The Secret Life Of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn
Witty Emily harbors conflicted feelings toward her female status: her esteemed father, the town’s preeminent lawyer, adores Emily at home for her intellectual companionship, but also dismisses her formal education as a waste of money & a waste of time, and it’s easy to see how Emily’s poetic instincts are born from the shifting sensations of comfort and resentment brought by a childhood spent serenading Father with my tiny Tambourine. Emily’s growth is brightly drawn as she progresses from petulant child to a passionate woman with a ferocious will and finally to that notorious recluse.
I have never been someone who could sit and read poetry. I find this interesting since as a teenager I loved to write it and still have books in my cedar chest filled with my writing from those years. Still – I find myself fascinated with certain writers of the past and Emily Dickinson would be one that I would like to know more about. A chance to read about her – fiction or not, was appealing.
The first thing that I noticed was the beautiful writing style. The author’s note in the front of the book was one that explained that Jerome Charyn wanted to write about the fictional Emily – or perhaps the Emily no one really got to know, as she eventually became somewhat of a recluse and towards the end of her days rarely left her room. I suspect there is a lot to Emily Dickinson that we can only guess.
While I mention my fascination in this woman and her prolific writing style (most of her poems had no titles, were unconventional in capitalization and punctuation, and mostly dealt with these of death and immortality) Charyn’s book has little poetry in it. Instead I found it filled with stories of an Emily Dickinson, who I did not know anything about
While in reality Emily Dickinson never married, and was referred to as an old maid, Charyn writes a very different side to Emily – one where she admires many men and receives many marriage proposals – all of which… she turns down.
At times the book buried me in the words – deep, pungent words…. all written as the author becomes the voice of Emily Dickinson. I did indeed learn more about Dickinson through this writing, mainly because the book caused me to research Emily further to see what I could sort out as fact or fiction. In the end while I did find parts of the book interesting, I did find it a bit unsettling with what is referred to as Emily Dickinson’s “secret life”.
This is probably a book that will captivate many readers with its rich Dickinson style writing, it just was not the book for me.
The 2011 WHERE Are You Reading map has been updated to include The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson
I received this book for review for the Tribute Books Tour