I’m embarrassed to say that, before this week, I really didn’t know much about Emily Dickinson other than a few of her best known poems. But in his novel, Jerome Charyn makes her so intriguing, capturing her voice and her feisty spirit in such a way that you can’t help but want to keep reading and learning more. As the book jacket states:
“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.”
Doesn’t that sound good? It absolutely is. The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson is definitely a book to savor in terms of its delicious language and slightly devilish (OK, some more than slightly) characters. It’s more about those elements than an actual plot, but the writing and the characters are so strong that this is more than fine. Emily’s passions for her various love interests – a blond handyman who rescues a deer in the snow, an articulate minister from Philadelphia, a cardsharp that she nicknames Domingo after a brand of rum they shared in secret – are more than enough to keep one riveted to Charyn’s (or is it Emily’s?) every word.
Reading The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson made me want to read some of Emily’s poems, so one night this week I took a break from the novel to read Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete on my new Kindle. (This marks my first book read on the Kindle!)
Needless to say, I’m hoping to finish The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson today. (And there’s another Emily-related library book on the docket after this. I recently checked out Lives Like Loaded Guns; Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds by Lyndall Gordon.)
Poetry was also part of my reading this week with Picnic, Lightning, Billy Collins’s sixth collection of verse (1998). I love Billy Collins and I enjoyed Picnic, Lightning, but I’m probably not going to review it because … well, I can’t think of anything new to say about this collection or Billy Collins’s work that I haven’t already expressed about Questions About Angels, Nine Horses, and Ballistics. While I liked the poems in Picnic, Lightning, I admit that they didn’t resonate with me quite as much as the ones in Questions About Angels, which remains my favorite Billy Collins book.
But who knows, that could change. With my new Dickinson fascination, I’m sure I’ll be reading Billy Collins’s seventh collection, Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes, sooner rather than later.
copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.