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Download Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Familys Feuds Audiobook, by Lyndall Gordon Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (352 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Lyndall Gordon Narrator: Wanda McCaddon Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2010 ISBN: 9781400187768
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Award-winning biographer Lyndall Gordon presents a startling portrayal of one of America’s most significant literary figures.

In 1882 Emily Dickinson’s brother Austin began a passionate love affair with Mabel Todd, a young Amherst faculty wife, setting in motion a series of events that would forever change the lives of the Dickinson family. The feud that erupted as a result has continued for over a century. Lyndall Gordon, an award-winning biographer, tells the riveting story of the Dickinsons and reveals Emily to be a very different woman from the pale, lovelorn recluse that exists in the popular imagination. Thanks to unprecedented use of letters, diaries, and legal documents, Gordon digs deep into the life and work of Emily Dickinson to reveal the secret behind the poet’s insistent seclusion and presents a woman beyond her time who found love, spiritual sustenance, and immortality all on her own terms. An enthralling story of creative genius, filled with illicit passion and betrayal, Lives Like Loaded Guns is sure to cause a stir among Dickinson’s many devoted readers and scholars.

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Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alexa | 2/11/2014

    " This was a fantastic read. By fantastic, I mean that I would have thought the story was a fantasy of some demented playwright if Gordon had not had the evidence to back it up. The portrait of Emily Dickinson as a sophisticated and somewhat self-centered woman of the world, despite her recluse status was really fascinating. Gordon shows that Emily was not a shrinking violet, but rather a woman who knew what she wanted and aimed to get it. Gordon shows convincing evidence that Emily was reclusive due to an epileptic condition. But the real focus of the book is on the feud between the Dickinson camp and the Todd camp. Susan Dickinson, sister-in-law and closest friend of Emily Dickinson, first welcomed Mabel Loomis Todd into her home as a friend and piano tutor to her daughter. After hearing Susan read some of Emily's poems, Mabel set her eyes on becoming close with Emily. However, Mabel became the mistress of Susan's husband and Emily's brother, Austin Dickinson, setting off the generations-long feud which centered around who would control Emily's legacy. The details of Austin and Mabel's affair are absolutely shocking for the time period, particularly because of the "arrangement" which Mabel had with her husband, and reads like a modern day soap opera. Gordon details the subsequent battles between Susan's daughter and Mabel's daughter, Millicent. Millicent clearly cared a great deal for academic honesty regarding Emily's poems, but her account was clouded by her mother's bias against Susan. Susan's daughter seems to have cared only for discrediting Mabel's work, done with the consent of Emily's sister Lavinia, in assembling and typing Emily's poems due to her devastating affair with Austin. Gordon has succeeded in writing a fascinating, informative, and thought provoking account of Emily Dickinson and her legacy. My only regret is that I had not recently read Dickinson poems so that I understood all the references. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sarah | 2/11/2014

    " I finally 'get' ED after reading this fascinating bio. A quasi-feminist take on Emily's life positing the fascinating theory that she was hidden away due to epilepsy. Yet she had the strength of character to reject rising peer pressure to center one's life around christianity in mid-nineteenth century New England, as one of the first students at Mt. Holyoke. Her authoritarian brother's wild late-life affair with a twenty-something social climber is an astounding tale and was reflected in ED's last decade of poetry. This book weaves the poetry with excerpts of letters and a narrative that makes for a real page-turner, especially the first two-thirds of the book which focuses on Emily's life (versus the final third that centers on the family fight over her letters and copyright issues after her death). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Blanche | 2/10/2014

    " A remarkable view of a remarkable poet, and the long-lived feuds to control her poetic legacy. I was simply blown away by the amount of source material available: journals, letters, even recordings from first and second generation participants in the battles. This was definitely a view of the poet that I have never seen before, and one that appeared to be well-researched (though the author did occasionally use very dramatic descriptions without making it clear whether she was drawing from actual descriptions in the sources or simply adding her own dramatic flair). Emily Dickinson's life was far more vibrant and passionate than popular culture has assumed; it was delightful to see this poet reclaimed as a woman who truly, in her own way, conducted a personal rebellion against the restrictions on women during that period. Definitely recommended. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lucy | 2/8/2014

    " Meh. Turns out that not only do I not like Emily Dickinson's poetry, I don't like her, her family and her friends. This would be fascinating reading for Dickinson fans, though. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rusty Tobin | 2/5/2014

    " The book is a little slow going at the beginning because the author uses Dickinson's Poetry to prove her points and we all know how obscure the poetry can be. But the author's argument that Dickinson suffered from epilepsy is well argued and the portraits of her family and their feuds is fascinating. A good read, well researched history and satisfying. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Lynne | 2/4/2014

