Daniel has wanted to be a writer ever since he was in elementary school.He has published stories and articles in such magazines as Slipstream, Black Petals, Spindrift, Zygote in my Coffee, and Leading Edge Science Fiction. He has written four books: The Sage and the Scarecrow (a novel), the Lexical Funk (a short story collection), Reejecttion (short story/ essay collection), and The Ghosts of Nagasaki (a novel).
For all its strong points, I can't help but feel like this book can't help but be a gifted writer's first novel. In any first novel, the tendency is to make everything personal, a reflection of one's own personal world, is overwhelming. And like any first novel, a brilliant start does not necessarily lead to a brilliant finish or even a sustainable narrative effort. If this book is good, it is also highly uneven.
The strongest imagery in The Bell Jar comes during the beginning. I won't forget her imagery of dead bodies floating in balloons at supper time anytime soon. The imagery in the rest of the novel tends to wax and wane rather inconsistently. Much of this is the experience of a poet trying to write a novel. If a poem is a strong punch, then a novel is more like a long distance run.
Perhaps I read this book at the wrong time in my life. The metaphor of the Bell Jar is a serious one -- one that demands reflection. But at this particularly moment in time, I don't want to think deeply about Bell Jars. I want to think of heroes shattering glass jars. I need a realistic rendering of a hero, even if it is done with unliterary sentimentality.
But then again, perhaps I did read this at the right time. I feel like Esther. We each have our own Bell Jar (even if there are different degrees of Bell Jarredness in the world). I keep waiting for my life to begin and for the roles that have been assigned to me to melt away like so much useless snow in spring. I keep waiting for the Bell Jar to surrender to optimism and what I perceive to be the obviousness of my life's purpose. When it doesn't, I'm apt -- like Esther -- to slip into self-defeating binges of narcissistic fantasy.
For all its emphasis on the negative, the book ends (surprisingly!) on a hopeful note -- the word "rebirth" sticks out in my mind. With each reading of this book, I hope Ms. Plath finds another rebirth.