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These Fevered Days: Book summary and reviews of These Fevered Days by Martha Ackmann

These Fevered Days

Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson

by Martha Ackmann

These Fevered Days by Martha Ackmann X
These Fevered Days by Martha Ackmann
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2020
    304 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

An engaging, intimate portrait of Emily Dickinson, one of America's greatest and most-mythologized poets, that sheds new light on her groundbreaking poetry.

On August 3, 1845, young Emily Dickinson declared, "All things are ready" and with this resolute statement, her life as a poet began. Despite spending her days almost entirely "at home" (the occupation listed on her death certificate), Dickinson's interior world was extraordinary. She loved passionately, was hesitant about publication, embraced seclusion, and created 1,789 poems that she tucked into a dresser drawer.

In These Fevered Days, Martha Ackmann unravels the mysteries of Dickinson's life through ten decisive episodes that distill her evolution as a poet. Ackmann follows Dickinson through her religious crisis while a student at Mount Holyoke, which prefigured her lifelong ambivalence toward organized religion and her deep, private spirituality. We see the poet through her exhilarating frenzy of composition, through which we come to understand her fiercely self-critical eye and her relationship with sister-in-law and first reader, Susan Dickinson. Contrary to her reputation as a recluse, Dickinson makes the startling decision to ask a famous editor for advice, writes anguished letters to an unidentified "Master," and keeps up a lifelong friendship with writer Helen Hunt Jackson. At the peak of her literary productivity, she is seized with despair in confronting possible blindness.

Utilizing thousands of archival letters and poems as well as never-before-seen photos, These Fevered Days constructs a remarkable map of Emily Dickinson's inner life. Together, these ten days provide new insights into her wildly original poetry and render a concise and vivid portrait of American literature's most enigmatic figure.

16 pages of black-and-white illustrations

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[E]xcellent....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." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Radiant prose, palpable descriptions, and deep empathy for the poet's sensibility make this biography extraordinary." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"The compelling, eminently readable, novel-like style of Ackmann's writing makes this new take on the poet's artistic and personal growth highly recommended for both scholars and casual readers long captivated by the 'Belle of Amherst.'" - Library Journal

"This utterly enchanting book invites us into the world Emily Dickinson inhabited and made. With exquisite sensitivity to poet and place, Martha Ackmann illuminates a life simple and complex. Treasures abound on every page." - Ellen Fitzpatrick, author of The Highest Glass Ceiling

"These Fevered Days is a contemplative, sometimes lyrical effort to unlock several of the most important moments of Emily Dickinson's mysterious life. The book brings readers deeply into Emily's world: the sights she sees from the window of her room, the people with whom she corresponds, the sounds of daily life on the streets of nineteenth-century Amherst. Weaving together numerous sources, Ackmann's narrative provides thoughtful insights into both the poet and her craft." - Julie Dobrow, author of After Emily

"Gifted storyteller Martha Ackmann deciphers with fresh and compelling insights ten transformational moments in the development of Emily Dickinson's mind. These Fevered Days invites us into the experiences that led Dickinson to assert her ambitions as an artist and decisions as a poet with a vivid immediacy rare among biographical works."- Jane Wald, executive director, Emily Dickinson Museum

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Author Information

Martha Ackmann Author Biography

Photo: Donna Cote

Martha Ackmann is a journalist and author who writes about women who have changed America. Her essays and columns have appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Los Angeles Times. She also is a frequent commentator for New England Public Radio, and has been featured on CNN, National Public Radio, and the BBC.

Martha's award-winning books include The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight, Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone, First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League, and These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson. A theatrical adaptation of Curveball premiered Off Broadway in 2019. Toni Stone, written by playwright Lydia Diamond, was a New York Times Critic's Pick and the Wall...

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