Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, November 18, 2018

“Sylvia Wears Pink in the Underworld” - A Short Story by Alison MacLeod - 2017 - from her collection All the Beloved Ghosts

The Gateway to Alison MacLeod on The Reading Life

“Daddy” - Read by Sylvia Plath

Homepage of Alison Macleod - includes links to two stories

Sylvia Plath on The Reading Life

"My ability to dowse for the voice of a story or novel, to hear it and trust in it, feels like a gift.

Literary craft and technique are vital. Research is often crucial. But the voice of a story is its essence or spirit. I'm its conduit. I'm both less and more myself as I write. At its most powerful, a story, like a fire, eats up all the air in the room. Its life is perhaps the thing that makes me feel alive."  Alison MacLeod

“Sylvia Wears Pink in the Underworld”

“How wrong you must have looked here. When I arrived in 1987, I discarded every bright skirt and top I’d packed. I was afraid of blotting the streetscapes of England with too much colour. Like you, I learned how to be less vivid. I found Topshop, a houndstooth skirt and a dark, oversized cardigan. Ahead of us, a mother” - from “Sylvia Wears Pink in the Underworld”

I recently did a Google search on “Best Short Story Collections of 2017.  All The Beloved Ghosts by Alison MacLeod was among them.  Having read one of The stories from collection (there is a link in my post above) i decided to acquire the collection, as easy decision.  

Looking the collection over there is a story involving a visit to the grave site of Sylvia Plath. I have recently been reading her three Holocaust poems, trying to understand the connections she is making.

Anyone who has ever felt the impact of a visit to the grave of a poet they love will cherish “Sylvia Wears Pink in The Afterlife”

I  felt deep impacts from a visit to grave of a beloved poet, W. B. Yeats, things that were not easily explained.

The narrator of the story, like Plath, moved to England after college or thereabouts.  She wonders as she is overtaken by emotions if she should speak using American style expressions or English,and  did Sylvia have the same problem. Of course we know Sylvia’s history, some of her poems and The Bell Jar.  Oh, and then there is Ted Hughes.  

The gravesite is kind of a literary pilgrimage destination, Sylvia represents much to many.  The narrator looks at the things people leave as offerings on her tombstone.  She wonders if Sylvia is somehow adjusted to life in The underworld.  Does she use the coins left to pay the ferryman or does she just ride for free? The narrator cannot simply release Plath, she needs her connection.  There is an often reprinted image of Plath (I want to call her Sylvia but can I?) wearing a pink bikini, laying in the surf.  I think the narrator wishes she wears pink in the underworld.

The lines below made me exclaim out loud, they are so deep, from a Ouija Reading:

“At my ear, the rim is as hot as an ancient fire cup. The base of the glass starts to vibrate against my palm. The strain of dimensions is too great. ‘And Ted?’ I call. It’s as if you’re fiddling with an earpiece. ‘Could you repeat the question?’ ‘Ted?’ ‘Yes,’ you echo, ‘Ted. He’s here too.’ ‘Is he enjoying the . . . the outing?’ Somewhere to my left, the Fates are clattering away with their spade.  ‘That’s –right,’ you say. ‘He’s . . .’ ‘Could you—’ A hairline crack is zigzagging up the bowl of the glass. ‘Are you—’ ‘He’s—’ ‘—happy?’ ‘—baiting a line. The fishing is good, we’re told.’ ‘In the Styx?’ ‘Hold on . . . The man is telling me . . .’ ‘I’m sorry?’ ‘—we’re nearly there.’ Through the splintering glass, your voice rises like a girl’s and, somewhere up ahead, fish gleam and flash for you.”

Ted Hughes, who loved fishing, baiting a line into The Styx-  an image for immortality.

This is just a marvelous story.  

There are nine other stories in All the Beloved Ghosts.  I greatly look forward to reading them all

Alison MacLeod was born in Canada and has lived in the UK since 1987. She is the author of three novels, The Changeling, The Wave Theory of Angels and Unexploded, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2013, and a collection of stories, Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction. Alison MacLeod is the joint winner of the 2016 Eccles British Library Writer’s Award. She is Professor of Contemporary Fiction at the University of Chichester and lives in Brighton..  

Mel u

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