to her to find out more about it. 


Hello Gail, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

My pleasure.

 You have recently written a new book, The Haunted Reader and Sylvia Plath. What inspired you to write this book?

 I suppose the interest came from my own personal attachment to Plath which I formed when I was 13. I love so many writers, but my reading relationship with Plath feels quite unique and I increasingly noticed this seemed to be the case with other people too. I grew more curious about what was going on at that convergence between reader and writer, and the subsequent nature of the relationship that developed. So I decided to try and find out a bit more about it. This involved carrying out primary research over a number of years, using a method I called creative autobiography, to discover what sort of attachments readers had with Plath. I was especially interested in those who formed strong attachments, and the results of that research are The Haunted Reader and Sylvia Plath.

 What do you think is the relevance of Freud when analysing people such as Plath?

 Well my book does not actually analyse Plath, but rather her readers. I was so resistant to using Freud at first because, as a feminist, I really struggle to get beyond some of the problematic gender politics in his work. I explored other psychoanalytic theorists and other concepts such as projection and introjection. I also looked more generally at theories of reading and fandom. But as soon as I read ‘Identification’ by Freud as well as ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ and Narcissism’, I realised that constructing a framework from his theories was going to best help me explore what was going on.

 Did your impressions of Plath change at all?

 Not really, though I was really pleased to discover just how powerful and positive a role she plays in peoples’ lives. She is a real constant, and despite the often stereotypical depiction of Plath in popular culture as a suicidal misery, readers who become attached to her see a very different Plath – they see a vibrant, funny, insightful Plath…which of course she was.

copyright Kevin Cummins, 2016


 What do you think about the seemingly mythologised fandom round Plath? 

 I think Plath herself and those who read her and become attached to her, have had a very rough time indeed. The fact that the expression the ‘Cult of Plath’ is used says it all really. I do think in recent years a revision is taking place and hopefully Plath will emerge from this as a more rounded cultural figure. Certainly the publication of her Letters over the next year or so will make a massive difference to how she is understood. Her voices in those letters are astonishing – multiple, playful, serious, anguished, hilarious, teasing, passionate, stroppy. Once Plath becomes fully recognised for the woman she was, I think (hope) this positivity will transfer to her readers too.

 Do you have any other projects in the works?

 Yes. I have one more Plath piece to research and write which will be an essay for a forthcoming book, Sylvia Plath in Context (edited by Tracy Brain). This will explore Plath and religion, an area that is surprisingly under-researched I think , given all that imagery in her poems. Then hopefully around May a book I co-wrote with Peter K. Steinberg will be released, called These Ghostly Archives, sharing our archival experiences and delights. When books get published in quick succession it seems like they must be speedy projects, but The Haunted Reader took almost ten years to research and publish, and These Ghostly Archives is the product of eight years of research – so these things take time before they actually appear in print.

 Then I have a couple of non-Plath projects bubbling away, but I also hope to give my writing brain a little bit of a rest. Though not for very long.

 Random: what do you prefer-heels or flats?

 In my head, heels. In reality, flats.

Thank you very much to Gail for answering my questions. Be sure to visit her website by clicking here, and to buy a copy of the book by clicking here.

Beat The Blacklist TBR Challenge: Crossing The Water #1

Sylvia Plath. Sylvia Plath. I was first introduced to her back in 2013, when Company Magazine, now defunct, featured The Bell Jar in their monthly A-Z. It was the 50th anniversary of publication. And they were raising a “dirty martini” to Plath in celebration. Fast forward four years, and Plath is still very much part of my life.

This was a Christmas gift-thanks Mum!-and contains a good few poems that I am unfamiliar with. As the blurb notes, these were collected by Plath’s husband, Ted Hughes, and constitute the transitional period between The Colossus and Ariel. Needless to say, I was intrigued.

What’s lacking is Sylvia over reaching influence; these lack order, and aren’t necessarily as meaningful as later verses, such as Daddy and Lady Lazarus. But the one that stuck out most to me was Parliament Field Hills-the poem documenting Plath’s miscarriage. It’s sad beyond words. But it’s a moment in time that impacted the rest of her literary career.

What do you think? Do you read poetry?

Lydia

XO

Interview: Gail Crowther on her new book.

