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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sylvia Plath/Ryan Adams

In the film Annie Hall, Woody Allen's character Alvy Singer sums up Sylvia Plath as an "interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college girl mentality."  Ryan Adams' song Sylvia Plath, from his 2001 album Gold, takes a more expansive approach.  I wish I had a Sylvia Plath Adams sings in the first line, a fantasy he repeats a number of times.  It is important to note that Adams' song isn't necessarily about the Sylvia Plath, the poet and author of the autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, but about a Sylvia Plath--he appears to be citing her as the archetype for a certain kind of exotic, creative, mysterious, and mercurial woman.  Adams is known to keep a copy of The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, and some have found specific references to Plath's life in the lyrics (e.g., While she was swimming away, she'd be winking at me/Telling me it would all be okay/Out on the horizon and fading away is thought to be a reference to a suicide attempt in which Plath tried to drown herself).  However, it's hard to draw lines between Plath's biography and Adams' lyrics, and critics took a broader view of the song in their reviews of Gold.  "He dreams of meeting his own dark little poetess on 'Sylvia Plath,'" Billboard noted, while CMJ New Music Monthly said,"'Sylvia Plath' turns out to be a romantic fantasy instead of the expected razor-on-the-wrist confessional."

Submitted by Stephen Hughes.

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