April 05, 2006
like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full


...I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one,
they plopped to the ground at my feet.

-sylvia plath, "the bell jar"



32 Comments:

Blogger Uccellina said...

God, that hit painfully home.

Blogger Libby said...

Dammit. I'm sitting at my desk, I've just gathered my pieces together enough to create a shadow of a whole, and you post this.

Somebody, please for the love of God, pass the Kleenex.

Blogger Laurie Ann said...

Thank you.

Sincerely.

Blogger eebmore said...

girls are weird. Ted Hughes was the man.

Blogger briana said...

Excelent choice! I may have to give up quoting James Joyce in favor of Sylvia Plath.

I may also have to start taking anti-depressants, but hey, what's another trip to the pharmacy each month between friends.

Blogger superhooker said...

I know what happened the last time I read The Bell Jar...and I hope that you are ok...stay out of the basement...

Blogger Auntie Sassy said...

I've wanted to read this book for a while...but I've been waiting to be in the right mental space for it.
Because I hear that I should basically go on anti-depressants before reading it...just as a precaution.

Anonymous jurgen nation said...

Are we sharing the same moment? I'm in such a funk. Thanks for posting this and reminding me how much this book means to me.

Blogger Uccellina said...

Stay out of the basement? Stay away from the oven, more like.

Blogger jiggs said...

And another fig was jiggs casey and a pack of other bloggers that think you're swell.

I haven't read the bell jar, but it seems like this passage sets up a choice point. One could remain paralyzed by the many options or one realize how lucky he or she was if they had so many options. Choosing one is tough, but every branch has major satisfaction and sacrifice.

In my opinion, all the branches that are worth worrying over are all pretty great and it doesn't really matter in the long run which one gets chosen.

Additionally this tree metaphor, while it gets Plath's point across, isn't an apt metaphor for life.

I could continue, but I'm going to stop writing now because I am boring myself.

coddlecoddlecoddlecoddle.

Blogger miss kendra said...

uccelina: it got even worse when i realized she was as fucked up as i am (clearly worse as proven by the whole “death” thing) and yet she managed to come out with this, among other things. and what do i write? a blog, just like everyone else.

libby: i’m sorry. please forgive me.

laurie ann: sylvia’s good like that.

eebmore: he was sometimes maybe ok (or sometimes not). this has nothing to do with him. your comment might as well say, “i like cheese.” no offense.

briana: i like to quote her. grab me a little somethin’ somethin’ next time you’re there.

superhooker: i don’t have a basement. i’m a reasonable knock off of okay.

sassy: if you wait, you’ll never get there. just have a good wallow reading it, then try to focus on something happy. like shoes.

jurgen nation: i don’t know if it’s in the air, but it does seem to be circulating. maybe the only people we know are prone to funks.

Blogger miss kendra said...

uccelina: i have an electric oven. dammit.

jiggs: that's the thing- i know all of that, but i still am stuck. i need an outline of what can/should/will/might happen in order to proceed. i need to know how to go about any one of those properly or i am too nervous to try. what if i get lost and drop the one fig i've chosen?

Blogger eebmore said...

I do like cheese. that was the point. any boy who reads plath and gets an ounce out of it isn't a boy. and i'm sticking to my point that girls are weird. respectfully, of course.

Blogger jiggs said...

fig dropping is a risk no matter which path you choose. There's no way to plan for every contingency. You just got to trade off the satisfaction of a branch with the likelihood of success of that branch.

Additionally, to finish my though about the tree metaphor not being apt:

the tree metaphor isn't apt because it gives the impression that you can only pursue one fig to the exclusion of the others. That is not true.

everybody has to choose a branch, but you aren't limited by it.

Blogger jiggs said...

also, coddlecoddlecoddlecoddle.

Blogger jiggs said...

Let me add one footnote to

everybody must choose a branch, but you aren't limited by it.

I mean limited in the strong sense i.e. limited to only that branch.

Blogger GrandPooOfAwesome said...

That book has so many good quotes. I didn't read The Bell Jar until this year, and I was unpleasantly surprised with how much I related to Esther. It was scary.

It was hard to get into sometime though, because I kept wanting to highlight sentences or read them over and over. It was distracting.

Blogger Spinning Girl said...

Yes. and Yes.

I think the key is to choose one fig, and to savor it in all its marvelousness. To really inhale it, consume it entirely, to make it part of your soul.