Gail Crowther is an excellent Sylvia Plath scholar; today, she has a new book out: Sylvia Plath And The Haunted Reader. She took some time out to chat to me about Plath, her new book, and more.

Hello Gail, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Hi, my pleasure.

Your new book, The Haunted Reader and Sylvia Plath, is out today; congratulations! Tell me: what was the idea behind it?

I suppose my interest in this began with the personal experience of feeling an unusual attachment to Plath. I love lots of writers, but my reading relationship with Plath was – and is – completely different to any other writer. I noticed that other people seemed to share this and so I thought it might be interesting to explore in a little more detail what might be going on here, why attachments to Plath seem a bit different, a little ‘stronger, and of course what role she plays in peoples’ lives. 

THR book cover

The Book Jacket: Credit: Gail Crowther.

I think there is, and see, a slight revision taking place with Plath’s legacy and this pleases me.

The Haunted Reader looks set to explore how “fandom can manifest itself”; could you explain this further?

Once I had established that certain readers did have quite a strong attachment to Plath, I figured this was, in many cases, some form of fandom. I use the expression ‘reader-fan’ in the book because it feels like there is something more than reading occurring, but also something more than fandom. I became fascinated to try and uncover what kind of things reader-fans ‘do’ and why. For example, I have visited places that Plath has written about or places where she has lived, I guess in a way to see them through her eyes, to try and enter into her creative processes that turned, say, a yew tree at night into a beautiful poem. It’s not the only way to understand a poem of course, but I quite enjoy seeing the original influence for the genesis of a poem and what she does with it after that. My book is divided into chapters which look at the different ways fandom manifests itself, beginning with the first encounter reader-fans have with Plath, through to exploring the idea of doubles, the importance of pilgrimage to Plath places, the impact of photographs, and finally the impact of Plath’s things/objects.

Applying this concept to Plath, what do you think about that and her legacy? 

I think there is, and see, a slight revision taking place with Plath’s legacy and this pleases me. Both Plath and her readers have, I feel, received quite a rough time of it. For those of us who form meaningful attachments, the throwaway phrase The Cult of Plath is used, as if to dismiss and demean. For Plath herself, the fact that she is often inextricably read through her final act, her suicide, does a great disservice to her work. Her reputation and the manner of her death has been trivialized and joked about. If you put an image search into Google you see photographs of people going to fancy dress parties dressed as Plath with a cardboard oven on their head etc etc. I find this tragic in so many ways and feel that the focus has to be pulled back to her work and to her importance as a cultural figure.

Are you working on any other Plath projects?

Yes, I’ve just finished a book that I have been co-writing with Peter K. Steinberg called These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. In this we combine Plath scholarship with archival studies to explore what it feels like to work in an archive, how we might begin to theorize the archive, and we share some of our most unusual and exciting Plath finds, such as unseen photos, or little-know poems. This will be released next year. I’m also starting research for an essay on Plath and Religion for a collection which will be coming out in 2018.

I suppose my interest in this began with the personal experience of feeling an unusual attachment to Plath. I love lots of writers, but my reading relationship with Plath was – and is – completely different to any other writer.

Do you have any advice for writers and fellow ‘Plathians’ wishing to follow in your footsteps? 

I think over the years I have discovered the importance of really solid research. This partly came about when I was studying for my PhD but subsequently working with Peter K. Steinberg who has taught me so much about the importance of really solid factual evidence. I already knew this, but I’m inclined to be easily swayed by a lovely theory or a poetic bit of writing and wander off in a distracted way discussing it, whereas Peter is great for pulling me back and actually getting me to be accurate. Our book we have just written together was great fun and a massive learning experience for me. I know I’m never going to get away with trying to slip the odd ‘circa’ expression into a sentence when I’m writing with Peter. So in that sense accurate research makes solid writing, I guess.

 

I already knew this, but I’m inclined to be easily swayed by a lovely theory or a poetic bit of writing and wander off in a distracted way discussing it, whereas Peter is great for pulling me back and actually getting me to be accurate.

Random: Which do you prefer-cats or dogs?

