I received an email the other day from Ellie Russell at the British Library - it was such an honour to have someone from that fine institution email me. I hope to get the chance to peruse the Hughes archives at the BL in the near future. Ellie drew my attention to the 'Sylvia Plath: The Spoken Word' audio set, which includes Sylvia reading some of her own poems, and an interview between her and Ted Hughes. You can view more information and have the opportunity to purchase this product by clicking here.
I have not had the pleasure of listening to this cd yet, but I have heard Sylvia read her poems a lot: free cd's from The Guardian and youtube videos have been my source. To be quite honest I am not especially fond of Sylvia's speaking voice. The first time I heard it I thought she seemed quite haughty and my opinion hasn't been much changed since! Sorry Syl! For those of you who have not heard Plath read, here's a clip of her reading 'Daddy'. Let me know what you think of her voice!
However, I do think recordings like this are extremely important in the study of Sylvia Plath. One of the key elements Plath herself noted of her changing poetic style was the fact that she felt her poems needed to be read aloud. Plath commented that with her poems in 'The Colossus', she was more concerned about how they looked on the page. But with 'Ariel', it was different. I believe she was talking more about the poems written after her move from Devon to London here. Poems like 'Edge', 'The Munich Mannequins' and the "dolorous bells" of 'Sheep in Fog' sound so beautiful when spoken aloud. However no-one can deny the effectiveness of the nursery-rhyme chantings that resonate through 'Daddy' also.
While on the topic of audiobooks, I want to recommend what I think is possibly the coolest audiobook around (maybe excepting Stephen Fry and the 'Harry Potter' books). One of the best indie-film actresses around, Parker Posey narrated Betty Friedan's 'The Feminine Mystique' a few years ago and it really is such a pleasure to listen to. Posey has perfect diction and illuminates the text. It's available on iTunes as well and although a little expensive, I think it's a must-have for anyone who enjoys audiobooks!
To me, 'The Feminine Mystique' is one of the most important books ever written for women. The first time I read it, I felt as though a lot of what Friedan spoke about still had relevance in my own life. It's one of those books that change how you view yourself, your parents and your society as a whole. And the fact that Parker Posey, one of the best (and most underrated) acting talents around narrated it, only adds to how great an audiobook this is! :)