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One Secret Thing Paperback – September 30, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (September 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375711775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375711770
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #717,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The ninth outing from Olds (Blood, Tin, Straw) should again please the many admirers of her raw, vivid and often explicit poems, but might surprise few of them—until the end. As in all her books, Olds works in a demotic free verse, driven by rough enjambments and shocking comparisons: she devotes much of her energy (three of five sections here) to sex, remembered pain and parenthood—the dramatic, abusive household in which she grew up and her tender relationship with her own daughter. Olds depicts the traumas of her first decades with undeniable, if occasionally cartoonish, force: When I think of people who kill and eat people,/ I think of how lonely my mother was. Olds can also offer high-volume poetry of public protest, as in the set of sonnet-sized poems against war with which the book begins. What seems new here are Olds's reactions to her mother's last years, and to her mother's death. On an antidepressant, briefly adorable, and then in failing health, my mother sounds like me,/ the way I sound to myself—one/ who doesn't know, who fails and hopes. Both the failures and the hopes find here a voice that takes them seriously. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* An audacious virtuoso, Olds shares perceptions so archaic they predate consciousness and tells of dark deeds worthy of Greek myths transpiring in an otherwise ordinary middle-class, mid-twentieth-century American household. What makes her work so potent is her countering of the shock and shiver of her baroquely bloody revelations with poetic structures so refined and sturdy, they have something of the Shaker about them, minus, of course, the celibacy. Olds is a moralist, and she does believe in confession, in expiation, as long as it is contained in clean-lined, well-keeled vessels. In another breathtaking collection, Olds begins with “War,” a portrait gallery of the displaced, the maimed, and the cruel, iconic poems as haunting as paintings by Goya. She then extends her long series on family trauma, writing with chilling restraint of moments of malevolent selfishness, brutality, and weirdness. But Olds also writes with tremendous assertion about a tormented girl’s revenge as she comes into womanhood, and here Olds sees her fierce mother gentled by age and illness, their terrible adversity canceled as death nears. This is a pivotal collection, and Olds signals a sea change in moments of gleeful self-mockery and resounding catharsis. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By T. Rehfeldt on November 4, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sharon Olds writes beautiful poetry. This collection in particular brings out the range of her work. They are personal, private, provocative, and studied. It is almost like having a discussion about old times with your best friend. She seems to touch on shared experiences, common emotions, and a touch of social history. Perhaps it is because we are contemporaries or that we share many similar experiences, but I find myself returning to her poetry over and over again. She is one of the great modern American poets and commands respect. But much more than that she reaches out to her readers. She says this is the way I handled this maybe it will help you. The purists, who insist on form, scan, and such, might not appreciate the beauty and value of her poetry. But make no mistake, it is poetry and it is beautiful, personal, and useful. What ever your reaction, you will have one, and you should consider it carefully.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A poetry reader on November 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
Actually I don't this IS a dark book. It works very hard to accomodate the illness and death of the poet's mother, to find moments of grace and of tenderness in what seems to have been a difficult life and a relationship characterized by struggle. As in all of Olds's work, there's a sort of examination in service of redemption going on here -- a looking hard at the stuff that experience offers, so we can find it what can be embraced or heldas good. I think that readers struck by the emotional force of this poet's work sometimes don't see how deeply moral it is -- that quest for what can be affirmed, and how a world in which violence or pain is dealt out can also be a location of blessing.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Sceptique500 on February 11, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is much to be said for picking through one own's life middens with a poetic tweezer - acknowledging life's warts, quirks, and farts: ecce humus hac ecce homus. At its best quiet, rather than heroic dignity of the animal in us obtains.
Sharon Olds has found such dignity in past books - and some of her poems are oustanding. The danger is that such poetry may become self-referential. There can be narcissism in contemplating one's own nose pickings. She has not escaped this curse fully this time.
Few artists have tackled successfully the theme of mental and physical decay. Ferdinand Hodler's obsessive sketches of his wife's dying face, as she lay ravaged by terminal cancer, say more about life and love than Renoir's fragrant, and in the end vacuously repetitive portraits of youth.
The last days of Olds' mother are the theme of numerous poems in the later part of this book. It is a difficult theme, for all to esily the living betray the breaking babble of the parting to settle personal accounts. The poem that gives the title to the collection ends with the line: "...my last chance to free myself". Way too much `I'.
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