Saturday, December 4, 2010

On the 19th day of Christmas, Babbitt's Books gave to me . . .

. . . a nice collection of books by Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

First up is the restored edition of Ariel, Plath's most famous collection of poetry. The first edition of Ariel, published two years after Plath's suicide in 1965, was edited and arranged by her estranged husband Ted Hughes, who diverged quite a bit from her original manuscript, adding in more than a dozen new poems and excising a dozen others entirely. This edition, which has a foreword by the couple's only surviving child, Frieda Hughes (Nicholas Farrar Hughes committed suicide in early 2009), preserves Plath's own arrangement. It also includes a facsimile of her manuscript, with both hand-written and typewritten poems. Still, Plath and Hughes had the habit of reading each other's work, and some critics argue that Plath would have approved of Hughes's edits. Did Hughes do his wife a favor by accentuating her better, bolder poems and cutting the weaker ones? Frieda Hughes says it best in her foreword.

"When she died leaving Ariel as her last book, she was caught in the act of revenge, in a voice that had been honed and practiced for years, latterly with the help of my father. Though he became a victim of it, ultimately he did not shy away from its mastery. 
This new, restored edition is my mother in that moment. It is the basis for the published Ariel, edited by my father. Each version has its own significance though the two histories are one."

Next up is the first American edition of Hughes's Wolfwatching, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1991. It is one of the last books of poetry published before Hughes's death from cancer in 1998, and explores man's interaction with the natural world.

Third in line is a lovely-looking collection titled Selected Poems: 1957-1994. This anthology draws from four decades of Hughes's work, and is as close as you will get to a definitive collection of the former Poet Laureate's work, as it was personally compiled by him when it was originally published in 1995. This copy you see here is a clean, new-looking reprint from 2002. 

Lastly, for those who want to read more about Plath's and Hughes's acrimonious marriage, we have a hardcover, jacketed copy of Diane Middlebrook's Her Husband: Hughes and Plath--A Marriage. You get to learn what annoyed Plath about Hughes (his "scratching, nose-picking, with unwashed, unkempt hair & dogmatic grumpiness--all unnecessary & unpleasant" [99] is apparently part of it) and vice versa (Plath's anxiety, sexual jealousy, sentimentality, etc.). Perhaps each of them had a point. Hughes ultimately left Plath for poet Assia Wevill, whom he also cheated on, but Plath's bipolar depression must have been hard to live with.

In addition to the four books pictured above, we also have a hardcover, jacketed copy of Hughes's Birthday Letters, a book of poems about his late wife that brought wide acclaim shortly after his death--just as, ironically, the posthumously-published Ariel brought Plath her biggest fame. Love them or hate them, these two late poets are forever destined to be linked. 

Title: Ariel: The Restored Edition
Publisher: HarperCollins
Year: 2004
Features: First Edition, Dust Jacket
Condition: Very Good+
Price: $20

Title: Wolfwatching
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Year: 1991
Features: First Edition, Dust Jacket
Condition: Very Good
Price: $25

Title: Selected Poems: 1957-1994
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux 
Year: 2002
Features: First FSG Edition, Dust Jacket
Condition: Very Good+
Price: $10

Title: Her Husband: Hughes and Plath--A Marriage
Publisher: Viking
Year: 2003
Features: First Edition, Dust Jacket
Condition: Very Good
Price: $4

1 comment:

  1. Plath and Hughes fans have plenty to choose from here!