Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sylvia Plath was never too good at math

My ex-boyfriend John was a collector of fairly obscure "alternative" or punk music and when he was in one of his manic states would make me sit up all night with him at my kitchen table listening to audio cassettes of Television and Richard Hell and the Voidoids, until I was in a semi-comatose state, head lolling and trying to stay awake by taking turns closing one eye then the other when he wasn't looking.

Whenever Sylvia Plath is mentioned I remember one of the songs he played for me, named for her. It is such an obscure song that unlike almost any other recording I've ever heard, you can't immediately find its lyrics on the Internet, although I eventually found them on a Facebook page devoted to the song's author Peter Laughner, who died in 1977 at the age of 24.
Sylvia Plath was never too good at math
But they tell me that she finished at the head of her class
And if she lost any virginity
She didn't lose it too fast
They couldn't hold any dress rehearsals for Sylvia Plath.
Sylvia Plath came into Manhattan
She had crawled out one cocoon where there was absolutely nothing happenin
She said "If I'm gonna be classless and crass,
I'm gonna break up some glass".
Nobody broke anything sharper than Sylvia Plath
There'e no romance in excuses, there's just a dance in the aftermath
And when you check out of this hotel Jack, you're nothing but an autograph
The desk clerk wakes up around seven
And he tosses it out with the trash
But he might keep around a couple of letters return-addressed to Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath woke up and turned on the gas
Then she put her head down and completely forgot about lighting a match
The rest of the details
Are just too boring to attach
But let's see you do one thing as graceful as Sylvia Plath
Aw, let's see you do one thing as graceful as Sylvia Plath
Yes, let's see you do one thing as senselessly cruel as Sylvia Plath

I could never quite make out all the words, so it's nice to finally see them here. It's a pretty good song I think now, although I never fully appreciated it before thanks to having to listen to it under compulsion.

Laugher recorded a version which is available on Youtube, but the version I was made to listen to was    a cover by a band called Saturday's Radio. It's pretty good, probably the best version of the song you'll ever here.




I'd never paid much attention to Sylvia Plath but I was thinking of her because there is a new biography out now about Plath's husband Ted Hughes, Cursed by Beauty reviewed in the NYTimes. The reviewer seems to think Hughes was exceptionally handsome, although I don't think he's such hot stuff. However he couldn't keep little Ted in his pants and because of this apparently made life hell for Plath and other women - as the reviewer notes:
There were so many women, at various stages of his life, that we read not merely of mistresses but of submistresses.
It's believed by many that he drove Plath to suicide, but she had made other suicide attempts and appears to have battled depression her entire life. Although I'm sure his philandering did not help. And his mistress, who was pregnant with his child when Plath died also committed suicide.

Thanks to Youtube we can hear Plath reading her most famous poem Daddy.



I found it curious that most of the discussions quoted on this page about the poem try to ignore or disavow the autobiographical content but it's pretty obvious and one of the commenters says:
Judging from the biographical history of this poem, Plath's victory could only be a pyrrhic one. She wrote "Daddy" on 12 October 1962, four months before her suicide, fifteen days before her thirtieth birthday, on the twentieth anniversary of her father's leg amputation (alluded to in the poem, lines 9-10) and on the day she learned that Ted Hughes, the alleged "vampire" who drank her blood for seven years (73-74), had agreed to a divorce.(5)