Sylvia Plath Annotates Her Copy of The Great Gatsby


The true fan of a writer desires not just that writer’s com­plete works, even if they all come signed and in first edi­tions. No — the enthu­si­ast most ded­i­cat­ed to their lit­er­ary lumi­nary of choice must have, in addi­tion, the books writ­ten by that author, those owned by that author, prefer­ably anoint­ed with lib­er­al quan­ti­ties of reveal­ing mar­gin­a­lia. In the case of such rel­a­tive­ly recent­ly deceased writ­ers as David Mark­son, the whole of whose well-anno­tat­ed per­son­al library got donat­ed to The Strand short­ly after his pass­ing, you can some­times actu­al­ly come to pos­sess such trea­sures. In the case of poet Sylvia Plath, part of a page of whose copy of F. Scott Fitzger­ald’s The Great Gats­by you see above, you might have a trick­i­er time get­ting your hands on them. Justin Ray’s post at Com­plex, which quotes Plath as call­ing Fitzger­ald “a word painter with a vivid palette” who choos­es words with “jew­el-cut pre­ci­sion,” has more on the book and its mark­ings.

“Plath stud­ied a crap-ton of lit­er­a­ture in school,” Ray writes. “It isn’t imme­di­ate­ly clear whether she was in high school or col­lege when she anno­tat­ed Gats­by,” but when­ev­er she did it, she under­lined “Daisy’s pre­dic­tion of what her daugh­ter will be like” with the word “L’Ennui,” a word she would use to name an ear­ly poem that reflects “a post roman­ti­cism and the death of ide­al­ism, two ideas also in Gats­by, accord­ing to an essay by Anna Jour­ney.” Else­where, you can also read “Princess Daisy,” Park Buck­er’s piece on Plath’s anno­tat­ed Gats­by. “The vol­ume rep­re­sents a fas­ci­nat­ing piece of evi­dence of Fitzgerald’s ris­ing rep­u­ta­tion and influ­ence in the ear­ly 1950s, as well as the aca­d­e­m­ic back­ground and tastes of a major Amer­i­can poet,” writes Buck­er. “Although Sylvia Plath and F. Scott Fitzger­ald rarely inhab­it the same sen­tence, their asso­ci­a­tion should not appear strained. A young, intense poet would nat­u­ral­ly be drawn to the lyric qual­i­ty of Fitzgerald’s prose.” And just imag­ine its val­ue to die-hard fans of both of those trag­ic pil­lars of Amer­i­can let­ters — a group in which, if you’ve read this post and every­thing to which it links, you should per­haps con­sid­er count­ing your­self.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Sylvia Plath Read Fif­teen Poems From Her Final Col­lec­tion, Ariel, in 1962 Record­ing

See F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Hand­writ­ten Man­u­scripts for The Great Gats­by, This Side of Par­adise & More

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Trans­lates The Great Gats­by, the Nov­el That Influ­enced Him Most

83 Years of Great Gats­by Book Cov­er Designs: A Pho­to Gallery

Read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gats­by & Oth­er Major Works Free Online

Gertrude Stein Sends a “Review” of The Great Gats­by to F. Scott Fitzger­ald (1925)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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