THE DIARY OF EMILY DICKINSON by Jamie Fuller

THE DIARY OF EMILY DICKINSON

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A private diary kept by the poet at age 37 (March 1867-April 1868), with introduction and notes by its imaginary scholarly editor. Discovered in a wall of the Dickinson family house during renovations in 1915, the diary at last has fallen into the hands of its present editor, who presents it here for the light it casts on the private life of the great and enigmatic poet. And what light is that? Well, not really very much, it seems, other than that Emily Dickinson lived quietly with her family in Amherst, wrote her poetry unobtrusively, died unmarried, and became hugely famous only later. Fuller takes no liberties here of the adventuring or gothic sort, conjuring up no ghost, perversion, trauma, or previously unknown disaster to explain her subject's perplexing reclusiveness and preternatural modesty. Instead, this Emily Dickinson is skeptical and intelligent, obedient but observant as a daughter, intensely dedicated to the cultivation of her poetic gift--and not so much repressed as simply unlucky in the department of passion, her love for the somewhat older Judge Otis Phillips Lord, for example, being unfulfilled thanks to time's cruel snatching away of opportunity less than (although room for interpretation is allowed) to the repression of desire. A real-life and common-sense Emily Dickinson emerges, then, captivating not for the operatic whisperings of dark secrets, but for the quiet authenticity of voice, place, and time that Fuller deftly conjures up. Her own hand at Dickinsonian verse is considerable (25 ``new'' poems are included), and, except for occasional stumblings in diary entries too expository to be realistic (``It was in summer at our Commencement tea that I let my heart deceive me''), so is her gift for the finer sounds of prose (``When the Bible proclaims eternal life, I hear only the silent drop of Death''). Lovely in conception, words, character, detail--but extraordinarily motionless and still.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1993
ISBN: 1-56279-048-X
Page count: 240pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993




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