    " I fully agree with one of the other reviewers that this book is so disjointed that it takes real effort to plow through it. The author seems to have been infected with Emily Dickinson's syntax, and not in a good way. Why must she refer to Emily's neck (twice) as a "voice funnel"? One other difficulty, admittedly not of her making, is the Russian-novel-like name confusion over major characters Mabel (Mamma), Millicent, Martha (Mattie), and Maggie. Then there's Susan, Sue, and Sister. Also, after enduring much discussion of the editorial changes made in the various editions of Emily's poems, I hoped for at least a comment on what version was closest to authentic, but no. If it's there, it's buried in the footnotes, and I ran out of patience to dig it up. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David | 1/30/2014

    " I listened to the book. It seemed to start a little slow. Then gradually the myth of the shy lady in white was blown in all directions. The medical and the sexual secrets of the seemingly prude Dickenson family are fascintating. 19th Century New England takes on a much more Eugene O'Neil color than in most of the other things I have read (except the Lizzie Borden story). It really does shed some new light (at least for me) on Emily's poetry and character. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Traci | 1/22/2014

    " This was definitely a good read, and I liked it on many levels. I learned more about Emily Dickinson and her family than I had through 'White Heat' and this biography goes into detail about the feuds surrounding Dickinson's publications after her death. I thought Gordon did an amazing job sifting through the murky waters, and it made me realize that much of what I thought I knew about Dickinson was, in fact, part of the fallacious legends created by those feuding over the rights to Emily Dickinson and her poetry. Truly fascinating! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Andijkl | 1/12/2014

    " I love the idea of the story but it is long and drawn out and very boring "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robin | 1/2/2014

    " Really enjoying the major & minor players in this story whose surnames match the map around here: Leveretts and Montagues, etc. This book demands prolonged sit-downs for reading, which I don't seem to have right now. I don't think I can review it fairly. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lori Cruz | 11/12/2013

    " Interesting book on Emily Dickinson and how events in her family after her death shaped the image, often inaccurate, that was presented to the world. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Darby | 10/10/2013

    " Starting an Emily Dickinson reading binge. Here's the first. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gail Park | 9/11/2013

    " Not the clearest writing, but amazing insights into Emily, her poetry and her family. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kathy Brunner | 7/27/2013

    " I just finished reading this book and WOW...this would make a very good movie...the Dickinson family was anything but a stuffy group of New England people...I will be re-reading this one... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mary Narkiewicz | 4/9/2013

    " A book that transcends time and space. For Emily Dickinson fans, a must read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nadine | 11/19/2012

    " Emily Dickinson's life and poetry are meshed together here in a fascinating way. Experts and amateurs would enjoy this analysis. One of the best on the subject I've ever read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Janet | 4/1/2012

    " Worth the read! I vividly remember struggling with Dickinson in American Literature. I would like to re-read some of her works again. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Angela D | 2/7/2012

    " Not a bad read, but abandoned it half way. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erin Entrada Kelly | 12/23/2011

    " Very interesting approach to Emily Dickinson's life, focusing on the internal familial struggles of the Dickinson clan. Good, compelling reading -- not dry. At times the author assumes too much contemporary familiarity, but it doesn't overly taint the reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carolyn | 12/15/2011

    " Fascinating history of the Dickinson family and the feuds following her death. If this were fiction it would be hard to believe. What a superb film this would make! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kit | 11/23/2011

    " Wonderful, like all of Gordon's writing. Choosing an approach and a person is half the battle in excellent biography, and she really knows how to pick them--and then execute brilliantly. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Seed | 8/25/2011

    " But I don't want it to end yet....must renew from library stat! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Danielle | 7/13/2011

    " I had to give up on this one; nearly 100 pages into it, and I just couldn't take any more. The tone really, really annoyed me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Becky | 5/22/2011

    " A bit too academic in tone at times, but it's obvious that this writer did her homework. Amazing research & this gives me a whole new perspective on ED. She was not the agoraphobic shrinking violet she was made out to be for many years. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tara | 5/9/2011

    " The more legendary a person becomes, the more untruths surround them. And so it is with Emily Dickinson. A fascinating biography, gripping as any novel, which focuses first on Dickinson's life and then on her much-disputed legacy. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Angela | 3/8/2011

    " Not a bad read, but abandoned it half way. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tasha | 12/27/2010

    " Who knew her brother was a fox? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lenore | 12/2/2010

    " A fascinating study of the epic battle to posthumously publish Emily Dickinson's writings. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gail | 11/12/2010

    " Not the clearest writing, but amazing insights into Emily, her poetry and her family. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dereka | 11/7/2010

    " I have been having great luck with audio books recently. This book on Dickinson was comprehensive, superbly researched, and brought the never ending ramifications of the "war between the houses" up to date. "

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About the Author

Lyndall Gordon is the author of Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft, a New York Times Notable Book; Virginia Woolf: A Writer’s Life, winner of the James Tait Black Prize for Biography; and biographies of T. S. Eliot and Charlotte Brontë. She is a senior research fellow at St. Hilda’s College in Oxford, England.

About the Narrator

Wanda McCaddon (a.k.a. Nadia May or Donada Peters) has narrated well over six hundred titles for major audiobook publishers, has earned numerous Earphones Awards, and was named a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine.