Anne Sexton by Diane Middlebrook
A Biography

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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.

About Diane Middlebrook

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Published January 1, 1991 by Houghton Mifflin. 491 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Linda even tries to take care of her mother, but it is not until she reaches high school that they become friends: ""At last she seemed to like me."" As Linda matures, she learns about writing, particularly from Anne and her friend Maxine Kumin, but she also struggles to free herself of her mother.

Oct 05 1994 | Read Full Review of Anne Sexton: A Biography

Kirkus Reviews

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That remains, in spite of the tapes, a mystery, one of universal interest relevant to the large issues of poetry, madness, and suicide, but only tangentially related to the feminist thesis that Middlebrook prefers to associate with Sexton: a typical victim, she says, of society's repression of wo...

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Publishers Weekly

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Middlebrook's balanced biography reconstructs the life of the late poet in extraordinary detail.

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Entertainment Weekly

Given that the only exact thing about the science of psychoanalysis is the fee charged, it seems superfluous to get excited about a single indiscretion, especially since Dr. Orne had done his best by Sexton — he gave her sound advice by encouraging her to write poetry, which kept her going for 16...

Sep 06 1991 | Read Full Review of Anne Sexton: A Biography

London Review of Books

Among Sexton’s ‘credentials for acceptance in poetry’, Showalter cites her salesmanship and marketing, together with her mental illness: her ‘having graduated from a number of Boston’s finest mental establishments and finally, with the class of 1973, becoming an alumna of McLean Hospital, alma ma...

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Arts Fuse

Skorczewski: When I listened to sessions in which Sexton sought connection with Orne, I was struck again and again by how Orne missed her efforts to reach him and instead focused on her problems dealing with “reality.” True, Sexton hid from her pain, which was part of the reason that Orne asked h...

Apr 19 2012 | Read Full Review of Anne Sexton: A Biography

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