Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bang - Bang!

A Loaded Gun by Jerome Charyn is well worth your time reading.  Not only is it enjoyable, but you will learn some history of an era, besides gain a little understanding of  what makes a poet tick.  The poet is the poetess, Emily Dickinson.  Charyn views Emily as a complicated character.  She was agoraphobic, but her poems take her out of her self-imposed cloister to meet all kinds of people.  She was a spinster, but her poems can be erotic.  Her eroticism includes fantasies between both sexes.  Perhaps Emily was bi-sexual.  But despite this radical ambiguity, Charyn’s depiction of Emily Dickinson as “A Loaded Gun,” showcases an expert mistress of creative writing.  Her poetry, writing and life are liquid language personified into A Loaded Gun
Charyn is a detective writing up his surveillance of Emily.  He has to be meticulous because if he can’t prove she’s guilty, the evidence will be thrown out.  Hence the microscopic analysis of her life.  First, Charyn considers what others have concluded: William Luce’s play—the Belle of Amherst, Adrienne Rich’s Vesuvius at Home, Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s The Magnicent Activist, Jay Leyda’s The Years and Hours of Emily Dickinson, Christopher Benfey’s works, Rebecca Patterson’s The Riddle of Emily Dickinson,Joseph Cornell’s art, etc.. There’s too many to name.  Read the Bibliography. 
Next, Charyn follows Emily around.  She hides in her home, running when the door knocker raps.  Charyn teases her out.  She does have relatives and some of these are friends.  There’s Carlo her dog and sometimes muse.  But each of these tells conflicting experiences.  Which relationship reveals the true Emily?  Charyn finds that the deeper he digs, the more elusive she becomes. 
Finally, Charyn has to conclude that Emily Dickinson is a loose cannon.  She is guilty of impersonating a simple woman of letters.  She’s guilty of impropriety.  She is guilty of hubris.  She is just not who we think she should be. 
In the end, the reader has to agree with the excellent research and scholarship of Jerome Charyn.  He gives enough evidence to prove that Emily Dickinson was a loaded gun.  But Charyn’s biography also has evidence that Emily was an innocent product of her environment.  Everyone wanted her to be their version of Emily.  And she tried to placate everyone.  Nonetheless, the conclusion is still that she was a loaded gun.
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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A Loaded Gun
 Book Summary:

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.

A Loaded Gun Excerpt One:

A Loaded Gun Excerpt Two:

Prices/Formats: $11.99 ebook, $19.95 paperback
Literary Criticism
March 15, 2016

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1 comment:

Tribute Books said...

Faith, what a phenomenal review. Thank you.

A Priest's Day

Here is the book review I promised on Monday, for Death Comes for the Archbishop , by Willa Cather.  She really gets into the nitty-grit...