Plath movie doesn't bore

Published December 18, 2003, in issue #0250 of The Hook

Poorly written, logically adrift, and miserably slight, Steve Warren's piece on the film Sylvia in the December 4 edition ["Plath-tered: Suicidal tendencies are catching"] shows that even the basics of a thoughtful review are beyond him.

As I watched Warren's undisguised impatience with his subject lapsing into something like incoherence, I was almost relieved that American poetry's audience isn't any bigger than it is.

Curious, that the good folks at The Hook put the poor boy so far out of his way, saddling him with the burden of writing about something he doesn't like– poetry, that is. Warren pouts in due fashion, throwing the odd tantrum for good measure. (Plath is, apparently, "a stupid woman making a fool of herself over a man," a quip I somehow don't think destined for the old chestnut basket.)

Hardly unfamiliar with the clichés of which he accuses Sylvia, Warren writes to the tune of a kind of stock wisdom that would be embarrassing if it weren't so predictable, calling Plath "the Patron Saint of the Terminally Depressed" and thus demonstrating just how superficial a reader he is.

His displeasure with the whole business is obvious. Warren grumbles about Plath and her husband, Ted Hughes, with a naturally juvenile intelligence, his stony dismissals even sparkling at one point with an unfortunate glint of chauvinism ("She puts all her eggs in his basket, including two that he fertilizes before she throws him out...").

I guess we're to take it that Warren's cinema-critical eye has become so specialized that writing with sensitivity and smarts is now beneath him. I would offer my sympathies to him, if he hadn't already written an article in which his penchants for self-pity and lame excuses are in bald display: As a preface to his clichéed treatment of Plath and her life, he exhorts us to "remember: I'm not the one doing it," which sounds like "You started it."

It's enough to make you wonder if Warren wouldn't make a top-notch lousy poet himself.

Jonathan G. Williams