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Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar [Aug. 8th, 2005|11:38 pm]

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[mood |tiredtired]

Victoria Lucas wrote this fictional novel, but it is based on Sylvia Plath’s real life. Which makes sense, considering Victoria Lucas is only a pseudonym for Plath. This is the closest anyone will ever get of an actual Plath autobiography, which is sad, because The Bell Jar ends leaving many questions unanswered.

Plath’s own scholarship was at Mademoiselle Magazine, where she was a guest editor for a month. Esther’s patron, Philomena Guinea, is based on Plath’s own patron, Olive Higgins Prouty, best known for writing Stella Dallas and Now, Voyager. The individual who was the character base for Joan later sued after the book was published under Plath’s real name following her suicide. The court ruled in her favor that she was unfairly branded as gay in the novel. Esther’s suicide attempt is a mirror image of one of Plath’s own. Both the main character and the author under went electroshock therapy, which also links the protagonist with the Rosenbergs, who Ester refers to in the opening, reflecting on their execution in the electric chair. Coincidently, Plath left two children behind after her suicide, as did the Rosenbergs.

Its disturbing to read the Bell Jar, knowing how true to life it is and what happens to Esther in real life. Plath continues to be an enigma and the Bell Jar does not offer any insight into who she really was. It is difficult to connect to Esther Greenwood. She follows through life, disconnected, winning awards for her writing and flying through college on scholarship. Eventually, she wins a chance to spend a summer working at a New York magazine. Her first friend is Doreen, a “dirty common slag” that Esther would rather not associate with but wants to emulate. Losing her virginity to punish her boyfriend Buddy Willard for losing his becomes an obsession for her. Not that she really loves or even wants Buddy to be her boyfriend. Unfortunately, she feels that she is unable to leave him once he is diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent to a sanatorium.

The novel is going along well until Esther is sent home. Up until this point, the character is realistic and sympatic. However, once she moves back home, her motives become unclear. Mental illness, depression included, is always unclear, but it is difficult to understand Esther. Before, the reader felt as if they were experiencing all this with her, as if they were there. Afterwards, we are just watching her go through things, not really getting a chance to feel what she feels. Esther, upon returning home, suffers insomnia and sees a psychiatrist who gives her electroshock therapy. Esther makes several suicide attempts, the final being when she crawls into a cellar and swallows 50 sleeping pills. She is sent to a mental hospital, where is meets and makes new friends, including Joan.

The Bell Jar reads as two books. The first book is a character study of a young girl in New York. I enjoyed this half. The second half is a confusing mess. However, it is not bad. As two separate books, both would stand on their own and would be very good. However, the tie between is leak and together, two excellent books become a merely good one.
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The Ruling Class & The Girls [Aug. 6th, 2005|11:50 am]

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[mood |sillysilly]
[music |Clean Sweep]

Maybe you’ve missed the books Odd Girl Out and Teen Queens & Wanabees. Perhaps you saw something else when Mean Girls was in the theaters. Or maybe you’re just a guy. If you fall into any of these categories, then you may be unaware of the hidden culture of girls, a deep secret we hide. Girls are evil. We have a hidden culture of aggression towards each other. We will be smiley to a girl one moment, the next, insulting her behind her back. Our best friend one day, will be our worst enemy next.

Every female does this and they never grow out of it. However, it is worse during the teen years, where it seems that one must either eat or be eaten. As displayed in Mean Girls, the girl world is a deep, multilayered world. We don’t fight battles with fists, but rather with world.

Of course, this new realization of the girl world leads to a different type of young adult novels. Girls in these worlds no longer just deal with the pain of strict parents or a new crush, but the simple pain of just living in the girl world.

Francine Pascal is no stranger to the girl world, having her name featured on the many Sweet Valley High books. If written today, Jessica Wakefield may be viewed differently, not as a popular, mischievous cheerleader, but a cut throat bully. She most likely would have been the character Jeanette Sue in Pascal’s most recent novel, The Ruling Class. Jeanette Sue is the ring leader of the clique nicknamed the Ruling Class, surrounded by equally snobby rich girls. At their wealthy upper class high school in Dallas’ Highland Park, they are the girls everyone fears but the one’s everyone wants to be a part of. Myrna Fry is one of those girls, desperate to join the Ruling Class and foolishly thinking that she already has. She is ‘best friends’ with Jeanette Sue, or JS, as she affectingly refers to her, rewriting every negative thing Jeanette Sue says or does to her in a positive way.

Myrna’s delusion is not realistic. It is hard to believe that anyone would lie to themselves this much or lower their self respect as much as Myrna has. Then again, there is not much realistic about this book. Jeanette Sue is a one decisional villain, with no insight into why she is the way she is or why she even has such a hold over people.

