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The Secret Life of Emily Dickinsonby Jerome Charyn
Synopses & Reviews
“Jerome Charyn is one of the most important writers in American literature.” —Michael Chabon
An astonishing novel that reveals the passions, humor, and heartbreak of America’s greatest poet.
“The Secret Life of Emily Dickinsonis astonishing. Charyn gives Emily Dickinson a new life, and one with a rush of energy and power. I shall never see her or her poetry in the same way again.” —Frederic Tuten, author of Adventures of Mao on the Long March
“I never heard Emily Dickinson’s voice, but Jerome Charyn’s novel convinces me that this is the nineteenth-century genius woman poet, actually telling her story. . . . A tour de force by a major American novelist.” —Herbert Gold, author of Still Alive: A Temporary Condition
“In his breathtaking high-wire act of ventriloquism, Jerome Charyn pulls off the nearly impossible: in The Secret Life of Emily Dickinsonhe imagines an Emily Dickinson of mischievousness, brilliance, desire, and wit (all which she possessed) and then boldly sets her amid a throng of historical, fictional, and surprising characters just as hard to forget as she is. This is a bold book, but we’d expect no less of this amazing novelist.” —Brenda Wineapple, author of White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson
“Jerome Charyn is merely one of our finest writers, with a polymorphous imagination and crack comic timing. Whatever milieu he chooses to inhabit, his characters sizzle with life and his sentences are pure vernacular music, his voice unmistakable.” —Jonathan Lethem, author of The Fortress of Solitude
“Charyn, like Nabokov, is that most fiendish sort of writer—so seductive as to beg imitation, so singular as to make imitation impossible.” —Tom Bissell, author of God Lives in St. Petersburg
“Charyn skillfully breathes life into historical icons.”—The New Yorker
“Deserves to be spoken about in the same breath as E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime.” —Publishers Weekly, about Johnny One-Eye
"In this brilliant and hilarious jailbreak of a novel, Charyn channels the genius poet and her great leaps of the imagination."—Donna Seaman, Booklist, starred review
Jerome Charyn has been writing some of the most bold and adventurous American fiction for over forty years. His ten-book cycle of novels about madcap New York mayor and police commissioner Isaac Sidel inspired a new generation of younger writers in America and France, where he is a national literary icon. Now, adding to his already distinguished career, Charyn gives us The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, an audacious novel about the inner imaginative world of America’s greatest poet. Channeling the devilish rhythms and ghosts of a seemingly buried literary past, Charyn has removed the mysterious veils that have long enshrouded Dickinson, revealing her passions, inner turmoil, and powerful sexuality.
The story begins in the snow. It’s 1848, and Emily is a student at Mount Holyoke, with its mournful headmistress and strict, strict rules. She sees the seminary’s blond handyman rescue a baby deer from a mountain of snow, in a lyrical act of liberation that will remain with her for the rest of her life. The novel revivifies such historical figures as Emily’s brother, Austin, with his crown of red hair; her sister-in-law, Sue; a rival and very best friend, Emily’s little sister, Lavinia, with her vicious army of cats; and especially her father, Edward Dickinson, a controlling congressman. Charyn effortlessly blends these very factual characters with a few fictional ones, creating a dramatis personae of dynamic breadth.
Inspired by her letters and poetry, Charyn has captured the occasionally comic, always fevered, ultimately tragic story of Dickinson’s journey from Holyoke seminarian to dying recluse, compulsively scribbling lines of genius in her Amherst bedroom. Rarely before has the nineteenth-century world of New England—its religious stranglehold, its barbaric insane asylums, its circus carnivals—been captured in such spectacular depth. Through its lyrical inflections and poetic rhythms, its invention of a distinct, twenty-first-century “Charynesque” language that pays remarkable homage to America’s sovereign literary past, The Secret Life of Emily Dickinsonprovides a resonance of such power as to make this an indelible work of literature in its own right.
Jerome Charyn, "one of the most important writers in American literature" (Michael Chabon), continues his exploration of American history through fiction with The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, hailed by prize-winning literary historian Brenda Wineapple as a "breathtaking high-wire act of ventriloquism." Channeling the devilish rhythms and ghosts of a seemingly buried literary past, Charyn removes the mysterious veils that have long enshrouded Dickinson, revealing her passions, inner turmoil, and powerful sexuality. The novel, daringly written in first person, begins in the snow. It's 1848, and Emily is a student at Mount Holyoke, with its mournful headmistress and strict, strict rules. Inspired by her letters and poetry, Charyn goes on to capture the occasionally comic, always fevered, ultimately tragic story of her life-from defiant Holyoke seminarian to dying recluse.
About the Author
Jerome Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and has received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His novels include Johnny One-Eye and The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson. He lives in Paris and New York.
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