Clive James on Camille Paglia on poetry
'Applying her particularized admiration to rescue Plath's Daddy from those who cite it as a mantra, Paglia points out an awkward truth about Plath as a feminist Winged Victory: her poetry was in ''erudite engagement with canonical male writers.'' A still more awkward truth is that the manner of Plath's suicide helped to set up her husband, Ted Hughes, as an abuser of women. Paglia defends Hughes against Plath, a defense that few feminists have dared to undertake. She also defends Plath's father against Plath, which might seem a quixotic move in view of the poem's subject matter, but does help to make the point that Plath, by calling her father a Nazi and identifying herself with millions of helpless victims, was personalizing the Holocaust in a way that only her psychic disturbance could excuse. Leaving out the possibility that Plath might have been saying she was nuts, Paglia does Plath the honor of taking her at her word. But you can't do her that honor without bringing her down off her pedestal. The poet used her unquestionable talent to say some very questionable things, and there's no way out of it. Paglia is tough enough to accept that conclusion: tough enough, that is, not to complain when she winds up all alone.' Click here for full review of Paglia's Break Blow Burn, an analysis of 43 poems from Shakespeare to Plath.
One more quote: 'This book on poetry is aimed at a generation of young people who, knowing nothing except images, are cut off from the ''mother ship'' of culture. The mother ship was first mentioned in her 2002 lecture called ''The Magic of Images.'' In the same lecture, she put down the marker that led to this book: ''The only antidote to the magic of images is the magic of words.'' She can say that again, and let's hope she does, in a longer edition of a book that shows her at her true worth. When you have proved that you can cut the mustard, it's time to cut the malarkey.'