The Bell Jar

Have you ever read a book where the whole time you were reading, you kept thinking about how you could have written it? Not because the book was bad, or because it was in any way not worthy of being written by a great writer, but because it felt like someone somewhere unzipped you, peeked into your innermost thoughts, took them out, and splattered them across the page.

As if this person had a deeper understanding of you than you did, and had managed to express you in their book. I don’t get this feeling extremely often. Most of the books I’ve loved fall into a second category, where I know I couldn’t have written them because their authors were clearly possessing of genius I can only aspire towards. The Lovely Bones? Probably could not have written that book. The Harry Potter Series – while some of my favorites of all time, these books are not something I would have dreamed up on my own.

But every time I read The Bell Jar, I feel just a little bit exposed. I feel as though maybe Sylvia Plath wasn’t writing about herself, but was in fact writing about me.

I feel her observations and her apathy and her low-key pride in herself. She’s privately boastful, and non-confrontational. When I finish reading this book, I always feel as though in the process of doing so I have learned a little bit more about myself. It’s uncomfortable, and the only reason I don’t re-read The Bell Jar very often, or all at once.

When I was younger, I thought that reading was easy. Reading was one of those things I didn’t have to think about – I love the characters, the new ties to new situations, and adventuring, all of it. I was the precocious kid who worried her teachers by choosing to read during recess. But as I’ve grown older, reading has gotten harder, as I engage more with everything I’ve read. It’s something I could never stop doing, and I’m so grateful I started.

 

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