Read A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century by Jerome Charyn Online


“Remarkable insight ... [a] unique meditation/investigation ... Jerome Charyn the unpredictable, elusive, and enigmatic is a natural match for Emily Dickinson, the quintessence of these.” —Joyce Carol Oates, author of Wild Nights! and The Lost LandscapeWe think we know Emily Dickinson: the Belle of Amherst, virginal, reclusive, and possibly mad. But in A Loaded Gun, Jerome“Remarkable insight ... [a] unique meditation/investigation ... Jerome Charyn the unpredictable, elusive, and enigmatic is a natural match for Emily Dickinson, the quintessence of these.” —Joyce Carol Oates, author of Wild Nights! and The Lost LandscapeWe 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 liveHe 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.Jerome Charyn is the author of, most recently, Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories, I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War, and The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson: A Novel. He lives in New York....

Title : A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century
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ISBN : 9781934137987
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century Reviews

  • LindaJ^
    2019-03-26 14:24

    Someone mentioned this in a thread in one of my GR groups. Since I was headed to the bookstore to see about another non-fiction, I thought I'd just inquire if they had this one. Well, they did and because I did not walk straight home but stopped for a happy hour glass of wine at a nearby restaurant, I started to read it. And it was much more interesting than the print book I was reading for another GR group, so I kept reading it!This book is not a biography of Emily Dickinson. Rather, it is an investigation of Emily Dickinson and her work -- who was she really? what made her tick? But, don't think you are going to get answers to these questions it you read the book. What'll you'll get is a review of what's been said about Dickinson and her work by others (a lot of others) and insights from interviews and photographs and the work itself. There really are no answers to the questions about this poet who seems to have been misplaced in time. It doesn't matter though. It's enough that we have her work, and that, by the way, seems to have been only by chance. It seems that Dickinson was very unlikely to have been who she was portrayed as by those who first published her poems and wrote about her. She is a mystery. One thing the author does is relate the greatness of her work to that of others who like her were far ahead of the time in which they lived, such as Van Gogh. He takes a lot of other tacks as well, all interesting, in his attempts to convey how unique he (and others) find her to be. Even if you are not a poetry fan, I'd recommend this because there are just some artists, and Dickinson was an artist, that should be known to all -- at least a little. And, what Emily Dickinson, this woman, managed to do when women of her class were not supposed to do anything but be wives, is quite astonishing.

