by Jerome Charyn
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Just released: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Bellevue Press
Genre: Literary Criticism, Poetry
Paperback: 256 pages
When Julie Harris Died at eighty-seven of congestive heart failure on August 24, 2013, she was remembered most of all as an "unprepossessing anti-diva," who had a waiflike, invisible presence outside the roles she played, according to her obituary in The New York Times. Through she would inhabit Mary Lincoln, Joan of Arc, and Sally Bowles on Broadway, she continued to haunt the nation as "shy Miss Emily" for almost forty years.
We think we know Emily Dickinson: the Belle of Amherst, virginal, reclusive, and possibly mad. But in A Loaded Gun, Jerome Charyn introduces us to a different Emily Dickinson: the fierce, brilliant, and sexually charged poet who wrote:
My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun—
Though I than He— may longer live
He longer must—than I—
For I have but the power to kill,
Without—the power to die—
Through interviews with contemporary scholars, close readings of Dickinson’s correspondence and handwritten manuscripts, and a suggestive, newly discovered photograph that is purported to show Dickinson with her lover, Charyn’s literary sleuthing reveals the great poet in ways that have only been hinted at previously: as a woman who was deeply philosophical, intensely engaged with the world, attracted to members of both sexes, and able to write poetry that disturbs and delights us today.
With excerpts from Emily Dickinson's letters, poetry and other critiques about Emily this book continues to describe and discover the essence of Emily. Daguerreotype images of her are also critiqued and analyzed to puzzle her out.
Despite her reclusive ways, restricted environment and relationships, Emily created a tremendous amount of poetry. The attempt to uncover the mystery of how such a person could burst forth with that body of work was fascinating to learn about in this book.
In the end, I found Emily to be like one of our modern day hoarders. She gathered words on scraps of papers and left them behind for us to ponder over. With her mad poetry skills, she then crafted those words to capture her inner self and moments in her life which again leaves us in a cloud of mystery.
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* review copy courtesy of book tour sponsored by Tribute Books