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Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short…

Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short Stories, Prose, and Diary… (original 1977; edition 2000)

by Sylvia Plath (Author)

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Title:Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short Stories, Prose, and Diary Excerpts
Authors:Sylvia Plath (Author)
Info:Harper Perennial Modern Classics (2000), Edition: Reissue, 336 pages
Collections:Your library

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Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short Stories, Prose, and Diary Excerpts by Sylvia Plath (1977)

  1. 20
    Music for Chameleons by Truman Capote (sweetiegherkin)
    sweetiegherkin: The writing styles aren't identical, but these are both lesser known works by well-known authors. They are both full of shorter works, especially a number of observational pieces drawn from the authors' own lives. Of course, with Plath that's a lot of English countryside / visiting neighbors type things, while with Capote it's interviewing convicted murderers and hobnobbing with celebrity pals. But both books give insight into the author's art and their particular writing style (poetic for Plath and journalistic for Capote).… (more)

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I love these stories. Johnny Panic is my absolute favorite. I've read these over and over. ( )
  franciscoco | Feb 28, 2017 |
I'm not sure what the point was in including excerpts from her journals, particularly her Cambridge Notes. The essays and stories easily stand on their own. The stories are a mixed bag from the hopeful romantic "Day of Success" to the dark, disturbing title story "Sunday at the Mintons'" seemed the most representative of her poetical themes -- a woman whose life is overshadowed by a domineering man and the helplessness of such a life, yet the spirit is alive in the woman. Most were good stories although some were too dark for my taste. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 21, 2014 |
Girl was crazy. But in an "I'm way too sane for this place" kind of way. ( )
  katemo | May 16, 2013 |
I am not really trusting much of anything Ted Hughes edited. Will narrow my search from here on with unabridged, unedited works of Sylvia Plath. I do think she was not especially gifted in the prose department. Perhaps too mediated by her desire to be a big-time writer published in the popular mags of her day which turned out to be a rather short one, didn't it? ( )
  MSarki | Mar 29, 2013 |
Although she is perhaps best known as a poet, Ted Hughes notes in the introduction to this book that Sylvia Plath once wrote, "For me, poetry is an evasion from the real job of writing prose.” This book contains short stories, journalist essays, and "diary entries" (actually more like writing exercises than "dear diary" jottings) that Plath worked on toward her goal of being a successful short story writer and freelance journalist. In total, the book contains 20 short stories, five journalistic essays, and a few journal fragments. They are listed in the book in reverse chronological order, which I found a somewhat odd decision as it doesn't show Plath's progress.

Because the book is in reverse chronological order, the stories at the beginning of the book deal more with events that were going on in Plath's life at the time (i.e., motherhood, marriage, the culture shock of living in England and the nostalgia for New England) while the stories later in the book (but earlier in her life) deal more with childhood, college, and her early mental breakdown. Here we see more of Plath's working with and dealing with the issues that are fictionalized again in The Bell Jar. For instance, in the story "In the Mountains," the main character Isobel goes to visit her medical school boyfriend who has needed to take some time out to rest at a sanatorium for his health. Readers of The Bell Jar will immediately see the similarity here with Esther's long-time boyfriend Buddy Willard, a medical student who becomes ill and stays at a sanatorium for some time. It was these later stories that interested me far more than the ones concerned about taking care of the baby and being jealous of any young girls around the husband, although all of the stories were good in their own way.

In general with the stories, it is evident that Plath definitely has fantastic powers in writing prose, particularly in her descriptions of people. I am the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of short stories, mostly because of their terseness. I always feel like I am just getting into a character(s) or plot and then it ends. So when I say her stories end without the most satisfactory feeling, this is not a criticism of Plath per se as I feel her stories are no more abrupt than any other writers' short stories. Except the story "Stone Boy with Dolphin," which was bizarre and not well fleshed out, I enjoyed most of them. There were several everyday life type stories, but also some rather fantastical-leaning ones. A wry sense of humor accompanies many of them.

