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NYT Review: Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar, first U.S. edition, 1971

“This story is partly told in the useful biographical note that has been written for the American edition by Lois Ames. The novel was initially rejected by its American publisher and when, after its success in England, Harper & Row sought to publish it, they were refused permission by the family. Sylvia Plath’s mother has insisted that her daughter thought of the book as a “pot-boiler” and did not want it published in the United States. And Mrs. Plath herself felt that the book presented ungrateful caricatures of people who had tried to help her daughter. These sentiments are understandable. But a book published in England cannot be kept away from the United States. Already, the student underground has been smuggling copies from abroad into the country. Literature will out. And “The Bell Jar” is not a pot-boiler, nor a series of ungrateful caricatures: it is literature. It is finding its audience, and will hold it.”

“The Harper & Row edition is overdue, but very welcome and handsomely done. It has one of the best jacket designs (by Amy Isbey Duevell) I have ever seen, and it includes reproductions of eight pen-and-ink drawings by Sylvia Plath. The drawings are landscapes and still lifes, caught by a meticulous draftsman, who understands almost too well what it means to work in a medium where black is the only color.”

Scholes review: “Esther came back like a retreaded tire,” April 11, 1971