Even our heroine, Twyla Gay Stark, is unrealistic. A poor girl that just happens to end up in the rich school, the reader is supposed to believe that Twyla Gay is the only poor student at the school. Everyone else, even the losers, are rich. Hard to believe, but lets just go with it. She is the new girl in town, and Jeanette Sue instantly feels the need to destroy her. Why? Because she is just evil. Oh, and Twyla Gay has attracted the attention of Jeanette Sue’s sometime boyfriend Ryder McQuaid. However, in this I sympathize with Jeanette Sue. One moment he is dancing with her, the next he’s flirting with Twyla Gay. It would have been nice, if in the end, Jeanette Sue and Twyla Gay teamed up to reveal him for the two timing loser he is. That is not to be though.

In the end, Jeanette Sue gets her just desserts and Twyla Gay becomes everything she hated. I believe we’ve learned this lesson before.

The Ruling Class gives us no new insight into the mind of a “mean” girl. Jeanette Sue is just bad, Myrna is just desperate to join, and Twyla Gay is just innocent. We’re not sure why Jeanette Sue is mean to everyone, just that she is. We are just supposed to except that some girls are mean. That said, The Ruling Class is a fluff read, enjoyable, and a quick way to past a lazy afternoon. Just don’t expect too much.

While Pascal looks at the world of mean girls in high school, Amy Goldman Koss looks at it from a middle school point of view. In her novel,The Girls, Koss is a little more in-depth with her characters and their motives. This clique is ruled by Candence, a girl with nothing special about her, but her simple presence. Adults see this, but her peers can not. Darcy is Candence’s best friend, a girl who is use to seeing girls come and go in their group. She never stops to realize that she may be next. While Candence decides who stays and who goes, Darcy is the one who carries out the orders. This way, Darcy is seen as the nasty bitch instead of Candence. The clique is rounded out by Renee, whose parents have recently separated, Brianna, a talented actress with book smart parents, and Maya, a normal girl from a normal family.

It is Maya that Candence decides needs to leave. She is simply not what Candence thought she would be. Candence is fascinated by mysterious girls and quickly disappointed when she finds there is no mystery. Maya is one such case. The other girls accept this with no argument, knowing that if they do, they may be next. Darcy, to prove her best friend status, carries out the actual teasing. What follows Maya’s dismissal is an entire break down of these girls’ culture and nothing is the same afterwards.

The Girls suffer from the fact that it is too short. Koss as well developed characters, but she doesn’t give them the space they need to grow. The events in the book take place over three days – very unrealistic.

As hard as it to be a girl, it is not as rough as people would like one to believe. Most girls make it through middle and high school without having to deal with events like these. That said, I would not like to do it over again.
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Intro/FAQs [Aug. 6th, 2005|11:23 am]

[mood |crankycranky]

1. Another book community?

Yes and no.

2. ...Why?

I got tired of looking at all the communities about books that were mostly unorganized messes. There would be random book reviews that would make most of Amazon.com's look like they were written by Shaskeapre. There would be like five different posts about the new Harry Potter book on just one day. I stumled across some good book blogs and wanted a community like those, a mixture of thought out reviews and thoughtful essays. So here we are!

3. Cool! Can I post something?

I would love it! However, to avoid thebooklover from turning into one gaint mess, I keep the posting entries to just me. If you would like to post something, a book review, essay, etc., please email your entry to me. If I like it and feel that it belongs here, I will give you posting access and invite you to be a guest columnist for a bit. After five entries, you will be invited to be a regular columnist, meaning you can post without me having to look over it first.

4. But I can comment, right?

Sure, anyone can comment. However, please keep it apporiate. Meaning, no foul lanauge or pictures and keep the comment on topic.

5. Why haven't you updated?

I am a full time college student, who works and has duties to her sorority. (Insert dumb sorority girl joke here.) With all that said, I will try to update at least weekly. This is why I encourage people to submit stuff to be read.

6. What makes a good review/essay?

A good review should have at least three paragraphs to it, in my opinion. It should be thoughtful and have full words in it. NO NET SPEAK! A good review should also be of a book that has widespread appeal. Obsure fanstay or sci-fi novels are discouraged. However, something by Tamore Priece or Marion Zimmer Bradly would be fine.

A good essay can be a review that is a bit more indepth, including the history of the author and how their life ties into the novel. Fictionailzed memoirs are good for this. I'm pretty loose on what can be a good essay, thought I encourage them to be at least three paragraphs.

7. The book I want to review has already been done, now what do I do?

It avoid seeing the same books over and over, please check the memories. If a book you want to review has already been done, please post your review to that essay. Once the community gets more busy, I will have a post at the end of the week citing where the recent activity has been.

8. You misspelled something!

That's bound to happen. I'm an English major, but I am a horrible speller. If you see something misspelled, please point it out in a comment.

9. Anything else?

Don't think so, but I'll let ya know!
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