  • Karen
    2019-03-27 16:17

    Emily Dickinson's person and poetry are iridescent. Trying to explain or even describe either proves futile. Nevertheless, Charyn demonstrates deep knowledge, intelligence and creativity in _A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century_. I've been dazzled by his interpretations, but what Charyn produced may be more an optical illusion than an archaeological discovery. Over the course of 200 plus pages, Charyn assemble a variety of primary texts and critical works in an effort to complicate the stereotype of Dickinson as a timid, reclusive virgin. Instead, his critical work depicts the belle of Amherst as courageous, sexual and powerful. While Charyn does provide a lot of textual clues to Dickinson's fierceness, I did at times find myself exasperated by how much time an how much hyperbole he employed in creating this alternate view of the poet. For example. "And what an old maid she was, on her own sexual prowl, and perhaps she was a pointillist of her own time, talking about her apocalyptic rage as a woman in a culture that didn't permit female lust and female power. And so she smashed the pillars of that Protestant ethos, like some Sampson in a white dress, and she went through the looking glass in a way that would have frightened Updike and most other men, and dealt in dreams and hallucinations, with all the tradecraft of a witch" (p. 206). While that passage is incredibly exciting to read and the portrait of Dickinson awe-inspiring, I do believe that Charyn is taking a lot of liberties. Dickinson and the personas of her poem probably inhabit some middle position between recluse and witch. Well, let me remember: Dickinson is iridescent. She and the personas of her poem are probably alternate between the extremes of a spectrum. For example, she is at times timid and at times fierce. In keeping with the iridescent image, she vacillate between the two at once. Or to bring contemporary physics to the act of critical theory, Dickinson and her poetry are at once particle and wave, depending on what tools we use to perceive the poet and her poems. I imagine the poet as a nuclear reactor, encased for the safety of others but creating enormous energy in the relatively small confines of her life. (Oh. Mah. Gosh. I'm doing the same thing as Charyn. Using hyperbole to discribe the poet and her poems. What is it about Dickinson that beguiles the reader so?)Afterall, "The Brain--is wider than the Sky--" Even if I don't agree with all of Charyn's interpretations, I do respect the amount of work he put forth, and he did bring together a vast collection of people to his interpretation. I got to know the members of Dickinson's household to a greater degree than before, and I got to know about twenty other extended relatives, friends, editors and acquaintances. My previous view was that Dickinson interacted with very few people, a handful of immediate relatives and a couple of editors. Not so. Her social circle was larger than the persistent stereotypes. Furthermore, Charyn discusses some of Dickinson's most important critics--critics such as Susan Howe, Camille Pagilia, Rebecca Patterson, Richard Sewall, and Gertrude Stein. Most delightful was my new-found knowledge of Joseph Cornell's shadow boxes, inspired by Dickinson's poems. After viewing some of these works of art, I now see Charyn's book as a similar effort: the literary critic has gathered a number of textual objects (letters, poems, fragments, daguerreotypes) and created a collage--inspired by Dickinson, but the creating of a new cultural object (in this case a book) probably illuminating more about Charyn's psyche than Dickinson's. I still recommend reading A Loaded Gun. Just keep a distinction between a primary text (letter, poem, journal entry), the object of interpretation (the meaning of a poem, the nature of the poet) and the work of the critic. These are three very different things. While I don't accept all of his interpretations, I did enjoy the wild ride, and I thank Charyn for complicating my view of both the poet and her poems. Here are his chapter titles: 1. Zero at the Bone2. The Two Emilys--and the Earl3. Daemon Dog4. Judith Shakespeare and Margaret Maher5. Ballerinas in a Box6. Phantom Lady7. Within a Magic Prison8. Nothing9. Cleopatra's Company10. The Witch's Hour11. Sam Carlo

  • Tony Parsons
    2019-04-09 19:35

    The life/times of Emily Dickinson (Bell of Amherst). The nitty gritty & even some dirt on her. Poetry is not my forte. But this lady was 1 of a kind in her era & is still considered 1 of the best poet of all times. Warning: This book contains extremely graphic adult content, violence, or expletive language &/or uncensored sexually explicit material which is only suitable for mature readers. It may be offensive to some readers. I did not receive any type of compensation for reading & reviewing this book. While I receive free books from publishers & authors, I am under no obligation to write a positive review, only an honest one. A very awesome book cover, great font & writing style. A very well written female poet biography book. It was very easy for me to read/follow from start/finish & never a dull moment. There were no grammar/typo errors, nor any repetitive or out of line sequence sentences. Lots of exciting scenarios, with several twists/turns & a great set of unique characters to keep track of. This could also make another great female poet biography movie, college PP presentation, or a mini TV series. A very easy rating of 5 stars. Thank you for the free Goodreads; MakingConnections; Bellevue literary press; paperback book Tony Parsons MSW (Washburn)

  • Michael McCann
    2019-04-17 22:09

    Jerome Charyn is an innovative writer whose passion for his subject matter--whether it be his native Bronx, Abraham Lincoln, or Emily Dickinson--is expressed in a style inimitably his own. In A LOADED GUN, as in I AM ABRAHAM, Charyn has conducted extensive archival research to provide his own sense of the inner life of a gifted individual. Rather than accepting what has been the conventional view of Emily Dickinson as an isolated woman crippled by agoraphobia and manipulated by a dominating father, Charyn sees her as a woman of passion and imagination who was very much in control of her own life. He describes her variously as "an alchemist," "an enchantress," and "a mistress of her own interior time and space".A LOADED GUN and Charyn's previous work, THE SECRET LIFE OF EMILY DICKINSON, are not only fascinating in their own right, but provide an opportunity for a new generation of readers to discover the poet and her impressive work.A LOADED GUN will appeal not only to readers of poetry, biography, and literary criticism, but also to all those seeking a refreshing read on a "conventional" life.

