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Ali Smith on the 50th anniversary of The Bell Jar; Alex Preston on innovation in the novel

28 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 10 February 2013

Mariella Frostrup talks to Ali Smith about Sylvia Plath's ground breaking novel, "The Bell Jar" fifty years after it was first published and shortly before the author's own suicide after she separated from the poet Ted Hughes in circumstances which have continued to cause controversy to this day. In this interview Ali Smith, award winning novelist of The Accidental and Hotel World, celebrates the novel for the witty, beautiful crafted and political literary classic it is, exploring issues at the heart of what it means to be a young woman in mid 20th century America in a uniquely original and highly influential way.And with the announcement of yet another literary prize - the Goldsmiths Prize sponsored by Goldsmiths University and the New Statesman is worth £10,000 and will be awarded to writers of boldly, original fiction - writer and broadcaster Alex Preston and author, poet and Professor of Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, Blake Morrison, consider what being experimental and innovative means for 21st century novelists. Is the literary novel keeping pace with the explosion of technology in the first decade of the new millennium, the creative potential of the video game and the success of new genres such as Steampunk and Nordic noir?And what better way to counter the challenge posed to literature by the rise of computer games than to set a novel inside one? In his 17th novel Bedlam Scottish crime writer Christopher Brookmyre turns to science fiction for inspiration. The book's protagonist Ross Baker finds himself trapped inside a first person shooter called Starfire, which he himself played as a teenager whilst escaping from his parents' bitter divorce. How did the author's own gaming inspire the novel and what can exploring different forms of consciousness - digital and organic - tell us about what it means to be human?Producer: Hilary Dunn.

  • The Bell Jar

    Sylvia Plath's haunting and iconic only novel, broadcast on its 50th anniversary.

  • Mad Girl's Love Song

    Andrew Wilson's book on the early life of writer Sylvia Plath, abridged by Miranda Davies

  • Radio 4 Blog: The Bell Jar

    Di Speirs discusses the first ever broadcast version of Sylvia Plath's book 'The Bell Jar'

  • Read the Opening Chapter of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

  • Read the Opening Chapter of Bedlam by Christopher Brookmyre

  • Get ahead with Mariella’s next book Harvest by Jim Crace


    The Bell Jar


    The Bell Jar (50th Anniversary Edition) - Sylvia Plath

    Publisher: Faber and Faber


    Bold and original fiction


    Reality Hunger: A Manifesto - David Shields

    Publisher: Penguin


    Red Plenty - Francis Spufford

    Publisher: Faber and Faber


    HHhH - Laurent Binet (author) Sam Taylor (Translator)

    Publisher: Vintage


    2666 -  Roberto Bolano

    Publisher: Picador


    Christopher Brookmyre


    Bedlam - Christopher Brookmyre

    Publisher: Orbit


    All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses an Eye - Christopher Brookmyre

    Publisher: Abacus


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