Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Book want

I recently read this review in the The Guardian of a new biography about Emily Dickinson that questions quite a lot of the information that has been put about and repeated about her . . . by the family of the woman her brother had an adulterous affair with. The book is entitled Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds by Lyndall Gordon. Gordon examines the evidence and, best as I can tell, reveals a more authentic Dickinson - and one that better comports with the sassy voice found in so many of her poems and in her correspondence.

Among Gordon's postulations is the notion that Emily Dickinson suffered from epilepsy, possibly with quite a number of petit mal seizures, which would account for quite a bit of "outsider opinions" on her, as well as explaining why she was such a recluse, given the prejudices and ignorance about epilepsy at the time, especially in light of contemporary evidence that she was actually quite plain-spoken and outspoken in conversation when she actually met with others. It would also explain why she refused to marry, an act that may have been illegal for her at the time if she indeed had epilepsy.

Those of you interested in Miss Dickinson ought to read the review. Unfortunately, those of us in the U.S. have to wait until June for this new book to come out. Woe. (Dear Penguin - if you're reading this, please send me an ARC. Pretty please?) And, of course, some of her work:

I Felt a Funeral in My Brain
by Emily Dickinson

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My Mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race
Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –

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