  • Mary Narkiewicz
    2019-04-15 15:25

    I am on the Newfoundland dog chapter.. Carlo.. Very pleased to see him get his due! 16 years in such a close connection with Emily Dickinson.. Yes, he deserves, at long last, at least a chapter! Thank you, Jerome Charyn.And you are right, "if we're willing to admit that anyone can own a dog".. Looking forward to immersing myself in this new book about Emily Dickinson..

  • Brian Bess
    2019-04-23 14:17

    Firing both barrelsI would not immediately think of the name ‘Emily Dickinson’ and the phrase “loaded gun” appearing in the same sentence. However, the phrase belongs to Dickinson herself and belies the traditional image we have of the shy, reclusive scribbler and bread baker of Amherst that has passed down through a century and a half.Much of the purpose of Charyn’s book is to challenge and revise the established depiction of Emily Dickinson, epitomized by William Luce’s play, ‘The Belle of Amherst’ and personified very memorably by Julie Harris. Charyn cites many instances, both in her poetry and in surviving letters, where Emily’s passionate nature was often sublimated or expressed through metaphorical language. He describes the paradoxical nature of Dickinson:“She was an agoraphobic who could dance anywhere on her toes, a reclusive nun who wrote the sexiest love letters, a mermaid who swam in her own interior sea, a shy mouse who could pillage and plunder in her poems. All her life she was a Loaded Gun.”He has an explanation for why the image of Emily Dickinson as shy, repressed recluse became ossified in the public’s consciousness. Her brother Austin did not want his sister’s more unconventional notions to become public knowledge. His wife, Susan, with whom Emily shared a very passionate, kindred relationship, perhaps felt that the sensuality in Emily’s writing hit too close to her own sensual longings. Sue also was jealous of Emily’s intense relationship with another friend, Kate Scott. Sue became more cold and remote with her husband and learned to repress her emotions. Emily’s younger sister, Vinnie, had always adored her sister and felt like a mediator between Emily and the outside world and perhaps felt protective of her memory after her death. She acquiesced to Emily’s request and burned most of her sister’s correspondence. After the deaths of Austin, Vinnie, and Sue, it fell to Austin’s mistress, Mabel Todd, to oversee the first publication of Emily’s poetry over 20 years after her death. There were various caches of Emily’s letters that were more revealing but were not thought worthy of publication for many years, as well as numerous fragments of poems, phrases and words written on the backs of envelopes, receipts and sundry bits of paper and which were thought by those who initially published Dickinson to be meaningless as far as publication.Only in the mid-20th century did critics and scholars begin to examine the letters and fragments and piece together a distinctly different Emily Dickinson. Charyn feels that she was androgynous, regardless of whether any physical sexual acts with either sex were ever committed. She felt passionately about numerous male suitors but kept all of them at bay. She had relinquished enough of her liberty to her father; she did not wish to become an appendage to a man as she saw most of her friends doing. She felt a clear affinity with Susan Gilbert before Sue married Emily’s brother. Her father was a stern, repressed and strict man, a successful lawyer and a trustee of Amherst College. Her mother was a depressive and obedient to her husband’s authoritarian temperament. Emily loved her parents but she appears to have felt no inclination to be as obedient as her mother. She was the only one of the Dickinson children to never formally convert to Christianity or become a member of a church and her reclusive nature was tolerated and absolved her from compulsory church attendance.Charyn explains:“…dream brides drift in and out of her poems like a continued nightmare—yet she did not want to be “Bridled”. Sometimes she was married to God, with her “Title divine,” sometimes to the Devil. Like Sue herself, she had a genuine fear of sexuality, that infernal “man of noon,” who scorches and scalds every little virgin flower—“they know that the man of noon, is mightier than the morning and their life is henceforth to him. Oh, Susie, it is dangerous, and it is all too clear, these simple trusting spirits, and the spirits mightier, which we cannot resist! It does rend me, Susie, the thought of it when it comes, that I tremble lest at sometime I, too, am yielded up.” [Letter 93, 1852]”He also theorizes that Dickinson’s idiosyncratic rhythms of grammar and punctuation stemmed from her mother’s “tangled, chaotic grammar” and that she was breaking the patriarchal laws of punctuation and grammar as a rebellion against her