I said I’d attempt a review of “Lover of unreason”, and now find I have lost the oomph I had to do so. Meh…here’s what I have in my mind about it right now;
I devoured the book purely because I am a Sylvia Plath fan girl. It was intriguing to read a fuller account of the big, bad glamorous woman who Ted left Sylvia for. (Or was he going anyway? We’ll never know.) However the account was nowhere near as complete as I had hoped. Assia Wevill remains sketchy. A great deal of emphasis is placed on various inscriptions in books that she gave Ted and he gave her. This seemed to be in absence of any more concrete findings (letters and journals of hers disappeared as did Sylvia’s) and revealed not much at all.
At various points we are told so and so then attempted suicide…then blah di da happened, as if attempting to kill oneself was really not too big of a deal. I found that extremely odd.
Ted comes out of it all badly. He appears to have gallivanted around sexing up all and sundry with scant regard for any wife/mistress. He was an attractive man, and all describe him as being a huge and magnetic personality. I take with me from this book the knowledge that the first time he had sex with Assia it was so vigorous that he “ruptured” her, she also reported that he smelt like a butcher. Violence (sexual and otherwise) is alluded to in several places, and he apparently was a complete chauvinist which hadn’t quite come across in any of the Sylvia biogs.
Assia fares no better though. She seems vain and cold. She was apparently unmoved by broken hearts and ghosts, concentrating on what she wanted when she wanted. She was undoubtedly beautiful, and used her looks to secure the attentions of men who in turn did favours for her. She was married three times before Ted came into her life, but then as Fay Weldon commented (she was a colleague) feminism hadn’t empowered women then. If it had perhaps neither Sylvia or Assia would have felt the need to be with a man and would have blossomed in Ted’s absence.
It’s all very tragic in the end. Ted Hughes had relationships of huge intensity with Sylvia and Assia and they both gassed themselves, Assia also taking their daughter Shura with her. How that must have destroyed his soul I can’t possibly imagine.
A colleague remarked that it’s all voyeurism and thus utterly distasteful. I understand that feeling and yet I would argue that knowledge of their lives leads to unlocking of their poetry. In their cases (Plath and Hughes) it is essential for a fuller understanding of their intent. Then that leads me to ponder, do many poets work in that way, mentioning little items that the reader cannot possibly guess the significance of? Is that why I find poetry so cloudy in the main? Hmmm. I know I adore Charles Bukowski because of how clear and simple and true his words, yet there is something so bright and amazing about Sylvia’s words that I loved them before I knew what she really meant.