ALGBCI confess that when I first received this book, I thought it would be a fictional account of Emily Dickinson’s life. Mind you, that wasn’t the case. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is a biography based on Emily’s letters and poetry to various people along the way.

Via these letters and poems, Jerome introduces the reader to a different side of Emily. We see her vulnerabilities, uncertainties, and desires come through with every turn of the page. Growing up, I always thought of Emily as a lonely spinster who never surrounded herself with that many people. Reading through these letters, poems, and various accounts from the people Emily once knew, I was able to see to that what I previously thought of her was not the case.

Jerome shows us a woman who knew exactly what she was doing back in the day. A woman, though quiet, at times, who was not afraid of speaking her mind. She was not afraid of being who she was with her family and the world around her. Granted, she kept to herself, more often than not, but she did so in a way that prevented others from exploiting her privacy.

A Loaded Gun definitely captures the reader’s interest and keeps it with every turn of the page. We’re able to glean more of the woman Emily Dickinson became. Emily was never afraid of experimenting with the world around her. She gave as good as she got. A thought-provoking read, this is a book I recommend for those who’d love to get more insight on all things Emily.




“Remarkable insight . . . [a] unique meditation/investigation. . . . Jerome Charyn the unpredictable, elusive, and enigmatic is a natural match for Emily Dickinson, the quintessence of these.” —Joyce Carol Oates, author of Wild Nights! and The Lost Landscape

We think we know Emily Dickinson: the Belle of Amherst, virginal, reclusive, and possibly mad. But in A Loaded Gun, Jerome Charyn introduces us to a different Emily Dickinson: the fierce, brilliant, and sexually charged poet who wrote:

My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun—

Though I than He— may longer live
He longer must—than I—
For I have but the power to kill,
Without—the power to die—

Through interviews with contemporary scholars, close readings of Dickinson’s correspondence and handwritten manuscripts, and a suggestive, newly discovered photograph that is purported to show Dickinson with her lover, Charyn’s literary sleuthing reveals the great poet in ways that have only been hinted at previously: as a woman who was deeply philosophical, intensely engaged with the world, attracted to members of both sexes, and able to write poetry that disturbs and delights us today.

Jerome Charyn is the author of, most recently, Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories, I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War, and The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson: A Novel. He lives in New York.


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Jerome&ChloeIbyJorgAbout The Author:

Jerome Charyn was born and raised on the mean streets of the Bronx. He graduated cum laude from Columbia College. He has taught at Princeton, Columbia, Stanford, Rice, was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the City University of New York and is currently Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the American University of Paris. Charyn is a Guggenheim Fellow and has twice won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. His stories and articles have appeared in The Atlantic, Paris Review, Esquire, American Scholar, New York Review of Books, New York Times, Ellery Queen and many other publications. Charyn’s most recent books are The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, I Am Abraham and Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories. His latest book is A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century.

Charyn writes:

I was born in the mean streets of the Bronx and have remained a city wolf, dividing my time between New York City and Paris. I grew up reading comic books and watching movies; you can see their influences in my books. I started writing novels at the age of eleven; Amazon carries 50+ titles, fiction and non-fiction.

I love Emily Dickinson’s poems and William Faulkner’s novels. I also love Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” which has the feel of a novel. (I wrote a book about Tarantino, “Raised by Wolves,” after the film’s release.)

My novel “The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson,” published in 2010, inspired a community of more than 8,000 Emily Dickinson Facebook fans dedicated to the private poet’s place in the 21st century.

Dickinson is also the subject of my next non-fiction book, “A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century” (March 2015, Bellevue Literary Press.)

I invite you to join me on Facebook for “The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson” or “Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories.” Or visit my website:

BREAKING NEWS: My eleven cult crime novels featuring New York detective Isaac Sidel have been re-released as eBooks by Open Road. Sidel is known as the “Jewish Philip Marlowe.” There’s an animated drama TV series in the works.

I am always happy to hear from my readers. Write me directly at



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