That’s what I thought, too.
But here I am, ready to tell you what I think of The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, by Jerome Charyn, and I haven’t even finished it.
(This is what happens when you sign up to be part of a book tour. I could have begged off, but, really, it’s okay. Maybe it’s even more entertaining this way.)
First off, I need to address the fact that I’m not done with the book. I’m about halfway through it. There might be a huge unveiling waiting for me.
I haven’t put this book down yet, because it’s entertaining. I do like it. It just took me a little bit to get used to the style of writing (which is appropriate to Dickinson’s 19th-century life) and immerse myself in the story.
It took me 50 pages or so to figure things out.
I attribute this to the fact that I’m a bit slow on the uptake of late. (My excuse, as always, is blame the baby.)
I don’t know much about Emily Dickinson, and I’m not even really sure I care. (Don’t throw tomatoes…yet.)
Why did I sign up for this book tour, then?
There was something irresistible in the first paragraph of the email I received:
Jerome Charyn has been writing some of the most bold and adventurous American fiction for over forty years. His ten-book cycle of novels about madcap New York mayor and police commissioner Isaac Sidel inspired a new generation of younger writers in America and France, where he is a national literary icon. Now, adding to his already distinguished career, Charyn gives us The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, an audacious novel about the inner imaginative world of America’s greatest poet. Channeling the devilish rhythms and ghosts of a seemingly buried literary past, Charyn has removed the mysterious veils that have long enshrouded Dickinson, revealing her passions, inner turmoil, and powerful sexuality.
“Powerful sexuality” is a selling phrase (and, in fact, I might have passed on it if I had thought of what that phrase could mean…been there, read that, no thanks). Emily is quite a character without the selling phrase. Her inner life, in this novel, makes me chuckle–at her AND at myself.
Dude. I so talk to myself and roll things around in my mind. Does that mean I have a secret life?
For me, this book is an exploration of a writer. I’m a lot different from this writer, which makes the whole thing even more interesting to me. She was an old maid, but she had a great dog. She didn’t have three little kids nipping at her heels, but she did have characters in her family and her life.
In this novel, Charyn explores a totally different way of life. Most writers and authors are introverts, and maybe this book gives us a glance at what her life was like, though we don’t know for sure.
Charyn crafts an intriguing novel and I’ll admit, too, that I’m curious about his other work.
I’ll be finishing this book. And if you read it, I’d love to hear what you think!
You can read more about The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson (by people who HAVE actually finished the book!) at the book tour website. You can also read the first chapter and find links to purchase the book.