father. This seems to be stretching the point a bit too far. I believe that the spasmodic spurts of images and thought were more of a spontaneous stream of consciousness by-product of her creativity than a conscious rebellion. The attention Charyn gives to the long-neglected fragments on bits of paper she left behind illustrate that expression as much as the polished poems themselves.The first scholar to explore the possibility of a passionate relationship with another woman was Rebecca Patterson in her 1951 book, ‘The Riddle of Emily Dickinson’. She felt that without Kate Scott Turner Anthon, widowed twice, Emily might never have become a poet, which seems to be a wildly foolish and inaccurate hyperbole, as Emily had been writing poetry for many years before she ever knew Kate Anthon existed. The book was widely reviled at the time but Charyn feels there is sufficient evidence through Emily’s poetry and letters that something significant occurred between the two women. Emily met her through Sue, who had also felt intensely about Kate. He also uses a recently discovered daguerreotype of someone resembling the Emily of the only known photographic image of the poet, when she was sixteen years old. The later image is taken approximately thirteen years later when Emily would have been 29. She is posed next to a woman. Although there are similarities between the figure on the left, dressed very much like the seventeen-year old Emily in the established daguerreotype, with much the same hair style as in the earlier photo, establishing the identity of the woman to Emily’s left, around whose shoulders Emily’s arm is resting, would hopefully eliminate doubt. Charyn and the man who discovered the photo in a garage sale in Springfield, Massachusetts, believe that the woman on the right is Kate Anthon. There are two moles on the face like in other photos of her, and she is wearing black widow’s clothes, indicating that she photo was probably taken around 1859 after her husband died and she visited Amherst. Ophthalmologists have also examined Emily’s eyes and identified an astigmatism in one eye with a misshapen cornea that seems to substantiate Emily’s lifelong eye problems. Essentially, Charyn and others have extracted an entire backstory to the photo that makes sense given the corresponding letters and chronologies of both women, although Charyn ties it in to not only the passionately sensual if not sexual relationship between Emily and Kate but also to Emily’s entire identity as a woman who neither conformed to her society in lifestyle or in poetry.I want to emphasize that Jerome Charyn is a novelist who has published over 30 novels, including one about Emily Dickinson herself in recent years, ‘The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson’. He has also written many non-fiction works. Although he has taught in universities, his work appears to be free of the arid language of literary scholars. He dissects Emily’s poetry but he does so with a great deal of passion, often overstating his case. However, he will admit that he could be wrong and that Emily’s poetry is written on the shifting sands of points of view that render it difficult to know whose voice we are hearing.Aside from overstating his case frequently, Charyn also allows himself to indulge in unnecessary tangents, such as the longwinded account of the background of shadow box conceptual artist Joseph Cornell, taking an excessively circuitous route to explain Cornell’s obsession with Dickinson that culminated in his shadow box creation devoted to Emily, ‘Toward the Blue Peninsula’. Charyn even refers to Cornell as Dickinson’s double.‘A Loaded Gun’ is in no sense a wide-ranging, much less definitive biography of Emily Dickinson. He never quotes from or explicates any of the vast majority of Dickinson’s most celebrated poems. The book has one explicitly stated purpose and that is to present a revisionist portrait of the poet, challenging prevailing beliefs about her. I find Charyn’s passion for Emily’s passionate nature refreshing and admire his enthusiasm but it is all too often frustrating, and his tendency to jump to what he considers obvious conclusions is irritating. It is worth reading in that it provides another angle through which to view the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson but I don’t think it should ever be considered comprehensive.

  • Faith Flaherty
    2019-04-04 20:24

    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.

  • Diana
    2019-04-20 20:20

    Parts of this were fascinating, but the unnecessary digressions were distracting. This felt a bit like it started out as a great dissertation and then was too short to be a real book, so Mr. Charyn padded it. I did really enjoy his writing, though, and the resources cited were helpfully contextualized. For any Dickinson fan, it's worth reading.

