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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blog Tour: The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn

Greetings fellow readers!
Welcome to Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers.  For those of you joining us today for the first time, welcome…thanks for stopping by.  For those frequent visitors to the site…well, you KNOW how I feel about you (^_^).

Today we play host to a blog tour organized by the fabulous Nicole over at Tribute Books for a book that has certainly caused a select comment or two as a result of the interesting cover art but more so for the story that resides within its pages.  Although it reads as fact, it is in fact fiction…a line that the author blurs as he delivers the story of one infamous person that has reached many a literary mind throughout her life but certainly more so upon her death.  Please help me welcome today’s blog tour feature and book of choice…


Everyone knows the name Emily Dickinson.  It’s synonymous with poetry in all its finest forms.  But how much do we know about her life and times?  I mean really, poetry is not often the product of a life half-lived but rather a life filled with challenges, lessons learned, hearts mended and broken.  The rush of life is what gives it its edge, its essence, a flavor all its own.  That is the real mystery here.  What happened in her younger days to create the poetess known round the world?  Not much is known of the finer details, but one can suppose…and just what one gets with that supposition can result in pure magic.

The truth can be hard to discern from fiction in this well written novel as it is apparent when taking a look at Ms. Dickinson’s life.  Great care was taken to incorporate accurate details regarding places, times, people, and the like, making it almost an extension of those accounts we deem biographic in nature instead of a work of mere fancy.  I for one am not usually for history laden stories; this time around I found the accuracy refreshing as I took a walk through a short history of the author’s life afterward via the net as a friend rather than an acquaintance.  The author’s imagination was far from liberal except where liberties needed taking…such as her chance encounters with love and what may or may not have transpired.

Speaking of which, there seems to be many occurrences of late in works of a classic nature in which I am finding rather blush worthy situations.  Here, Ms. Dickinson kindly refrains from being too brash choosing instead to make mention of ‘Vesuvius’ in scenes where the meaning can not help but be understand, though it is not always the same.  In general it refers to an eruption of words, feelings, or reactions depends upon the situation but it is safe to say that no matter the instance to which the image is brought forth, it is a powerful force to be reckoned with…as are her feelings on love.  Though the chances may be fleeting and one rather haunting, you have to smile at her sensibilities regarding those she seizes.  In one instance, she makes plans to run away with Brainard (aka Domingo) one of those gents that has caught both her eye and her mind, but she is halted by the thought of leaving her beloved Carlos…her dog…seeing how he would not be able to ride in the train car undetected; a reaction that speaks to my own dog loving nature.

It is easy to identify with Ms. Emily even through the trials of her fictitious life.  Her concerns are not so foreign, nor her passions and desires.  I identify for certain with many an idea and thought shared by our fictional mistress though my own plumage neither is nor ever was as grand as that which she donned within these pages and often fails me in speech where it holds strong in print (a bit conceited when put like that, I admit but I’m merely speaking of feedback previously received….the size of my head is still intact I assure you… ^_^).  She had her moments of whimsy, her flights of fancy, but despite all the dreams and loves both lost and found, I feel her truest self was revealed when scribbled from hand to paper as she often did regardless of time and place…a fact which is captured wonderfully in this particular passage despite the bleak news she was delivered moments …

I’d rather have oblivion than be a prisoner without my Pen.  I cannot soothe the constant noise inside my Brain, like a fluttering of feathers that grows fierce until I can scratch the syllables that each feather suggests – see them, touch them, my own fine feathers.  Emily’s Brain will burst with all the bustle of her Plumage.  – pg 199

Perhaps it is only in that black and white medium that we experience that great release, our real selves having been uncovered...or perhaps it merely provides more veils through which a visitor whether they be friend or foe need peer to discern the fair truth hiding within much like our moon blind poetess.  In either case, one only puts in as much feeling as can be spared from the fires of inspiration...and one only discovers as much of the author as they are able to see within themselves.  I too have experienced flights of fancy where the longing for pen and paper to jot down some wandering thought within my mind takes hold, relentless in its desire to be heard.  It is a powerful force indeed, so I can only imagine the hold it must have on those whose hearts beat purely to reach that joyful status of a published author.

That's the thing about the written word.  Whether it is poetry gliding along effortlessly or a work of fiction shared in a novel, no two readers escape with the same experience.  You can read the work together or separately.  Word by word, or page by page.  With Tutors or Domingo’s, with powerful preachers or man's best friend.  Each will squirrel away what spoke eloquently to THEM for some future use or reflection and leave the rest behind like so many unworthy suitors.

A few parting reflections as I draw my thoughts to a close.  As I type this review, I feel like kin to her and the symptoms experienced regarding her “moon blindness”...a migraine will have similar effects (and oye do I have one); but also much like her character presented here, I too can not stray far from the siren call of pen and paper, rabid thought and typing hands (and eager eyes ready to devour the next book that comes my way).  Regarding the nom de guerres sprinkled throughout her story, why my dear readers, we all have many a name to which we answer when beckoned. Whether it be a nickname, a token of affection, our given name...or the one we mask ourselves with when appearing online....they are the many roles and faces that make up who we are; in the end, we just have to remember which one is our true selves lest we get swept away in the majesty of any one moment. 

