The name Janet Malcolm was familiar to me, and then I found that I had at least two biographies by her in my library including this one: The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Janet Malcolm. c. 1993.
It's in "red" because it is packed away in storage. I packed away about 75% of my library when my bookshelves were overflowing and I still had an interest in reading and obtaining new books.
When a review is this scathing it suggests to me that the reviewer, in this case Janet Malcolm, has a "romantic interest" in the subject, in this case, Ted Hughes. I don't recall Malcolm's "take" on the Hughes/Plath marriage but it will be interesting to re-read when I pull it out of storage some day.
Malcolm seems absolutely emotional in her two-page review in The New York Review. It seems the review must have been written in haste, in anger of some sort, and minimally edited. It will be interesting to see if any "letters to the editor" are forthcoming regarding this review.
I think this kind of review "cheapens" Malcolm. Near the end Malcolm wrote this, which I find strange for a biographer to write:
The question of what he was "really" like remains unanswered, as it should. If anything is our own business, it is our pathetic native self. Biographers, in their pride, think otherwise. Readers, in their curiosity, encourage them in their impertinence. Surely Hughes's family, if not his shade, deserve better than Bate's squalid findings about Hughes's sex life and priggish theories about his psychology.
I don't recall but I seem to recall everything I learned about Hughes's sex life came from Malcolm's biography.
It makes one wonder whether Malcolm feels that Bate has come along and one-upped her on his biography, and that he found material she had overlooked. Material that was available to all.