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Extended Audio Sample Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Familys Feuds, 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:
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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 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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. "

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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.