Dec 062011
 
Authors: Morgan Mayo

Why do all the good ones always have to go and stick their head in an oven?

And with competition like that, how do any of us starving, struggling artists brandishing our quills like little lost Napoleons ever expect to make our way in today’s twisted cultural world?

It seems the only way to become a famous writer these days is to be insane –– or to love somebody insane.

But complete off the rocker, eating paint chips from the wall, bat-sh*t crazy seems to be the key.

Because let’s face it –– T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” wouldn’t have been half as hauntingly brilliant if it hadn’t been (at least partially) based on the wild rantings of his deranged wife –– the same wife who liked to chase society ladies around London with a knife.

Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” wouldn’t be nearly as creepy if the “tap, tap, tap” of the raven at the window hadn’t echoed his own footsteps as he walked around his wife’s grave precisely 13 times every night.

Or take, for example, the master of love poetry, Lord Byron. He contracted syphilis from his cousin and hid a live bear in his dorm room as the psychosis set in. Wait…this story sounds familiar. Was Lord Byron from South Carolina too?

Perhaps Byron’s words would have been more accurate if he’d revised it to, “All that is putrid, festering and white meet in her vagina and her eyes.”

Seriously, I don’t know how these people became famous without me around to give them advice.
But the one I love the most is the Queen of Crazy, Lady Lazarus herself –– cat with nine lives.

Constantly hiding behind poems and under bell jars, creeping into crawl spaces to muse over old lovers or a dead daddy. Casting her lot in with the thousands of drowned sailors with golden lockets clenched in frozen fists and green mossy eyes forever staring at the sky.

Sylvia Plath. For the longest time, unable to die.

She sticks out as a writer whose work is now defined by her mental illness and distinctive suicide. But if she hadn’t baked her face like a tray of muffins and instead gone to her grave a boring, old woman, would we still see each line of her poetry as a plodding descent into madness?

Or is the magic of Plath’s alliterative, imaginative poetry and prose only evident when imbued with the tragic desperation of its author’s untimely end?

Always a romanticist at heart, I can’t help but falling in love with the idea of a beautiful, young literary genius doomed to death and despair. And I do believe that an author’s work can’t be completely separated from the author itself.

But when I read Plath’s poetry I don’t see the lyrical ravings of a mad woman scrawled across an asylum wall.

I see anger from losing her father, frustration at living in her husband Ted Hughes’ literary shadow, appreciation for small intricate beauty and a fear of not being able to leave her mark on the world. None of which seem that far from the achings and yearnings of today’s aspiring artists.

One of my high school teachers once told me that I should hope that my life is filled with all sorts of misery because then I’ll be able to write something timeless and unforgettable. And while this advice came from the same man who regaled me with tales of overweight New Orleans strippers and allowed me to sneak into bars as a sixteen year old, he was actually right about this.

Nobody wants to read the words of someone who is actually happy with their life. It’s literary blasphemy. As a society, we love the ruminations and tortured, tangled twistings of a soul completely submerged in its own darkness.

So whether insanity makes you want to write or writing makes you go insane; it’s a bleak outlook for us here at the Collegian. Neuroses have already begun to spread amongst our ranks.

Colleen McSweeney will end up adopting an unseemly amount of cats. Allison Stylte has already developed an alarming proclivity for wearing pant suits. Matt Miller will succumb to the pressure and late one night, in a Hemingway-esque Scotch induced stupor, shave off all of his hair.

Clearly our foundations are already cracking.

As for me, I will inevitably be known as a recovering sex addict with the bizarre inclination of naming my kitchen appliances after “Seinfeld” characters. Surely that fixation isn’t already taken.

But whatever odd road my pen gallops me down, I feel that Sylvia Plath will always hide there, a shadow in-between my words –– riding like a ghost, fast at my heels. Driving me on with her mad-girl love songs to anguish, despair and perhaps one day, even brilliance.

“Beware,
Beware.

Out of the ash,
I rise with my red hair,
And eat men like air.”

Awkward times are ahead my friends. But until we meet again…Cheers!

_Morgan Mayo is a junior journalism major. Her column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. She can be reached at letters@collegian.com. _

Why do all the good ones always have to go and stick their head in an oven?

And with competition like that, how do any of us starving, struggling artists brandishing our quills like little lost Napoleons ever expect to make our way in today’s twisted cultural world?

 Posted by at 1:46 pm

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