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The Dead and the Living Kindle Edition

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Length: 97 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The 1983 Lamont poetry selection of the Academy of American Poets.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2181 KB
  • Print Length: 97 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0394715632
  • Publisher: Knopf (December 5, 2012)
  • Publication Date: December 5, 2012
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,064,470 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Fulton on November 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
I discovered Sharon Olds' poetry while reading the anthology The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, which includes several of her poems, most notably (for me) "The Race." I followed through by reading Satan Says and The Dead and the Living. For me, Olds' poetry combines sensuous, keenly observed (and keenly felt), images with searing emotion in a way that achieves an intensity that is, at times, trance inducing. In The Dead and the Living, Olds' writing is grounded in personal family experiences which included, during her childhood, shuddering, shattering incidents of abuse. I found the poems raw, edgy, blunt, earthy, but also subtle, exploring many dimensions of family experience over several genertions. There is something about the work which blends both rage and understanding, an ability to move through without forgetting. Two examples would be the "The Killer" and "The Sign of Saturn" in which Olds reflects on the shadow she sees (or imagines) in her own children. I found The Living and the Dead more alert to the complexity of evil than the earlier book Satan Says, but no more detached from its horror. I'm looking forward to reading her most recent poems to see how her perspectives may have evolved. In my opinion, this a very serious woman (in the best sense of the word serious), who knows her way around both the day world and the underworld and can hold the tension between.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Lilianne R. Escovedo on March 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
If you are reading this you have probably already read Sharon Olds, and liked her enough to go back and look at some of her earlier works, but are fighting a tinge of reservation. Olds can be admired for the sheer raw guts she puts into her poems, the brutal way she expresses her internalized truths. Her honesty is alarming and alluring. But there can be a pariah quality to her, as well. I want to say she has a touch of Madonna in her ethos. At times she can seem to be sneering. This would be insulting, except her writing is so good we want to forgive her, and do - mostly. I find it frustrating when this tone creeps in, as it does here in one or two places. Another disquieting aspect of her writing is the inclusion of some very intimate aspects of her children at various ages and phases. I appreciate her words for their beauty but wonder if her children resent so much exposure. Fortunately, most of the poems in this book are full of clear, blunt prose that revoke the layers of artificiality that can come to accompany our memories of ourselves and the more painful aspects of our personal histories. I find her poems refreshing for this quality (even though thank God I don't have her history). So, although not all poems in this book avoid a self-aggrandizing, mock horror edge, and a few may upset tender sensibilities about what information we need to know about her children in order to understand her as a mother/writer, I enjoyed this book and would even recommend it to readers who have already formed some apprehension toward her work.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book is filled with poetry for "everywoman," and deals with issues such as romantic and sexual relationships, childbirth and childrearing, and physical and verbal abuse.
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Format: Paperback
Sharon Olds, The Dead and the Living (Knopf, 1984)

Sometimes I wonder why I keep trying Sharon Olds books. I generally know what I'm going to get, and it's quite often political screed broken into short lines to resemble poetry:

"You are speaking of Chile,
of the woman who was arrested
with her husband and their five-year-old son.
You tell how the guards tortured the woman, the man, the child,
in front of each other,
'as they like to do.'"
("Things That Are Worse Than Death")

I fail to see what's poetic about it. If you took out the line breaks and read it as prose, there would be no difference whatsoever. Worse, in this volume, Olds also turns the same lack of poetic effect to the confessional poem:

"My bad grandfather wouldn't feed us.
He turned the lights out when we tried to read.
He sat alone in the invisible room
in front of the hearth, and drank."
("The Eye")

To offer a more concrete criticism here, why on earth was the word "bad" not excised in the first line? Did she not think it was obvious? (This may seem a minor criticism to you; rest assured most poets will, when faced with a more difficult decision than this one, agonize over such a thing for days, if not weeks.)

Every once in a while, though, this book does offer up a flash that makes me remember why, in fact, I do keep trying Sharon Olds books: because when she's on her game, the woman can really write. It is unfortunate that she's not often on her game; she lets the message get in the way of the medium on a frequent basis. But there's always just enough of the great writing to balance out the awful writing, and thus I remain trapped in this indecision as to whether I should read yet another Sharon Olds book. This one hasn't pushed me one way or the other. ** ½
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By zanypoet on January 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
I personally like her work and I think The Dead and the Living is best of her work. Other books seems to carry on her train of thought and her style in repetition, kinda like reviewing music. Some band has that same sound and once you've heard it, all their albums sound the same.

Poetry is a lot like music; you either like her style or you don't as witnessed by many negative reviews here. I understand that one may not like her book or style; I'm just taken back by the vindictiveness and the personal nature of the attacks. I'm no poet, or claim to be a poetry teacher, so I'm not going to go into details of deconstructing her poetry and her style or subject matter. Not all of her poems here are gems; there are some duds in the book as well.

All I can say is, judge for yourself; I think her writing is excellent enough that it at least merits consideration. I count her as one of the best of her generation in contemporary poetry.
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