Hawthorne: A Life

Hawthorne: A Life

by Brenda Wineapple
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Overview

Hawthorne: A Life by Brenda Wineapple

Handsome, reserved, almost frighteningly aloof until he was approached, then playful, cordial, Nathaniel Hawthorne was as mercurial and double-edged as his writing. “Deep as Dante,” Herman Melville said.

Hawthorne himself declared that he was not “one of those supremely hospitable people who serve up their own hearts, delicately fried, with brain sauce, as a tidbit” for the public. Yet those who knew him best often took the opposite position. “He always puts himself in his books,” said his sister-in-law Mary Mann, “he cannot help it.” His life, like his work, was extraordinary, a play of light and shadow.

In this major new biography of Hawthorne, the first in more than a decade, Brenda Wineapple, acclaimed biographer of Janet Flanner and Gertrude and Leo Stein (“Luminous”–Richard Howard), brings him brilliantly alive: an exquisite writer who shoveled dung in an attempt to found a new utopia at Brook Farm and then excoriated the community (or his attraction to it) in caustic satire; the confidant of Franklin Pierce, fourteenth president of the United States and arguably one of its worst; friend to Emerson and Thoreau and Melville who, unlike them, made fun of Abraham Lincoln and who, also unlike them, wrote compellingly of women, deeply identifying with them–he was the first major American writer to create erotic female characters. Those vibrant, independent women continue to haunt the imagination, although Hawthorne often punishes, humiliates, or kills them, as if exorcising that which enthralls.

Here is the man rooted in Salem, Massachusetts, of an old pre-Revolutionary family, reared partly in the wilds of western Maine, then schooled along with Longfellow at Bowdoin College. Here are his idyllic marriage to the youngest and prettiest of the Peabody sisters and his longtime friendships, including with Margaret Fuller, the notorious feminist writer and intellectual.

Here too is Hawthorne at the end of his days, revered as a genius, but considered as well to be an embarrassing puzzle by the Boston intelligentsia, isolated by fiercely held political loyalties that placed him against the Civil War and the currents of his time.

Brenda Wineapple navigates the high tides and chill undercurrents of Hawthorne’s fascinating life and work with clarity, nuance, and insight. The novels and tales, the incidental writings, travel notes and children’s books, letters and diaries reverberate in this biography, which both charts and protects the dark unknowable core that is quintessentially Hawthorne. In him, the quest of his generation for an authentically American voice bears disquieting fruit.


From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307808660
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/11/2012
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 1,188,151
File size: 7 MB

About the Author

Brenda Wineapple is author of the award-winning Hawthorne: A Life; Genêt: A Biography of Janet Flanner, and Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein. She is also the editor of the Selected Poems of John Greenleaf Whittier in the American Poets Series (Library of America.) Her essays, articles and reviews have appeared in many publications, among them The American Scholar, The New York Times Book Review, Parnassus, Poetry, and The Nation. A Guggenheim fellow, a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, and twice of the National Endowment, she teaches in the MFA programs at Columbia University and The New School and lives in New York City.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Hawthorne 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This thoughtful and graceful biography of Nathanial Hawthorne cogently captures his human complexity, which in turn reflects the polarities of the American character and experience that he vividly described in his self-styled romances: head and heart, reason and emotion, reality and imagination, Puritanism and Quakerism, republicanism and federalism, states¿ rights and national union, slavery and abolition, heritage and freedom, tradition and independence. Brenda Wineapple¿s book skillfully chronicles Hawthorne¿s early and recurrent poverty, peripateticism, Hamlet-like indecisiveness, ambivalence about writing, and tendency to observe rather than to participate in life; and, like a Dickens novel, her work presents the author¿s family and distinguished circle of friends as fully developed and plausibly motivated characters: Franklin Pierce, Emerson, Melville, and, at a greater remove, Stowe, Whitman, and Poe. This volume¿s evident scholarship ¿ it contains more than one hundred pages of notes ¿ is expressed in a highly palatable style that is also educative in its unobtrusive use of words sufficiently uncommon (e.g., atavistic, metonymic, solipsistic) to cause some readers to consult their dictionaries frequently. In sum, this work is the triumphant achievement of an ambitious undertaking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name Dusksong <br> Age ..... <br> Gender Female <br> Appearance Dusksong has white fur with blue swirls. Blue anrd silver wings. And ice blue eyes. <br> Mentor none <br> Former Apprentice/s Second Twilightstar. <br> Family <br> Father Stormclaw <br> Mother Lightmist <br> Sisters, Miststar (tigerclan), Jadelily (tigerclan), Dawnsky (currenly rogue formerly of darkclan) <br> Mate/Crush nope /no<p> Name Razorkit <br> Age 1 moon <br> Gender female <br> Appearance Razorkit has black fur with a bright red paw and tailtip. Her eyes are a bright amber color tinged with green around the pupil and blue towards the outer area. Her wings look and feel as if they are made of metal each feather is paper thin, nearly impossible to melt or bend, and can slice through virtually anything. <br> Family all unknown. <br> Mate/crush just a bit too young dont ya think/ NOOOOO <p> ~Dusksong and Razorkit
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Coming soon!
ROMAN56 More than 1 year ago
MS. WINEAPPLE BRINGS HAWTHORNE TO LIFE; A READ THAT IS SET ASIDE FOR THE READING LISTING FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES AND THE WASHINGTON POST FOR THE CASUAL WEEK-END READER; A BOOK THAT CAN NOT BE PUT DOWN FOR A MOMENT; HER VERSION OF NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE REALLY HELPS TO UNDERSTAND A PERIOD OF AMERICAN HISTORY THROUGH THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HAWTHORNE. TO READ HAWTHORNE IS THE IMPETUS TO READ FURTHER THE WORKS OF HAWTHORNE.