Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz: The Rebellion of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton

Gallery: S. & S. Apr. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781982138394. $28. LIT
That two among the 20th century’s most influential poets grew up in the same town at the same time and ended up sharing a poetry workshop under a third, Robert Lowell, seems almost unbelievable. And yet here they are, two towering figures of modern American poetry: Sylvia Plath (1932–63) and Anne Sexton (1928–74), not only living strangely parallel lives, but also struggling with depression, societal expectations, gender roles, and—sadly—similar ends: suicide. In this compelling and extremely informative dual biography, feminist scholar Crowther (coauthor, Sylvia Plath in Devon) explores the sometimes-strained relations between these two writers and the forces that drove them. The focus is less on literary analysis than psychological and societal influences. Nevertheless, it is a thrilling read. Crowther skillfully walks readers through those inebriating early years when Plath and Sexton met as nervous young poets through their blossoming into major literary figures and into the darkness of their struggles with difficult marriages and depression. Offering a powerful and disturbing look into the forces that drive us to creativity and to our own destruction, with all its details of infidelities and hardships, cigarettes, and sorrows, this book leaves readers hungering for more of what these two literary comets burned with: the power of a little poetry.
VERDICT Deliriously fast-paced and erudite, this is highly recommended for all literature, poetry, and women’s studies collections.
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