The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Over the weekend I picked up, and devoured, a beautiful book with an ugly cover. I spent the Easter break up in Byron for Bluesfest and, amidst the music and dust, I found myself craving a good book.

After one day at the festival I knew I needed something to occupy the time in between music and volunteering. Whilst I love music and could probably dance to the beat of a stick on a milo tin for hours on end, I am the sort of person who seeks out opportunities to simply sit, read and sink into silence. I woke up early on my second day at the festival, hitched a ride into town with two quirky backpackers and a local and found myself in a  Collins Booksellers searching for something to occupy the ‘in between’ time. I spent well over an hour in the shop, perusing shelves, flipping through books, trying to figure out what genre best suited my mood.

My first choice was Bob Carr’s new tome, Diary of a Foreign Minister but a price tag of $50 quickly quelled any fire for an intellectual read. I eventually made my way over to fiction and sought out Charles Bukowski. His novels look fascinating but the tacky cover featuring the slinky silhouette of a woman and an ashtray full of cigarette butts was a complete turn off. I know reading a book by it’s cover is a faux pas but I think it’s fair to say that publishers who make shit design decisions are also a faux pas. Few people want to read a book with The Virgin’s Lover scrawled across the front in large text or a classic that has suddenly been revived by some blockbuster film and re-released with a celebrities face splashed all over the cover. Generally the people who actively seek out a re-released classic redesigned by Hollywood are also the people who spend $500 on custom plates only to painstakingly spell out their name using a combination of letters and numbers…..83C4U53 W3 4LL KN0W TH4T’5 C00L.

Ummm, no thank you.

Ummm, no thank you.

I searched through some Penguin classics, Lionel Shriver novels, some Barbara Kingsolver and others but eventually found my way back to the poets and ended up clutching an ugly edition of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. The cover was extremely tacky and garish but my instincts told me this was the book. At $19.95 I was willing to forgo a nice design for a good read.

The book. It’s amazing. I devoured it. I eventually got to the point where I had to stop reading because I wanted to savour the last few pages. My interest in Sylvia Plath was initially piqued by that famous phrase ‘I am I am I am’. It is an amazing and simple sentence hidden in the pages of an amazing and not-so-simple book.

I was quickly transported back to my English Literature brain of Year 12 and found myself picking the story apart, re-reading certain pages and searching for extra meaning. I felt slightly chuffed when I noticed certain techniques employed by Plath and held my breath in key moments.

Definitely worth reading…even if you have to compromise on the hella ugly cover. Oh, and I will write about the actual festival at some point – but in a nutshell… Nikki Hill was the bomb, Foy Vance makes everyone think of Vance Joy….Playing for Change is good for a boogie, Chali 2Na seems to specialise in seriously crineworthy stage banter but seriously delivers on the music. India.Arie’s idea of a bad day, which made her ‘fragile as a butterfly’, consisted of her car arriving slightly late and having to rush a little….Erykah Badu said hello and I barely managed to respond and Joss Stone is a pretty chill chick with an amazing voice (even in warm ups)…but more on all of that later.

Win some...lose some. The compromise.

Win some…lose some. The cover compromise.




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