And once you have done so, you will look up and see that while the other past choices are gone, new ones have appeared, and you can choose again.

Also,

coddlecoddlecoddle.

Blogger Mark Base said...

You're just too figgin' weird. But in a good way.

Blogger melissa.in.london said...

Boy, have I felt that way. I think I need to read that book.

Not because I want to stick my head in the oven, but because it would definitely be thought-provoking.

Blogger Brookelina said...

My God, get out of my head.

Blogger Grend31 said...

There are no branching paths. There is but one path. The one you choose to follow.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow.

Gets ya thinkin'

Blogger LotusKnits said...

Thanks for the quote. I too am in a funk. Not that the quote fixes the funk, but it's good to know that I am not alone in my funkiness.

I've never been able to choose a fig, either. Maybe it's the figs that are funky. That's it. Funky figs.

Blogger ladylinoleum said...

Uh-oh, you are quoting Sylvia Plath. Are you okay? How's the new place? Will you be at SNB tonight?

Blogger Libby said...

Please do not be funked. And if you are funked, please come up here. I will brush your hair and make you some green tea. Maybe even with honey, if I can find it.

*sigh*

Blogger FRITZ said...

Call a helpline.

No, I'm kidding. Poor Sylvia. Poor, poor, depressed Sylvia.

I hope you had a good fig.

Thanks for making me get my copy out, again, so I can re-read it.

Blogger miss kendra said...

eebmore: so boys don’t get depressed? i think robert lowell or edgar allen poe or even kurt cobain might take issue with that. but also, cheese is good.

jiggs: i don’t like risk (of this sort)! i need a fig catching net. i must insure the safety of my fig! i just need some sort of nudge in one direction. i like too many things- and have no undeniable pull towards any one in particular. i want to take a little bite of each fig. thank you for your coddles. and then make pudding.

grandpooof: it IS distracting. and you know the highlighting thing is basically a fig thing- like we’re afraid we will lose the words if we don’t mark them for later.

spinning girl: that is a lovely point. i’m sure you must be an excellent teacher. i wish you were here to be mine.

mark base: yes.

melissa: you should read it. definitely.

brooke: i can’t even get out of mine!

grend31: there is no try! there is only do.

anonymous: indeed.

lotusknits: it is good to know that we are not alone in our funks. i’m glad you’re here!

lady linoleum: i was too sick! i stayed in bed ALL DAY. i missed you though!

libby: i would like for you to brush my hair. very very much.

fritz: i hope i have a good fig too.

Blogger Franklin said...

Such a shame she killed herself. I would have loved to have done it for her. Not that I didn't like her, I just thought that her throat looked so supple. I would have loved to swiftly slit it.

Blogger Übermilf said...

I hate figs.

Have you got any plums?

Maybe you're in the wrong tree. Maybe all those figs are rotten, and no matter which one you pick you'll be disappointed.

Just trying to cheer you up.

P.S. -- I'm pretty sure rotten figs would make you really, really sick.

Blogger jiggs said...

there are no fig nets, sassafras.

If you really don't have any preference over a set of figs, you should just roll a die and choose whatever comes up. If you don't choose one, you'll just end up doing the one that takes the least amount of effort.

Additionally, you can always take little bites out of every fig as long as you don't expect to be sated.

Blogger eebmore said...

Oh, no, not at all. that wasn’t the point i was trying to make. i think it is impossible for men to access the genius (I’m taking the expert’s opinion on this) in Plath’s poetry... even the cobains and poes and lowells. her poetry taps into a part of the brain that does not exist in men - i think. it’s a chemical thing, not a “like football” thing. I’ve know many brilliant women who were overwhelmed with a sense of empathy with plath’s work. I’ve know nearly retarded women who were overwhelmed with a sense of empathy with plath’s work. it’s not just about depression, there are many many other things in there that make it impossible for us to access her. back in college I would take the poetry courses for an easy A... not because I loved poetry... or was particularly good at knowing what the author was talking about... but for some reason I was good at pulling something out it and BSing on the papers. with plath, I would hit a wall... a giant stone wall a hundred feet tall and a thousand miles wide. I was as though i was a monkey reading a poem written by a horse about being a horse. her poetry isn’t about the human condition... it’s about the female human condition. I strongly suspect that when cobain read plath, he thought to himself “what the fuck is she talking about?”

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