Variations on Hating: A Miniseries: Dido Merwin on Sylvia Plath
Dido Merwin lived in one of these beautiful houses at some point in her life. In the biography Bitter Fame: A Life Of Sylvia Plath by Anne Stevenson (which is not as good as Janet Malcolm’s book, The Silent Woman, although it is more extensive), there is an appendix that contains a nasty thing written by Dido Merwin called “Vessel of Wrath: A Memoir of Sylvia Plath”:
By the time Bill and I left for France, towards the end of May, my illusions concerning a normal easygoing friendship with Sylvia had evaporated. It was becoming hard to differentiate between raised eyebrows and hackles, and harder still to ignore the problem of how to accomodate her morbidly prickly ego with one’s own sense of outrage.
The answer-if there was one- seemed to lie in her penchant for categories and stereotypes, plus the fact that, manifestly from her point of view, an amenable stooge was a better bet than an unmanageable soi-distant friend. “Unmanageable” after all, implied unpredictable and anything in that line was suspect. Otherness made her uneasy. What she needed was the reassurance of docile doppelgangers and supportive soul mates and yes-persons.
And here is Dido on Sylvia’s appetite:
What still remains a mystery is how she managed to put away the entire midday meal that I left her, Ted, and Bill. And that this Pantagruelian triple lunch in no way diminished the gusto with which she silently tucked into her dinner, doing more than justice to sundry delectable coals of fire contributed by Margot.
As I watched Sylvia grimly downing the Fons foie gras for the world as though it were “Aunt Dot’s meatloaf” there was little doubt that we were in for a reign of, if not terror, then tiresomeness every bit as effective.
As they say, with friends like Dido, who needs enemies?