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White Heat [Kindle Edition]

Brenda Wineapple
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.00
Kindle Price: $11.84
You Save: $6.16 (34%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

White Heat is the first book to portray the remarkable relationship between America's most beloved poet and the fiery abolitionist who first brought her work to the public. 
As the Civil War raged, an unlikely friendship was born between the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a literary figure who ran guns to Kansas and commanded the first Union regiment of black soldiers. When Dickinson sent Higginson four of her poems he realized he had encountered a wholly original genius; their intense correspondence continued for the next quarter century. In White Heat Brenda Wineapple tells an extraordinary story about poetry, politics, and love, one that sheds new light on her subjects and on the roiling America they shared.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In 1862, Emily Dickinson wrote to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a noted man of letters and radical activist for abolition and women's rights, asking if he would look at her poems. He did and recognized immediately their strange power. As Wineapple points out in this brilliant study, Dickinson's letter marked the blossoming of a complicated lifelong friendship. Although the two met face-to-face only twice, Higginson found Dickinson's explosive poetry seductive. Drawing on 25 years' worth of Dickinson's letters (Higginson's are lost), Wineapple contests the traditional portrait of her as isolated from the world and liking it that way. In her poems and her letters, Wineapple shows, Dickinson was the consummate flirt, a sorceress, a prestidigitator in words. Wineapple resurrects the reputation of Higginson, long viewed as stodgy in his literary tastes (he reviled Whitman) yet who recognized Dickinson's genius and saw her work as an example of the democratic art he fervently believed in. As Wineapple did previously with Hawthorne (Hawthorne: A Life), she elegantly delves into a life and offers rich insights into a little-known relationship between two of the late–19th century's most intriguing writers. 32 photos. (Aug. 13)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics embraced this new angle on the life of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s best-loved poets but also one of the most difficult to understand. While the subject of the book may seem rather narrow, reviewers claimed that Wineapple’s excellent narrative and literary sensibilities keep White Heat from becoming overly obscure. Only the Boston Globe faulted Wineapple for reading too vaguely between the lines, literally, of Dickson and Wineapple’s correspondence and for rehashing older material. Overall, however, the result is a book that balances literary criticism, biography, and history, while never straying too far from the few available facts about Dickinson and her life.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

Product Details

  • File Size: 1415 KB
  • Print Length: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; 1 edition (August 12, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #273,678 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a stellar biography September 7, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Brenda Wineapple's expertise as a biographer is evident on every page. She knows how to handle her massive research without intruding on the main narrative. She knows how to balance conflicting views of her two protagonists, evoking sympathy and admiration for both. She is able to place them deftly in the context of their moment in American history. She reads Dickinson's poems with sensitivity and skill. White Heat deserves the great reception it has received so far, and even surpassed expectations I had after reading reviews in the NY Times and The New Yorker.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional book that belongs in any personal library November 10, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Brenda Wineapple writes an intimate portrait of Higginson and Dickinson with sensitivity and elegance. I was afraid it would be rather dry, but just the opposite is true. The author is heady and scholarly, but the writing takes off like an engrossing story, lifts you with it. There is nothing stodgy or stuffy about this book. The narrative flows with grace, and her prose style engages you with its intelligent delivery. It is thoroughly researched--while reading it, I was brought back in time and place. I saw through their eyes. I was inside of Dickinson and beside Higginson. At Emily's home in Amherst, I easily felt what she felt when she looked out her window.

I look forward to more from this author.
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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even unpublished writers need validation September 2, 2008
At first glance, even from the old photos, they seem like vastly different people. Thomas Wentworth Higginson was a man of various talents. He was a well-traveled writer, yes; but he was also involved in public service and the reform movement, and he was intent on seeking out a certain amount of fame and celebrity for himself. Emily Dickinson was the quintessential homebody who saw the world mostly from her bucolic Main Street window. She wrote poetry that she shared only with close friends or tucked away in the bottom drawer of her dresser. Higginson grew up in the realm of liberal Unitarianism and Harvard College. Dickinson's conservative grandfather was a devout Congregationalist who founded Amherst College. Their families represented the opposite edges of life in New England in the 1800s. Yet it was WORDS that brought these unlikely correspondents together.

With "White Heat," Brenda Wineapple follows the current trend of studying history through dual biography, or vice versa. Odds are good that much of the reading public will recognize only one of the two names listed in the title, for Emily's storied reputation precedes her. Even those who cannot recite her lines by heart "know" that she was a recluse who wasn't published much during her lifetime. But what parts of her myth are true, and which are not? Wineapple does her best to unravel the life of the real Emily Dickinson -- or, at least, as close to reality as we can guess.

Fans of the Transcendentalists know well of Wentworth Higginson, the former minister who was a disciple of Thoreau and one of John Brown's Secret Six. They will have heard something about him becoming Dickinson's literary agent of sorts, publishing her work posthumously. But how did he come to be so involved with her?
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm Nobody! Who are you? June 23, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Like the book's title, this one is from one of Emily Dickinson's poems. "White Heat" is from Dickinson's "Dare you see a Soul at the "White Heat"? As so often happens, one tries to say something about Emily only to discover that, whatever it was, Emily herself already said it better a century and a half ago. We are talking here, after all, about America's greatest poet, an accolade often speciously accorded to Walt Whitman, for an ever-so-American populist reason: ever since "Leaves of Grass" finally made it into public consciousness, late in Whitman's own life, any number of poetaster Modernists have been seeking, with varying degrees of success, to emulate him. Nobody, on the other hand, ever tries to emulate Emily. Even more than Shakespeare, she seems a totally singular poetic event; it's impossible.

