Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Jerome Charyn - A Loaded Gun - Review & Giveaway
About the Book
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.
This critical look at Emily Dickinson's life moved me more than I thought it would. I was expecting a scholarly rundown of her life, but Jerome Charyn penned something far richer and deeper. He presents Dickinson as a tragic figure, a nineteenth century woman forced to live on the fringes of society simply because she was ahead of her time. Her fierce intelligence and her vivid imagination set her apart in a little, sleepy, New England town that quite frankly didn't know what to do with her.
Charyn paints a picture of Dickinson as a woman who hated her creative gift. He depicts her as being afraid of it, and subsequently of herself. She knew she wielded a dangerous weapon, so she removed herself from the world in order to use it. What's even more remarkable is that Charyn points out that Dickinson was self-taught, relying on her Bible and Lexicon to reshape the English language into something we've never seen before.
But the upside is that even while Dickinson was suffering through a life of isolation and contempt, she still managed to thrive. Her anger at the injustice she was forced to endure fueled her, demanding a release. She didn't want to be some man's plaything, yet all her life she yearned to be loved. She was plain, and she knew it, denouncing herself as a kangaroo. So she retreated into the lofty heights only her mind was able to ascend to, even while she was stuck dredging through a mundane existence along with everyone else, never going anywhere, never seeing the world or doing anything spectacular.
Instead, she became a living, breathing contradiction, a special type of person one doesn't encounter often, if ever. She was strange, eccentric, unpredictable, in the best possible way. She wasn't accepted in her own time and place, yet now is universally revered as a poetic master because in her heart, she knew she was on to something, even if while she was alive no one else believed in her. The triumphant thing about Emily Dickinson is that her internal turmoil counted for something because in the end she was the one who turned out to be right.
A Loaded Gun can be purchased at:
Barnes and Noble
Bellevue Literary Press
Prices/Formats: $11.99 ebook, $19.95 paperback
Genre: Literary Criticism
Release: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press
Click to add to your Goodreads list.
CLICK HERE to read Excerpt One.
CLICK HERE to read Excerpt Two.
CLICK HERE for a Reading Guide.
About the Author
Jerome Charyn was born and raised on the mean streets of the Bronx. He graduated cum laude from Columbia College. He has taught at Princeton, Columbia, Stanford, Rice, was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the City University of New York and is currently Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the American University of Paris. Charyn is a Guggenheim Fellow and has twice won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. His stories and articles have appeared in The Atlantic, Paris Review, Esquire, American Scholar, New York Review of Books, New York Times, Ellery Queen and many other publications. Charyn's most recent books are The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, I Am Abraham and Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories. His latest book is A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century.
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Posted by Carol Robart at 12:01 AM