Mark Traphagen | September 14, 2010
In “Holyoke,” the first section of The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, we saw Emily taking the first steps outside the tight confines of Squire Dickinson’s West Street home. There she does things she never would have dared to attempt while under her Father’s ever-vigilant eye, including the pursuit of a forbidden man, her “burglar” Tom. She also has an up-close-and-personal encounter with the revivalist religion of her day, and says, “No, thank you.”
In this second section, Emily comes home, but she will never again be satisfied with just being her Father’s “sweet Dolly.” She begins to explore the wilder side of the Amherst beyond her dooryard, and we are increasingly unsure how much of this happens in “reality” and how much in her fantasies and dreams.
Mark Traphagen | September 13, 2010
It is odd and slightly ironic that one of the most frequent criticisms leveled at The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson (hereinafter The Secret Life) was that it suffered from a lack of citing Miss Dickinson’s poetry. While it may be true that there are very few quotations of her poems in the book, from the very first words, we are fully in the realm of poetry, in her own voice (as author Jerome Charyn imagines it):
“Tom the handyman is wading in the snow outside my window in boots a burglar might wear” (17).
It is imagery true to the Emily we know through her poetry.
Moreover, it introduces one of the central characters (and primary resident of Emily’s dreams), the fictitious Tom Harkin (or Tom the Handyman). Tom is an orphan rescued by the headmistress of Holyoke Female Seminary and taken in to be the school’s handyman. He is forbidden any contact with the female students, thus (along with his shock of blond hair) making him instantly the object of Emily’s desire.
Mark Traphagen | September 11, 2010
This entry is part of a series, Secret Life of The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson» Image via Wikipedia After The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson author Jerome Charyn came upon my review of his novel, he wrote to me on Twitter that “it really is about Emily’s dream life and you’re the first one […]
Mark Traphagen | August 21, 2010
It’s been a while since I read a novel that truly fit the old cliche “page turner.” I can truly say, though, that I only ever put my copy of Gates of Fire down because of the necessities of life. It gripped me from page one and did not let go.
Gates of Fire is so much more than an attempt to recreate the legendary last stand of a handful of Spartan warriors against multitudes of Persian invaders, though it accomplishes that task beautifully. It also manages to serve as a philosophical treatise on courage, brotherhood, sacrifice, dedication, love, and a host of other themes without ever becoming pedantic or boring.
Mark Traphagen | August 20, 2010
One approach to innovation and brainstorming is to wait for the muse to appear, to hope that it alights on your shoulder, to be ready to write down whatever comes to you.
The other is to seek it out, will it to appear, train it to arrive on time and on command.