Anne Sexton: A Biography

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Overview

Anne Sexton began writing poetry at the age of twenty-nine to keep from killing herself. She held on to language for dear life and somehow -- in spite of alcoholism and the mental illness that ultimately led her to suicide -- managed to create a body of work that won a Pulitzer Prize and that still sings to thousands of readers. This exemplary biography, which was nominated for the National Book Award, provoked controversy for its revelations of infidelity and incest and its use of tapes from Sexton's psychiatric...
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Overview

Anne Sexton began writing poetry at the age of twenty-nine to keep from killing herself. She held on to language for dear life and somehow -- in spite of alcoholism and the mental illness that ultimately led her to suicide -- managed to create a body of work that won a Pulitzer Prize and that still sings to thousands of readers. This exemplary biography, which was nominated for the National Book Award, provoked controversy for its revelations of infidelity and incest and its use of tapes from Sexton's psychiatric sessions. It reconciles the many Anne Sextons: the 1950s housewife; the abused child who became an abusive mother; the seductress; the suicide who carried "kill-me pills" in her handbag the way other women carry lipstick; and the poet who transmuted confession into lasting art.

Nominated for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, controversial for its revelations of infidelity and incest and for its use of tapes released by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet's psychiatrist, this bestselling biography is a brilliant and compassionate portrait of a woman who thrived on making shock waves--in her work and in her life. 43 photographs.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A wonderful book, just, balanced, insightful, complex in its sympathies and in its judgment of Sexton both as a person and as a writer... a deeply moving account."-- The New York Times Book Review

"Judicious and canny. [Middlebrook] appreciates both Sexton's gifts as a poet and her attractive side as a human being...but looks at her destructive weaknesses with a steady eye." -- Time

"Sympathetic but resolutely unsentimental ... intelligent, sensitive, at times harrowing." -- Joyce Carol Oates, Washington Post Book World

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Middlebrook's balanced biography reconstructs the life of the late poet in extraordinary detail. Photos. New afterword. Author tour . Nov. no mention of controversy over use of tapes, and ensuing bestsellerdom? surely this is what new afterword is about/we don't have information on this/also it never hit PW's bestseller list/pk
Library Journal
In this rich and enthralling biography of American confessional poet Sexton, Middlebrook (English, Stanford) approaches Sexton's life and work with a masterful balance of objectivity and empathy, weaving a compulsively readable tale of Sexton's transformation from housewife to award-winning poet while she battled severe mental illness. Middlebrook's analysis of the relationship of Sexton's illness to her art is rendered more immediate and more powerful by her skillful use of tapes of Sexton's psychotherapy sessions. Avoiding literary and psychoanalytical jargon, Middlebrook judiciously assesses Sexton's work and describes the familial, psychological, and sociological determinants of Sexton's illness, which finally drove her to suicide in 1974. Highly recommended for research collections in literature and women's studies, for collections in psychiatry, and for general readers, even if it were not the only biography of Sexton available. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/91.-- Ellen Finnie Duranceau, MIT Lib., Cambridge
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679741824
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/20/1992
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 498
  • Sales rank: 517,506
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.27 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2006

    Okay read but a little disappointed

    I am an fan of Anne Sexton's work. I recommend the read for any Sexton lover. It was interesting to learn about Sexton's conversations with Dr.Orne. The transcripts give an invaluable look into Sexton's inner psyche. I was disappointed with Middlebrook's style of writing. She often gives her literary perceptions of Sexton's work which were dull in spots and tedious in reading. But, this book does give more factual information about Sexton's life. 3 stars sums it up ok but not great.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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