No doubt that is something like what Thomas Wentworth Higginson dimly perceived, himself a wannabe poet, from the first day he set eyes on some highly eccentric (by the standards of the time) poetry included in a letter from the unknown spinster daughter of a very good Amherst Massachusetts family, writing to ask whether literary lion Higginson was "too deeply occupied" to spare her a few words of poetic mentorship. Higginson wrote back with some prosaic advice on how Emily might strive to make her work more publishable, together with an admonition not to attempt publication until she succeeded, thus launching a decades-long correspondence that ran right up to Emily's death in 1886.

In all those years, Emily never actually took any of Higginson's advice, Higginson never published any of her poetry, and the two only met in person twice, on occasions that could not have been very gratifying to either of them.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Emily Dickinson wrote over 1700 poems of lyrical complexity about nature, immortality, death and her love of nature. Thomas Wentworth Higginson was a man of Renaissance complexity, brilliance and service to his country. These two nineteenth century figures: a reclusive poetic genius and a man of action are the subjects of Dr. Brenda Wineapple's new duo biography. Wineapple is famous for her previous stellar biography of New England's genius Nathaniel Hawthorne. She knows New England life during the nineteenth century with a literary scholar's thoroughness.
Emily Dickinson "the Belle of Amherst" Massachusetts wrote Thomas Wentworth Higginson a letter asking if he thought her poetry was worthy of being published. He wrote her that her work was excellent. Thus from the early 1860's until her death the two were ardent pen pals
Higginson was a man of letters, an abolitionist who worked with John Brown on the latter's raid on Harper's Ferry in 1859, a U.S. Congressman and an advocate for Women's Rights. Higginson was also the first commander of the African-American regiment the First South Carolina which fought at Fort Wagner in the summer of 1863.
Dickinson corresponded with Higginson until she died in 1886. They met only a few times and their relationship was platonic. Dickinson was red headed and freethinking regarding spirituality. Higginson was deeply involved in the transcendalist circle of Concord Mass. He knew such literary giants as Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowe and Henry David Thoreau. Dickinson would not leave her well to do family's property while Higginson traveled to Europe and saw combat in the Civil War in which he was injured. Higginson wed twice but was probably in love with Dickinson as was she with him.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The soul selecting its own society
As previous reviewers have noted, this superb biography of a friendship not only sheds new light on the genius of Emily Dickinson, but does even more for the unjustly neglected &... Read more
Published 17 days ago by William Timothy Lukeman
5.0 out of 5 stars The biographer has so artfully woven the story of this alliance that...
Two souls whose lives are "laid away in books" but whose influences are quickened and, in Higginson's case, resurrected, here in Wineapple's exquisite dual-biography, have... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Carole
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring
Very difficult to get into. Not worth wasting my time. All the girls in my book club said the same.
Published 10 months ago by Mema
4.0 out of 5 stars A reassessment of Higginson and his effect on Dickinson
This book convincingly reevaluates the friendship between Higginson and Dickinson, finding that both of them got more out of the relationship than is commonly acknowledged. Read more
Published 12 months ago by K. M. Norwood
5.0 out of 5 stars Comparing two biographies
Richard Sewall wrote the definitive biography, but to borrow from Emily Dickinson, Wineapple has "the phosphorescence," while Sewall has the "facts."
Published 13 months ago by Tim McGrath
5.0 out of 5 stars It reads like a novel. Simply engrossing.
As daunting a task as writing a biography of Emily Dickinson can be, Wineapple has managed to put out an engrossing, exquisitely written, rigourous account of the poet's strange... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Magdalena Navarro
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!
This magnificent book taught me much about the elusive, reclusive Emily Dickinson. It also gave great insight into her poems, causing me to rethink even those few I knew well. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mark R. Brewer
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting...
Wineapple thinks she has ESP it seems...however, she's researched this duo pretty well....just can't really tell how "enamored" they might have been...
Published on December 10, 2012 by ohageman
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous
I cannot speak highly enough of this original, engaging, and well-written book. A few mistakes on the Civil War (the author is a little confused about rank and unit size) does not... Read more
Published on April 18, 2011 by Hegelian
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Ever Elucidation of Poet and Poems
When I discovered Emily Dickinson in high school, I discovered poetry--its very essence, its white heat. This has been a life-long love affair. Read more
Published on November 6, 2010 by Olivia H. Diamond
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More About the Author

In addition to 'Ecstatic Nation' (a 'New York Times' "Notable Book") Brenda Wineapple is the author of 'White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson,' a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award, a 'New York Times' "Notable Book," and named best nonfiction of 2008 in 'The Washington Post,' 'The Christian Science Monitor,' 'The Economist,' among many other publications. Her earlier books include 'Hawthorne : A Life,' winner of the Ambassador Book Award for the Best Biography of 2003; 'Sister Brother Gertrude and Leo Stein'; 'Genêt: A Biography of Janet Flanner.' In 2014 she received a the prestigious Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; she's also received a Pushcart Prize, a Guggenheim, an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, and two National Endowment Humanities Fellowships. She is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Society of American Historians, and the New York Institute of the Humanities.

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