The essays and diary excerpts are interesting looks at everyday life. We see some of the elements of Plath’s prose in The Bell Jar here as well. There is both the beautiful, evocative language and the quiet, snarky humor. For instance, in a short essay titled "America! America!,” Plath talks about her public school years and singing patriotic songs: One high, fine song, "For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain," always made the scampi-size poet in me weep. In those days I couldn't have told a fruited plain from a mountain majesty and confused God with George Washington (whose lamblike granny-face shone down at us also from the schoolroom wall between neat blinders of white curls), yet warbled, nevertheless, with my small, snotty compatriots "America, America! God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea."

In the essays in particular, there’s lots of nostalgia for America and also lots of dealing with the new culture of living in England. However, one short (about one page) essay deals with the mechanics of writing. Called "Context," it is a bittersweet reflection on poetry and its relationship to current events. A particularly beautiful passage reflects: In a sense, these poems are deflections. I do not think they are an escape. For me, the real issues of our time are the issues of every time--the hurt and wonder of loving; making in all its forms--children, loaves of bread, paintings, buildings; and the conservation of life of all people in all places, the jeopardizing of which no abstract doubletalk of "peace" or "implacable foes" can excuse.

The diary entries are considerably the least interesting because they were never meant to be published in any form. They are reflections of Plath trying to get the details down, playing with words and descriptions. Still there's an element of Austen-like characterizations at time. Also, these are interesting to see Plath’s work at becoming a writer, a behind the scenes process you don't usually see. For instance, sometimes you see where a later story emerged from - i.e., the "Widow Mandaga" notes become the short story "That Widow Mandaga," a now fictionalized account of Plath and Hughes's hilariously quirky landlady while staying in Spain. In addition, "Cambridge Notes" shares some similarities with "Stone Boy with Dolphin" (notably, the statue of the boy with a dolphin).

Hughes notes in the introduction that Plath wrote in her journals about her despair of not being a good writer like people she admired and sought to imitate (for example, Frank O'Connor). He notes that she wrote, "I shall perish if I can write about no one but myself." What a sad note in her history as fans can attest both to the power of her own words (not imitations of others' writing) as well as the beauty and lure of her prose novel The Bell Jar, which was largely autobiographical. (Its success over the years negates her own comment that her work would not last unless she wrote about events and feelings outside her ken.) Reading the introduction also makes you feel that Hughes was a bad match for Plath as a husband. He speaks very coldly of his former wife, always referring to her as "Plath" and never "Sylvia" and himself as only her editor. He does not shrink back from criticizing the works contained with these pages, reserving words of approbation for only a handful of the works. No wonder this woman despaired in her journals that she would never be a good enough writer; it does not appear she got emotional support from her closest companion. But anyone who ventures past the introduction will find in these pages evidence of a fine writer, even in the notes jotted down to self about the interior colors of a neighbor’s house. ( )
1 vote sweetiegherkin | Apr 22, 2012 |
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Every day from nine to five I sit at my desk facing the door of the office and type up other people's dreams.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060955295, Paperback)

"What I fear most, I think, is the death of the imagination.... If I sit still and don't do anything, the world goes on beating like a slack drum, without meaning. We must be moving, working, making dreams to run toward; the poverty of life without dreams is too horrible to imagine."
-- Sylvia Plath, from Notebooks, February 1956

Renowned for her poetry, Sylvia Plath was also a brilliant writer of prose. This collection of short stories, essays, and diary excerpts highlights her fierce concentration on craft, the vitality of her intelligence, and the yearnings of her imaginaton. Featuring an introduction by Plath's husband, the late British poet Ted Hughes, these writings also reflect themes and images she would fully realize in her poetry. Jonny Panic and the Bible of Dreams truly showcases the talent and genius of Sylvia Plath.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:13 -0400)

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