Review: Pain, Parties, Work
In 1953, Sylvia Plath was one of twenty young women chosen to be guest editors for Mademoiselle‘s collegiate issue. It was a prestigious position and required spending a month in New York City. For most of the young women, the job wasn’t too taxing – it was more about photo shoots and parties – but for those who showed real promise, like Plath, the work could be difficult. Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953, by Elizabeth Winder, chronicles Plath’s summer – a time full of promise and hope, before depression engulfed her.
Winder obviously did a lot of research before writing this book – it’s full of details and quotes from the other guest editors. I was fascinated and totally engrossed in Plath’s story the whole time I read this book. Before reading it, I only knew the basics about Plath – that she was a gifted poet who committed suicide. I enjoyed a glimpse into her early life and want to read the much referenced The Bell Jar after reading this book.
As much as I enjoyed Plath’s story, I also enjoyed the glimpse into 1953 – a time when young women were beginning to move to the city to find jobs to support themselves. Women were just beginning to find some freedom but were still restricted by society’s standards – for instance, they could never think of leaving home without a hat and gloves. Diane Johnson said:
We were to be ladylike, made up, dressed up, and chaperoned as we went into the office each day, hatted of course, to shadow a senior editor.
I listened to the audio version of Pain, Parties, Work which is expertly narrated by Xe Sands. Sands did an outstanding job and I hung on her every word – she was the perfect pick for this five and a half hour audio book. Even though the print copy contains some photographs, I highly recommend the audio of this fascinating book.