Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams by Sylvia Plath

Review of Johhny Panic and the Bible of Dreams by Megan Buckley for Charlie Byrne's BookshopSylvia Plath (1932-1963) is best-known for her poetry (and for her conflicted personal life, including her struggles with her mental health, which culminated in her suicide at the age of 31). But as the back cover copy to this volume notes, Plath was a writer of short fiction first – even claiming that the writing of verse was a “distraction” from the real work of writing prose. This collection brings together a number of Plath’s published stories, as well as a few pieces of journalism and journal extracts (likely, the ones that her husband Ted Hughes, the book’s editor, thought relevant to the fiction he selected) and – most compelling, at least to this reader – a selection of unpublished stories from the Plath archive at The Lilly Library at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. Included is a fictionalised version of Hughes’ and Plath’s first meeting at Oxford at the launch of an issue of the literary magazine,St Botolph’s Review – at which Hughes pushed Plath against a wall and kissed her, and Plath bit Hughes on the cheek so hard that a ring of teeth-marks remained. Plath scholars and enthusiasts – if they don’t have this volume on their shelves already – will return to it again and again.Review by Megan Buckley