  • Katie
    2019-03-29 19:09

    I can't for the life of me figure out how I hadn't reviewed this earlier -- I'm half-convinced I did and it somehow got deleted -- but here it is:This is not a biography of Emily Dickinson. This is literary criticism masquerading as a biography, walking a thin tightrope between the two and falling quite frequently. And it's pretty terrible literary criticism, at that. My main problem with it? There is no cohesion. The book as terrible organization; it skips from topic to topic with no transition. The author goes off on strange tangents that have only the most tenuous connections to Dickinson. When it does present any sort of biography, there is scant chronology. And it needed a decent copy editor to take a stab at this before publication, because it was riddled with grammatical errors (two I took note of: "a 150 pounds" [p. 69] and "St. John River's" [p. 73]). The writing was hideous and confusing. I'm still not sure what the author intended with this book, but I'm fairly sure it shouldn't have gone out to the wider world.Overall: 1/10.

  • Lisa Mcbroom
    2019-04-15 16:16

    The title comes from Emily Dickinson seeing a loaded gun in her father's room and metaphorically comparing herself to a loaded gun. Miss Dickinson to me was the Metaphor Queen. Charyn takes a spin on Emily Dickinson in the 21st Century and femnisits vies of her. For Dickinson scholars or just for Poetry Fans!

  • Cathy Nicastro
    2019-04-17 14:21

    If it's summer, I am reading a book about Emily Dickinson. This one was a little breezy, but interesting, with some terrific what ifs that deal more with her revolutionary passions than with whoever (if ever) there was a Master. Indeed the premise here is that she is her own Master!

  • Amber
    2019-04-02 17:31

    As a huge fan of Emily Dickinson's work and fascinated with who she was I was very excited to read this book. However, it was a disappointment to me. I could not find a pace with the writing style and organization of the novel. Because of that I could never fully enjoy.

  • Dana
    2019-03-28 17:15

    I wrote a review of this book on my blog.

  • Laurie
    2019-03-24 18:15

    I was introduced to Emily Dickinson through Julie Harris' one-woman play, The Belle of Amherst in grade school. Later, as a student of literature, I quickly tired of the various attempts to mansplain Emily's life. Until I discovered Adrienne Rich. She GOT Emily. According to Rich, Emily didn't have a problem, it was the "unwritten and written laws and taboos underpinning patriarchy" that Emily found the sweet spot to living a life of her own design. So with that background, imagine my excitement when I discovered Charyn's new book on Emily. The title alone - A Loaded Gun - promised more. Tipping his hat to Rich, Charyn introduces a woman fully engaged in all aspects of life. As a retired professor of film studies, Charyn's use of language and plausible plotlines are driven by archival research and a strong survey of existing literary criticism. Here, finally, is my favorite adaptation of Emily's life to date. And yet, why only three stars? Page 147. For me, Charyn breaks the fourth wall on his description of a childhood photo of Sue Gilbert. Is Lolita-ize a word? I readily own my heightened sensitivity and acknowledge I could no longer suspend my disbelief that Charyn's own predilections would show up in the picture.

  • Claire Garand
    2019-04-16 21:12

    I could not get through this book. I really wanted the information but this is by far the most poorly organized biography I have ever read.I love Emily Dickinson, but this book literally went from her mother's illness to a dog in one paragraph with no transitions. I can't get into Emily's story because the prose reads like a Dickinson scholar (who knows his stuff) got drunk at the pub and is now spouting off all the facts he knows to anyone who will listen. Honestly, that would be a much more pleasant experience.

  • Adam Bricker
    2019-04-02 19:20

    I never read any Emily Dickinson before this book and turns out that's a good thing. This book is well written and the author's passion saves it, but not my favorite. For me, breakdown in the middle describing Joseph Cornell was the only interesting part of the book.

  • Marguerite
    2019-04-24 15:21

    Enjoy anything Emily. I would recommend this book even though there are many other Emily books to choose from. Would love to see young readers learn about Emily.