When all is said and done, a truly enjoyable read with cover art that gets a raised eyebrow or two at times, but one certainly not to be missed.  Whether you are a fan of the poetesses works or merely a rabid reader of fiction, this book combines a bit of both worlds so well in fact that they blend seamlessly (to my eye at least) together and may just leave you wishing to explore her life, times, and published works further upon reaching the final page.  The paperback release of this title occurred within the last week or two, so look for it in its various formats at a retail or online bookstore near you.  Need a few links to go on?  No worries.  It is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both print and eBook options (1 and 2)...not to mention there's a nifty little excerpt just waiting for your reading pleasure in case you are still debating whether or not to add this to your future reading list. 

Seeking to know more about the author behind the book?  Here’s a brief bio on the man himself…

Jerome Charyn (born May 13, 1937) is an award-winning American author. With nearly 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life. Michael Chabon calls him “one of the most important writers in American literature.”

New York Newsday hailed Charyn as “a contemporary American Balzac,” and the Los Angeles Times described him as “absolutely unique among American writers.”

Since the 1964 release of Charyn’s first novel, Once Upon a Droshky, he has published 30 novels, three memoirs, eight graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year. Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture.

Charyn was Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the American University of Paris until he left teaching in 2009.

In addition to his writing and teaching, Charyn is a tournament table tennis player, once ranked in the top 10 percent of players in France. Noted novelist Don DeLillo called Charyn’s book on table tennis, Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins, "The Sun Also Rises of ping-pong."

Charyn lives in Paris and New York City.

For more information, look no further than the author's site, Facebook page, or Twitter feed. 

Special thanks to Nicole at Tribute Books for the review copy and for organizing this grand blog tour.  (THANKS!)  To find out more about this great company, check out their website, main blog, review blog, or Twitter page for the latest.  For more information on this book tour, be sure to visit the blog, Facebook page, or follow along on Twitter.  The publisher of this title is W.W. Norton & Company and more information about this title as well as their full catalog can be found at their site. 

Until next time…happy reading!


Felicity Grace Terry said...

Emily Dickinson - I knew I knew the name but couldn't think why.
Sounds like a fascinating read though I have to say I don't always enjoy books that blurr fact with fiction as so often I'm left wondering which is which. Still, as I know next to nothing about Emily this should not be too big a problem.

Liz @ Cleverly Inked said...

Hm... Your review was almost lyrical. You might have a bit of writer in yourself

Tribute Books said...

And to think, ladies & gentlemen, Gina wrote this exceptional review with a migraine - what an absolute writing warrior!

As always, your insight, attention to detail and heartfelt analysis are second to none. Thanks for lending your talents to a review of Emily.

I loved the lines: "No two readers escape with the same experience. Each will squirrel away what spoke eloquently to THEM for some future use or reflection and leave the rest behind like so many unworthy suitors."

What a great description of the art of reading that corresponds so well to the overall theme of the book.

Thanks for being one of the best book bloggers out there! See ya on Twitter. said...

The books sounds great! I love Emily Dickinson!

dancealert at aol dot com

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I honestly don't know much about Emily Dickinson and didn't read much of her poetry. I tend to like novels like this that are based on true life people but with a bit more easy reading flow than maybe a bio.
I like that she was concerned about her dog. Must have had a really good heart!

The author looks intense. :)

Gina said...

Petty Witter: Ah, but see that's the beauty of this one. The facts are easy enough to discern with a quick look at the subjects bio. The fiction is the detail added to connect the larger moments in her life. Might be a good match for you. ^_^

Cleverly Inked: *gasp* {HUGS} ^_^

Tribute Books: You seriously made my day. Thank you ever so much for the kindnesses you extend both in your own thoughtful reviews (always so in depth and precise), your comments, and Twitter presence. Happy reading! ^_^

Brenda: Definitely should try it!

Michelle: Haven't read too much of it myself but this book...marvelous. Agreed on the kind heart...her dog was her best friend through think and thin. ^_^

Tales of Whimsy said...

Sounds great. Awesome review.

The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson said...

A thoughtful smart review - and, if it is true you wrote this with a migraine, you are a writer worthy of the pain and sacrifice Emily suffered to produce her incredible poetry and prose. We are honored by your effort. And yes, the author IS intense, but perhaps it's a necessary intensity to satisfy discerning (insatiable?) readers like yourself.

Gina said...

Juju: Thanks! *high five*

The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson: Thank you very much for your kind words. I can only say that I was moved by the spirit of the book and my pen was enchanted with words it wished to share (okay...maybe not pen, but is a blog after all...hehe). Good point on the intensity. Very fitting. ^_^

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