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The Emily Dickinson Reader: An English-to-English Translation of Emily Dickinson's Complete Poems Hardcover – August 14, 2012
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"If Emily Dickinson had a Tumblr, these witty one-liners are what she'd be posting...You'll want to not only display this one on your coffee table, but also read it from start to finish."Marie Claire
"Let us agree that Legault’s version cannot, and is not meant to, rephrase Dickinson’s original, but rather seeks to recreate the spirit of the poem in a style and length that speak to today’s readers (who tweet and text while reading multiple books on a single flickering screen)."The Millions
"There are so many ways into and out of this book. If you want to put it on your coffee table and pick it up at random to have a good laugh, then that’s fine, but you can also read it all the way through (as I did), letting yourself be pulled between diverse ways of reading...n the end, through this structure of repetition, Legault’s Dickinson emerges just as bold, queer, crass, hungry, sexual, demanding, and repetitive as I always knew she was."Los Angeles Review of Books
"A valuable contribution to the field of radical translation. "Lambda Literary Review
"Sheer genius that begs to be recited aloud."Daily Candy
About the Author
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He's here: www.theotherpaul.com.
Top Customer Reviews
Emily Dickinson is my favorite poet, hands-down. She has a tightly-compressed language that crams mountains of meaning into tiny molehills of words and sentences. I approached this book with a great deal of expectation, because I do believe that if any poet, 1) has a body of work reducible to forceful, single sentences, she would be a good candidate; and 2) I like contemporary re-interpretations of great writing. I don't think Dickinson or anyone else has a body of untouchable work, sacrosanct and sufficient in itself with no need for each generation to find its own meaning from the words.
All that being said: this book was enormously disappointing. I'm just fine with being damned as a "person with no humor" by the book's apologists, because it simply is not funny. Legault's decision to reduce Dickinson down to (usually) one sentence is an interesting idea that he completely bungles in execution. Zombies? Do we really need another handful of zombies awkwardly thrown into literature in a desperate attempt to "modernize" it?
Legault's reinterpretations are, on the whole, uneven: at times, he's spot-on (reducing "Much Madness is divinest Sense" to "Logic is a trap from which few ever escape," for example), but overall the "reductions" of the originals into single sentences usually rests on vastly oversimplified language that's neither funny nor insightful.
Dickinson has always seemed mysterious and difficult to interpret--she knew that about herself, and owned it ("The Soul selects her own Society"). Legault has attempted to take away almost everything that made her, her.Read more ›
Of course the author must have known these "translations" would not convey the inexhaustible freshness & ambiguity of Dickinson's vocal (and visual) idiom, which is what her poems are ABOUT. Dickinson's are not subject-driven poems, they're voice-driven and image-driven (though some might be loosely considered "narrative"). So to translate them out of that is to leave only the residue of the poem, which (at least in theory) could be useful. But these summaries offer no real insight. I haven't read them each and every one, of course, but I don't think I need to.
Following relatively recent trends in Dickinson scholarship and criticism, this book casually casts Dickinson as vocally lesbian. This has become a way for academics to "explain" Dickinson to us non-academic dullards, and is ultimately a means of dismissing her supreme importance as an American poet. It's worth asking yourself why a comparable book will never be written/printed (in hardcover, to boot) that "translates" the poems of Whitman, or Frost, or Stevens, each in his way as mysterious and radical as Dickinson.
This is the kind of vanity project graduate programs in literature are producing. They've stayed on top of every trend so long, they simply have nothing to say that's real or useful (i.e. humble).
To say, as the subtitle suggests, that it is "An English-to-English Translation of Emily Dickinson's Complete Poems" could hardly be further from the truth. Most of the one to two line quips (and to call them that is a stretch) have only a faint reference to something in the original but by no means capture anything of substance from the Dickinson poem.
The back cover states "Everything is still there -- flowers, New England, God, Bobolinks, the high mortality rate of the nineteenth century, sexual obsession -- though written out in 'plain speech' ...". Really. What the author doesn't state is that there is very little of those things. What there is in abundance [and somehow I missed those in the original Emily Dickinson poems] are over 100 references to Big Foot, robots, Sigmund Freud, wizards, time machines, and zombies. There are 75 zombie "poems" alone. Is this the author's "attempt to rewrite her poems (with their foreign beauty intact) in 'Standard English.'"?
The book is in fact not an "Emily Dickinson Reader" but, as one reviewer stated, a "vanity project" -- and a juvenile one at that. Legault is not Emily Dickinson's "humble translator" but rather an egocentric amateur.
I would have far less criticism if the author were more honest. If the collection had been presented as a spoof on Emily Dickinson's poems, fine. If he had promoted his own zombitic twist to her poetry, I would have had different expectations. Even so, as another reviewer stated: "This is a joke that would be funny once, maybe twice, but stretching it out into an entire book is kind of overkill...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This has nothing to do with Emily Dickinson. It is someone's sick and loose interpretation of her works.Published 2 months ago by mcdeemom6
I am a great fan of Emily Dickinson's timeless poetry, which is the reason why my daughter sent me this volume. What a poorly written tome! Read morePublished 22 months ago by Elizabeth O'Donnell
I browsed this in the rand mcnally bookstore in soho-- could not find the actual poems. Do you need a whole nother book to read this book? Read morePublished on December 31, 2012 by greimalkin
I really enjoyed reading this along side of Dickinson's poems...anyone who enjoys her poems will enjoy this book...just a fun read.Published on December 18, 2012 by Kathryn E. Brunner
Occasional misfires in the extreme, when Legault's aim is to "interpret" Emily Dickinson's poems. But, I'm glad I bought this book. Yay! Read morePublished on November 28, 2012 by Lois P. Kackley
I'm somewhat of an Emily Dickinson completest. I just wrote a fictionalized book about her, and in the process of researching her life, I purchased every book about Emily I could... Read morePublished on September 21, 2012 by Eric Nixon
I have noted -- with what little capacity I have left for distress --- that the negative reviews of this book have gotten themselves panned by those who evaluated them. Read morePublished on September 9, 2012 by D. Fineman
Oh, did she not write them correctly the first time?
It has been a few years since Legault's last collection. He still has nothing to say.
Do you like Emily Dickinson? Do you like funny things? Then this book is for you. Legault's quips made me laugh, and at the same time made me interested in re-reading... Read morePublished on August 21, 2012 by Michael Smith