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While much is speculation, Charyn’s ardent sleuthing yields a daring portrait of the elusive “enchantress” and her world.

A writer obsessed with the Belle of Amherst imagines her rich, sensual inner life.

After spending two years writing a novel, The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson (2010), Charyn (Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories, 2015, etc.) felt dissatisfied: “I knew less and less the more I learned about her.” Now he turns to nonfiction, mining the prodigious research he conducted for the novel: biographies, literary criticism, archival research, “psychoanalytic studies of her crippled, wounded self, tales of her martyrdom in the nineteenth century, studies of her iconic white dress, accounts of her agoraphobia,” and interviews with artists, poets, and scholars. Charyn analyzes artist Joseph Cornell’s evocation of Dickinson and poet Adrienne Rich’s empathetic interpretation. The result is an absorbing, though necessarily speculative, meditation on Dickinson’s personality, yearnings, and elliptical poetry. For Charyn, Dickinson was a powerful, mysterious woman in charge of her own life. He dismisses the idea that she was a “helpless agoraphobic, trapped in her room in her father’s house,” although her father was overbearing and kept his daughters “on an invisible leash.” Dickinson, he believes, was equally tyrannical. “She built a whirlwind around her and lived within its walls.” She was “promiscuous in her own fashion, deceiving everyone around her with the sly masks she wore.” She was an outlaw, “an alchemist,” a “witch of the Imagination,” “the mistress of her own interior time and space,” and possibly bisexual. Charyn is intrigued by one scholar’s argument that Dickinson had a romance with another woman, with whom she may have sat for a daguerreotype reproduced as the book’s frontispiece. “None of us will ever get near enough to Emily,” he writes ruefully.

While much is speculation, Charyn’s ardent sleuthing yields a daring portrait of the elusive “enchantress” and her world.

Pub Date: March 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-934137-98-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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