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White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson Cover

ISBN13: 9780307456304
ISBN10: 0307456307
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The first book to portray one of the most remarkable friendships in American letters, that of Emily Dickinson--recluse, poet--and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, minister, literary figure, active abolitionist.

Their friendship began in 1862. The Civil War was raging. Dickinson was thirty-one; Higginson, thirty-eight. A former pastor at the Free Church of Worcester, Massachusetts, he wrote often for the cultural magazine of the day, The Atlantic Monthly--on gymnastics, women's rights, and slavery. His article Letter to a Young Contributor gave advice to readers who wanted to write for the magazine and offered tips on how to submit one's work (use black ink, good pens, white paper).

Among the letters Higginson received in response was one scrawled in looping, difficult handwriting. Four poems were enclosed in a smaller envelope. He deciphered the scribble: Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?

Higginson read the poems. The writing was unique, uncategorizable. It was clear to him that this was a wholly new and original poetic genius, and the memory of that moment stayed with him when he wrote about it thirty years later.

Emily Dickinson's question inaugurated one of the least likely correspondences in American letters--between a man who ran guns to Kansas, backed John Brown, and would soon command the first Union regiment of black soldiers, and the eremitic, elusive poet who cannily told him she did not cross her Father's ground to any House or town.

For the next quarter century, until her death in 1886, Dickinson sent Higginson dazzling poems, almost one hundred of them--many of them her best. Their metrical forms were unusual, theirpunctuation unpredictable, their images elliptical, innovative, unsentimental. Poetry torn up by the roots, Higginson later said, that gives the sudden transitions.

Dickinson was a genius of the faux-naif variety, reclusive to be sure but more savvy than one might imagine, more self-conscious and sly, and certainly aware of her outsize talent. Dare you see a Soul at the 'White Heat'? she wondered. She dared, and he did.

In this shimmering, revelatory work, Brenda Wineapple re-creates the extraordinary, delicate friendship that led to the publication of Dickinson's poetry. And though she and Higginson met face-to-face only twice (he had never met anyone who drained my nerve power so much, he said), their friendship reveals much about Dickinson, throwing light onto both the darkened door of the poet's imagination and a corner of the noisy century that she and Colonel Higginson shared.

White Heat is about poetry, politics, and love; it is, as well, a story of seclusion and engagement, isolation and activism--and the way they were related--in the roiling America of the nineteenth century.

Synopsis:

White Heat is the first book to portray the remarkable relationship between America's most beloved poet and the fiery abolitionist who first brought her work to the public. 

As the Civil War raged, an unlikely friendship was born between the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a literary figure who ran guns to Kansas and commanded the first Union regiment of black soldiers. When Dickinson sent Higginson four of her poems he realized he had encountered a wholly original genius; their intense correspondence continued for the next quarter century. In White Heat Brenda Wineapple tells an extraordinary story about poetry, politics, and love, one that sheds new light on her subjects and on the roiling America they shared.

 

 

About the Author

Brenda Wineapple is the author of Genet: A Biography of Janet Flanner; Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein; and Hawthorne: A Life, winner of the Ambassador Award of the English-Speaking Union for Best Biography of 2003. Her essays and reviews appear in many publications, among them The New York Times Book Review and The Nation. She has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. She lives in New York City and teaches creative writing at Columbia University and The New School.

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

chadwick, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by chadwick)
The best book I read in 2010 would have to be this duel biography of Emily Dickinson and her publisher/mentor Thomas Wentworth Higginson. The book reads like a novel and is a powerful glimpse into literary celebrity, family, and the creation of poetry. I sat down with this book one rainy afternoon in a Starbucks cafe and I could not put it down. Wineapple's strength lies in her narrative writing and her thorough research. I have not been disappointed with anything she has written. I also highly recommend her biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne. I am eagerly anticipating Wineapple's next book.
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Dorothy Josephs, August 20, 2010 (view all comments by Dorothy Josephs)
The Wineapple book on Dickinson and Higginson is good, but a fine companion to it would be WILD NIGHTS, WILD NIGHTS: THE STORY OF EMILY DICKINSON'S MASTER with a non-fiction afterword LOVER OF SCIENCE AND SCIENTIST IN DARK DAYS OF THE REPUBLIC, published in 2010 by Plain View Press and also available at Powell's. It is an exciting book that reveals a new truth about Dickinson's life and love and her motivation for writing poetry. It is peppered with Dickinson's poems and letters and is fascinating. Wineapple herself would enjoy it as much as she enjoyed writing White Heat, as it also involves Thomas Wentworth Higginson as Dickinson's correspondent and preceptor. WILD NIGHTS, WILD NIGHTS solves the greatest mystery in American literature, who the Master Figure of Dickinson's poems and texts really was. Read Gioseffi's non-fiction afterword upon which the drama of her novel is based to find out.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307456304
Author:
Wineapple, Brenda
Publisher:
Anchor Books
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Poets, American -- 19th century.
Subject:
Dickinson, Emily
Subject:
Biography-Literary
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20091231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
32 PHOTOGRAPHS IN TEXT
Pages:
432
Dimensions:
8.02x5.10x.88 in. .85 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Biography » Literary
Fiction and Poetry » Poetry » A to Z

White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson Used Trade Paper
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$11.95 In Stock
Product details 432 pages Anchor Books - English 9780307456304 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , White Heat is the first book to portray the remarkable relationship between America's most beloved poet and the fiery abolitionist who first brought her work to the public. 

As the Civil War raged, an unlikely friendship was born between the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a literary figure who ran guns to Kansas and commanded the first Union regiment of black soldiers. When Dickinson sent Higginson four of her poems he realized he had encountered a wholly original genius; their intense correspondence continued for the next quarter century. In White Heat Brenda Wineapple tells an extraordinary story about poetry, politics, and love, one that sheds new light on her subjects and on the roiling America they shared.

 

 

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