Well I have both, so I don’t really have a preference, though my dog, George, usually warms my feet while I’m writing and he’s good fun to play with on the beach. I would say cats are more fun to play with in the house, but mine, Alfie, isn’t because he’s vicious and slightly unhinged.

Click here to buy the book. Or to read a previous interview with Gail, click here. And to read my review of her previous book, click here.

Becoming Esther: a reminiscences of the Bell Jar.

[Correction: where I have mentioned The Beekeepers Daughter, it should be The Colussus.]

(Disclaimer: Recently, I was lucky enough to witness the second of two performances of Becoming Esther, in conjunction with Brighton Fringe.I was lucky enough to be given Press Tickets, after I requested them-thanks Hester Phillips! *)

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*Okay, this was last Thursday..

I’ve loved The Bell Jar, since about the age of twelve, nearly thirteen, when I saw it in Company Magazine. These women were raising a ‘dirty martini’ to this book-so why couldn’t I, in a metaphorical way? (I couldn’t drink at that age.) These glamours, highly literate women were reading and discussing a book; I wanted ‘In’.

Any way, back to the review…

The production took place in The Warren, a place I’d never heard of. Google maps led me astray, meaning I was a little over five minutes late. (I rang the venue-and the lady at the desk was so helpful!) I ran my way there..

In a way, it was a very effective production-almost like when you have a set piece in year seven drama, performed, with every body saying “Wow”. The life of Sylvia Plath was portrayed just by two people-retrospectively, ‘Ted’ and ‘Sylvia’.  Props included a backboard (as in the poem Daddy), paper balls for Baby Frieda, a prominent typewriter, and sheets of paper the audience had to read to audio. For something so simple, it was innately sophisticated.

They also had the size correct: ‘Ted’ was very tall, with ‘Sylvia’ the more demure. It was almost akin to a representation-something that you can at times see in the poetry.

It was also incredibly haunting.

At times, the poetry was recited from memory-The Beekeepers daughter, for one-or mimed to overhead audio. Or, almost, seemingly improvised-Ted’s first impressions on Nauset, anyone? Just beautiful.

Obviously, we all know that Sylvia committed suicide; I just feel that that could have been portrayed a little bit better. The actor’s could have stood still in a time frame, with the audio being read out of Plath’s final moments. It all got a bit too real to see ‘Sylvia’ mime gassing herself.

And yet..

It reminded me of why Sylvia Plath is important to me.

I think this should therefore be extended into a full length play, touring the country. It’s so worthwhile. I just wish a wider audience could see it. Plath is important, as is Ted Hughes.

Review: Sylvia Plath In Devon By Elizabeth Sigmund and Gail Crowther.

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Credit: Amazon.

(Thank you Jay for sending me this.)

If you’ve read this blog for a while, or are familiar with older posts, I am fascinated by Sylvia Plath, and the academic areas of study surrounding her.Therefore, I felt incredibly lucky to have been sent this to review. (I’ve interviewed one of the authors-Gail-which you can read by clicking here.)

Some of Plath’s greatest poetry-those of the notorious Ariel-were written whilst living in Devon,from September 1961 to December 1962.Plath whilst there had to undergo several things-her marriage breaking up, the birth of a child, and decorating her new home. Whilst there, events were put into motion, impacting the poetry. She’d also finished the Bell Jar.

Elizabeth Sigmund recalls how she met Sylvia, and their subsequent friendship; that’s what I think is truly remarkable about the book. One of Plath’s friends goes on record-instead of just being silent. It paints a better picture of her, one that’s far more balanced. The scholarly tone is also incredibly articulate; something that I always look for in a tome.

Gail is also a great scholar-and I found myself reminiscing about the email interview. So many things seemed anew-something that I hadn’t known before; for example, if she had lived, it may have been possible that Sylvia may have become a politically active women. As someone studying that, it was simply refreshing to hear: in an era when that was a little unconventional at the time. The biography was my favorite part of the book.

And the pictures, the pictures..instead of a usual biography having them at specific chapter points, they are interspersed throughout. It also almost ignores Plath, with pictures of the external reality that inspired her poetry-such ass statues, her home. That’s what fascinates me about this book, and why I know that I’ll be re-reading this book for a while.

I’d have only have improved the book by just being a little more snappy in style..

Click here to buy from Amazon.