These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson

Martha Ackmann. Norton, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-393-60930-1
Journalist Ackmann (Curveball), expanding on her Mount Holyoke seminar on Emily Dickinson, recounts 10 days in the poet’s life in this excellent literary study. Some of the days covered initially seem trivial—as when, on Aug. 3, 1845, 14-year-old Dickinson wrote a letter to her school friend Abiah—but Ackmann excels at revealing her subject’s passion and vibrant imagination even in innocuous moments. Others are more distinctly significant, such as Dickinson’s first meeting with longtime correspondent Thomas Wentworth Higginson on Aug. 16, 1870. (Fortunately, Higginson wrote down every detail he remembered, including Dickinson commenting “if I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”) Ackmann freely draws from historical records, poems, and letters, sampling some of Dickinson’s best bon mots, as when, complaining about her chores, she implores, “God keep me from what they call households.” Though far from comprehensive, Ackmann’s account gets to the core of her subject with remarkable clarity. Though the book’s Dickinson can be odd, ethereal, and contradictory, other qualities emerge as well—her humor, charm, and unwavering confidence in her own work. The result is a remarkably refreshing account of one of America’s finest poets. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 12/05/2019
Release date: 02/25/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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