  • Sparkie Allison
    2019-03-26 20:36

    Really enjoyed Jerome Charyn’s “Loaded Gun, Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century” is a thought-provoking journey into the genius and mystery of The Belle of Amherst. He researches the reclusive poet and focuses on the relationships to few people as she fled from strangers and saw the world framed through her windowsill. Previous books have focused on her writing, the solitude, the elusive behavior, but Charyn explores the hint of bisexual relationships and the 19th century expectations of women, and explores the lives of poets and authors that she admired and their influence on Emily. She seems to downplay her genius to others and while presenting erotically charged poetry scribbled on scraps of papers. It questions whether she had a mental illness? There is even a question of whether she was left-handed because left-handed people have neurological differences. She is not left-handed but her behaviors are questionable. Charyn writes that Emily is “right-handed with the cross wires of a left-hander.” While this book analyzes her life and her poems it has not changed by mind nor insulted my left-handedness and creative thinking. Emily will always be a mystery and we may never really have answers for why she wrote with spaces and dashes across the page. She may have been mad. She seems to have been fearless. She created a small world that worked for her and the need for the solitude to dream, explore and create. She will always be one of our greatest treasures.

  • Cheryl Malandrinos
    2019-04-09 14:37

    With his thought-provoking, eloquent style Charyn explores the complex woman often referred to as the Belle of Amherst. At times shy, yet, sometimes bold, this often misunderstood poet has fascinated readers for generations.As he did with his novel, The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, he entices the reader to reconsider what they know about Dickinson. Was she merely that reclusive spinster trapped in her "Pearl Jail" at the Homestead or was she a gifted writer scribbling fragments on brown wrapping paper and stray envelopes that spoke of a passionate woman who chartered her own destiny and whose words inspired works of art?The depth of Charyn's research is clear from the start. He's studied previous biographies, explored Dickinson's letters and poems, and interviewed experts to bring what he sees as the real Emily Dickinson to life for modern readers. More than a woman who was trapped by her father in the family's home, more than someone's odd aunt or sister, more than the cockeyed girl in a dark dress we know from the daguerreotype, Dickinson was a powerful woman who seduced people with her words.It will be interesting to dig out my Emily Dickinson collection after reading A Loaded Gun to see if my own perceptions of her work have changed.Ultimately, I don't think we will ever learn more about Dickinson than she wished to share with us, but Charyn's in depth look at her life has definitely brought me closer to this "unknowable genius."

  • Lissette
    2019-04-16 20:10

    I confess that when I first received this book, I thought it would be a fictional account of Emily Dickinson's life. Mind you, that wasn't the case. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is a biography based on Emily's letters and poetry to various people along the way.Via these letters and poems, Jerome introduces the reader to a different side of Emily. We see her vulnerabilities, uncertainties, and desires come through with every turn of the page. Growing up, I always thought of Emily as a lonely spinster who never surrounded herself with that many people. Reading through these letters, poems, and various accounts from the people Emily once knew, I was able to see to that what I previously thought of her was not the case.Jerome shows us a woman who knew exactly what she was doing back in the day. A woman, though quiet, at times, who was not afraid of speaking her mind. She was not afraid of being who she was with her family and the world around her. Granted, she kept to herself, more often than not, but she did so in a way that prevented others from exploiting her privacy.A Loaded Gun definitely captures the reader's interest and keeps it with every turn of the page. We're able to glean more of the woman Emily Dickinson became. Emily was never afraid of experimenting with the world around her. She gave as good as she got. A thought-provoking read, this is a book I recommend for those who'd love to get more insight on all things Emily.

  • Aimee
    2019-04-24 21:19

    I really tried to give this book a chance after reading Alexandra Pechman's critical review in the New Republic, but the best thing I can say about it is that I learned more about Joseph Cornell, Allegra Kent, and the Dickinsons' Irish servant Maggie Maher. Also, it may have prevented me from writing in the first-person plural ever again.Charyn goes on and on (and on) about how "we" have mythologized Dickinson as the batty virginal recluse, but then he fetishizes her hair color, the size of her desk, her so-called rage. My stomach turned when I reached the page where "we have rendered her naked for a moment." Why is this a thing? (I'm looking at you, Billy Collins. And the cover of Charyn's other Dickinson book.)The prose is riddled with attempts to create cohesion via subordinate clauses. I suspect he thinks this makes his writing lyrical, but I found it incredibly cloying. There is nothing here that makes Charyn's book a particularly 21st-century study of Dickinson—unless you believe that the 21st century is characterized by irritating writing.

