Plath indulged herself, wallowing in popular culture while writing a parody of Dragnet. On a Fulbright scholarship intended to fund study of the classics at Cambridge University in a still gloomy postwar England, she worried not a bit about being typed as a vulgar American, showing off her figure in a two-piece swimsuit in a photo published in a campus paper. She sent the picture home to her mother with the message, "With love from Betty Grable,"
Of course, the other Sylvia, the one who killed herself, is amply represented in my biography. But I would argue that this was a great woman and a great artist who did not end her life because she had no joy. Rather, she killed herself because the world she had come to know did not offer up enough of the joy she had bestowed upon it.
Carl Rollyson is the author of the new book American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath.