Wednesday, June 15, 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.
What sets this book apart is that the setting takes place almost exclusively inside a family home. Emily Dickinson rarely ventured outside of the Homestead in Amherst, spending practically her entire lifetime behind its walls. But she didn't live there alone. As it turns out, the dynamics within the Dickinson household provide all the drama author Jerome Charyn could ever need for this story.
Now a woman can do almost anything, even run for president, but the America of the nineteenth century was a vastly different place than the one we live in today. And because Emily Dickinson never married, never had children, never had the inclination to live like everyone else—she was effectively shunned. Which is why Charyn contends there was absolutely no way she could declare herself a writer, not when she was already viewed with a hefty share of suspicion and distrust.
She had an image to maintain since her father was a big shot at the local college, although he certainly wasn't an intellectual. The man was a tyrant, who beat his horse and ignored her mother. While vicariously living through her mother's pain, Dickinson, in turn, scorned her for accepting that kind of treatment, without bothering to fight back. So Emily took it upon herself to stand up to her father, not through verbal confrontation, but through her poetry. While her parents kept her child-like and dependent, she railed against her imprisonment. However, Charyn adroitly questions: Where else could she go?
She didn't have any novelists or philosophers in her family, no one she could talk to about her poetry. Instead, she took what was offered to her—the privacy and comfort of having the best room in the house, the shelter of having a roof over her head, and writing tools paid for by her father. In fact, her one and only possession was her devoted Newfoundland dog. It was a jail, but it was, as Charyn so aptly refers to it, a "Pearl Jail."
Dickinson was smart. She employed her cunning to survive in a man's world. She used what her father gave her, and had the means necessary to be the mistress of her interior time and space. She may not have been free, but she was able to enter the void from which her greatness sprung. Charyn even goes so far as to describe her as being impossible to live around, inferring that it might not have been so easy for her family to be cooped up with her either.
However, for a daughter whose parents never read a single one of her poems, it's worthwhile to note that the little comfort and security they did provide, allowed her to become one of the greatest poets of all time.
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
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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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