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Starred Review. This biography is informed by two revelations: first, a bombshell that is likely to be debated as long as there are inquiring readers of Emily Dickinson; and second, the effect of a family love affair on the poet's long and complex publishing history. When Dickinson writes I felt a Funeral, in my Brain and punctuates her work in a spasmodic style, Gordon maintains we are privy to the neuronal misfiring of epilepsy. Gordon unearths compelling evidence: the glycerine Dickinson was prescribed, then a common treatment for epilepsy; her photosensitivity; and a family history of epilepsy. The stigma-packed condition, says Gordon, is at least one source of Dickinson's celebrated isolation. Gordon, biographer of Virginia Woolf and Mary Wollstonecraft, also recounts the fallout from the affair between the poet's straitlaced, married brother, Austin, and the far younger, also married Mabel Loomis Todd. In a literary land grab, descendants of the families of Dickinson and Todd (who edited many of Emily's papers) squared off in a fight to control the poet's work and myth. Although deciphering Emily Dickinson's mysterious personality is like trying to catch a ghost, this startling biography explains quite a lot. 16 pages of b&w photos; 2 maps. (June 14)
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Despite a host of books about Dickinson and her work, Lives Like Loaded Guns is full of surprises regarding the poet's life and influences. Although Gordon reaches for conclusions to some of the bigger questions--among them Dickinson's possible epilepsy, her love life, and the complicated relationship she had with her brother, Austin, his wife, and his mistress (who aspired to edit the poet's work)--the author's research into Dickinson's medical records and correspondence breathes fresh air into otherwise settled literary history. In the end, no one disputes that Dickinson lived largely in a world of her own making. So much the better, Gordon ably points out, as it was a place where she could practice art "made at the interface of abandon and decorum." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Editorial Reviews
Gordon's biography of Emily Dickinson is brilliant. It scores Five stars in all areas: research, analysis, and writing. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Ms. Helpful
For anyone who loves Emily Dickinson but is somewhat mystified by many of her poems, this book is a must read. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Ingrid Stocking
Liked it very much. I have a feeling as more information about Emily re-surfaces or is re-evaluated there may be still more to write about.Published 9 months ago by Jane Pronko
Gordon’s extended biographical work “Lives Like Loaded Guns” is certainly an engrossing read, at least while her core protagonists are still in play. Read morePublished 12 months ago by jcappy
A few years before Emily Dickinson died, her married brother Austin, a character out of Hawthorne, began an adulterous affair with an Amherst College faculty wife many years his... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Robert Weir Barrett
This presents a totally different side to Emily Dickinson from the traditional view of her as a great American poet. Family Feud has nothing on the whole Dickinson family. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Dr. John R. Kelley
Lyndall Gordon has brought the publication history of Emily Dickinson up-to-date, revealing data about the struggle between the two factions - the Todd camp and the Dickinson camp. Read morePublished 16 months ago by A Rockland reader
When the Dickinson family moved to Amherst the rockets flew. You have to have an imagination and some knowledge of 19th Century America, but this book doesn't disappoint.Published 16 months ago by Jason D. Walker
Most of us learned about the quiet, white-gowned recluse poet in high school. The woman who never went out, who never married, who never saw anyone and never did anything but... Read morePublished 18 months ago by N.J.