  • Corby Roberson
    2019-04-09 22:26

    I enjoyed the thorough investigation of various theories about who Dickinson was/is. However, I felt as if there could have been much more depth and critical conversation during some parts of the book. Sometimes ideas were brought up in rapid succession and not really teased out completely, so the argument or trajectory was a bit difficult to follow.One reviewer, whose review appears to have been removed, wrote that Dickinson's heterosexuality should have been explored, but I felt as if the writer gave equal time to discussing Dickinson's sexuality and her art and her family life. The book is not merely about discovering the intricacies of her sexuality, but it is about exploring how her relationships, or lack of them, possibly shaped her poetry. I did find the conflation of the speaker in her poetry with the actual Emily Dickinson to be annoying. Any poet, or reader of poetry, knows the speaker does not equal the writer.Lastly, I was surprised to only find a handful of new information in the text, though. I am by no means a Dickinson scholar, but a majority of the information wasn't new to me. I did enjoy seeing a new photo of her.

  • Rosemary
    2019-04-06 14:08

    This book was near unreadable. Self-indulgent and hard to follow. It feels like stream of consciousness. Anyone who has studied Dickinson will already know that she was an independent, intelligent, sexy woman. We don't need this guy talking about garters "like a pair of seductive spiders" to know that ("seductive spiders"?????????). I also don't think he knows enough about Dickinson's culture to write this book. He quotes a letter in which she says "Where my Hands are cut, Her fingers will be found inside" and then goes on to speculate about this, "one of Dickinson's most disturbing images": "where had this mutilation come from?" Jerry, if you can't recognize a biblical allusion when you see one maybe try writing about someone else, some poet less allusive than Dickinson.TLDR: A novelist thinks he's the first person to read Emily Dickinson. Sits down and writes this book in one sitting?

  • Jeri
    2019-04-17 18:20

    Well that was disappointing. Pure speculation, much based on conflating her biography with her poetry, which is reductionist at best. The one big "find" that supposedly shoots down past biographies is a phantom photo of Dickinson and Kate, the ostensible love of her life. A photo rumored to exist, but not replicated in the book. I find it hard to believe anyone in the book's intended audience still gives credence to the virginal recluse myth--you can't read her poetry and still find her so passionless and isolated--so basically there's nothing new or substantial here except one person's musings.UPDATE: I stand corrected on the photo. Not sure how I missed that! Still, having looked at it, I think my point is even more valid: the author makes one photo carry a very heavy load in his analysis.

  • vvb
    2019-04-10 22:26

    With excerpts from Emily Dickinson's letters, poetry and other critiques about Emily this book continues to describe and discover the essence of Emily. Daguerreotype images of her are also critiqued and analyzed to puzzle her out.Despite her reclusive ways, restricted environment and relationships, Emily created a tremendous amount of poetry. The attempt to uncover the mystery of how such a person could burst forth with that body of work was fascinating to learn about in this book. In the end, I found Emily to be like one of our modern day hoarders. She gathered words on scraps of papers and left them behind for us to ponder over. With her mad poetry skills, she then crafted those words to capture her inner self and moments in her life which again leaves us in a cloud of mystery.

  • Nicole
    2019-04-04 18:15

    "Dickinson wasn't a madwoman, but she was maddened with rage - against a culture that had no place for a woman with her own fiercely independent mind and will."I liked that this book basically disproves Emily Dickinson was some strange, reclusive spinster-weirdo. Instead, Charyn describes Emily as a strong, independent woman who knew the limitations of traditional roles for women and actively chose not to marry in order to preserve her freedom. She pursued romantic involvements with both men and women so long as they were intelligent and challenging. She wrote letters and poems as her way of lashing out at a society that stifled women's creativity. Basically, Emily was a clever bad-ass and evidently a redhead, which I did not know prior to reading this book.