Ann Dee: What I Want to Write

I love The Bell Jar.

I found it on Saturday as I was moving boxes from one room to another so that I could make room for an elliptical machine that my sister is giving me which counts for the next five Christmases and Birthdays and that is totally worth it. I was moving the boxes because unlike where we lived before, there are no book shelves here. And that is bad. All the books stay in boxes for now unless I’m moving them which means I’m really opening them and finding The Bell Jar.

I read it for the first time when I had just graduated college and I could not believe, could not believe, the ease of the voice.

Okay, not really. Not going to use jargon for this book.

What I want to say is, when I read The Bell Jar, I was blown away. Somebody understood me*.

Here’s the thing: Sylvia Plath, someone who lived far far away from any of the places I’ve lived, someone who lived a life a thousand times different than mine, someone who didn’t know anything about me, in fact, someone who died fifteen years before I was born, someone like her had managed to write a character who I connected with on many many levels. It was sort of unbelievable.

Here’s a passage:
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.
From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was EeGee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and one by one, they plopped on the ground at my feet. (77)

I remember reading this. I remember sitting on my bed, books and clothes and candy bar wrappers, and alone on a Friday night, and reading this. It was exactly how I was feeling. What was I doing with my life? What could I do with my life? What had I let rot at my feet? Why couldn’t I make a decision?

How did she know?

I keep typing in passages and then erasing them. Like when her mom tells her she didn’t get into the writing course she had applied to and she suddenly has nothing to look forward to. Or when she is in her room and hears someone outside so she crawls on the floor and shuts the blinds, just in case. Or when she decides to write a novel just to show everyone. So she eats some raw hamburger and egg and sets up a card table and counts out three hundred and fifty sheets of paper and sits there and thinks and writes a paragraph and is proud that she described drops of sweat like insects even though she thought maybe she’d read it somewhere and then it’s been hours and she only has two paragraphs written and her mom comes in and asks her why she isn’t dressed, it’s three in the afternoon, and she says,”I’m writing a novel . . . I haven’t got time to change out of this and into that.” I keep writing them and then erasing them because I don’t know what this post is about.

I think what I’m trying to say is I love books. I love books that make me feel normal even if normal is the Bell Jar. I want to write books that make someone far far away think, How did she know? And I won’t know. But she’ll know. That’s what I want to write.

*Don’t be scared.


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13 responses to “Ann Dee: What I Want to Write

  1. I feel like I could write a very long response to this post. Talk about all of the similarities to my own thoughts. And yet, all the words and feelings and pictures meld in my mind. And what comes out is… I like you, Ann Dee.

  2. Amy

    I’m sitting in that fig tree right now. I’m afraid that at 32, most if not all of the figs have withered. I hope its not too late for me.

    Before I say anything else, because I am always inclined to share too much. I’ll stop myself.

    I must add though that dried Black Mission figs are especially delicious with a hunk of good quality blue cheese such as Cambazola.

  3. Ann Dee, reading this post makes me feel happy and sad and also it makes me think about how much I like _The Bell Jar_ and about how much I am like you, and how much I adore you.

  4. Also, I think you can and do write with that effect. Truly.

  5. Carol

    I loved that book, too.
    You are a terrific writer, Ann Dee.
    And thoughtful, to boot.

  6. Louise Plummer

    It always worried me that I identified with Sylvia Plath. I always wanted to be one of those Mademoiselle guest editors. That wrinkled fig turned to powder years ago.

    But thank you for quoting her. That prose delights me.

  7. I really need to read that book. John Bennion told me that I needed to see what Sylvia Plath does in her writing, so I can somehow help my writing (the non-fiction anyway).
    I’m in the fig tree now too.
    My new goal: read The Bell Jar.

    Ann Dee, before I met you and you were far far away, you did that for me with your books. You made me wonder, how did she know? Maybe you know, and maybe you don’t. But the truth is people connect to your writing, to your characters and your characters’ emotions.

  8. anonymous

    Yeah, that’s a powerful book, but not good for a high school kid with severe chemical depression like Sylvia’s. She’s pretty good at convincing a person that life is pointless and not worth living. I believed her.

    • I know. I know. I have to be careful recommending it. and actually I haven’t read the whole thing for years. I need to again to remember. I’m not sure if I’m up to it emotionally.

  9. anonymous

    I mean The Bell Jar, not Ann Dee’s book.

  10. Thanks everyone. About my book. I also agree that The Bell Jar is NOT for everyone. It’s beautiful. The ease, the honesty, the ease of honesty, but it is also disturbing. So weird how books can do different things to us. Sometimes the same book but at different times of life.


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