Saturday, February 12, 2011


Thoughtful if a little unnaturally negative review of the Anne Carson book I just finished. Good closing bit I've blockquoted, so read the review here if you've got a mind to or just skip to after the jump. I have a few words to add, but really Carson's work leaves me somewhat...thoughtless (a pun on speechless, I hope you understand), and Steve Harris seems to have gotten down points a lot better than I might.
Some critics doubt that Carson even writes poetry. I think she does write poetry but of a kind unlike any I've read. "Men in the Off Hours" has its ups and downs, for not all the experiments work. But with Carson's writing there is always wit, and usually, underneath the assembled fragments, you detect her passionate heart, which makes it easy to forgive her various sins. But are they sins? Or is Carson writing the modern novel: part prose, part poetry, part essay. How the lines are blurring. Jab. Jab.
I'm still not sure what to make of Carson. The Autobiography of Red is great and everyone who is interested in the ancient Greek classics, the divide between poetry and prose, the question of narrative, or simply just enjoying yourself in a unique book should read it. But still Carson is too dense for me, most of the times. To say blatantly "for not all the experiments work" is to not understand what art is about. Because you aren't experimenting for someone else to learn from you. You are doing it for yourself. I'm agreeing with Li-Young Lee here, as he's the main recent influence, but also because he's right. The experiments did work, or they would have been erased or burned or "crossed out" which is an interesting concept considering the end of the book (and one discussed in the review). But still...

The end of American Psycho is like this. There's a paragraph that ends on an ellipsis. It's actually portrayed well in the movie. "But inside...inside doesn't matter," the scene revolves into. As a writer, you are always rebelling against these sort of thoughts, because language, thoughts, writing, your bread and butter, all of this is inside and all of it is necessary and needs to matter. In The Mentalist there's a scene where Lisbon says something about Patrick Jane making her a better cop, "revolutionizing the industry" we might call his mentalizing if crime-prevention/suspect-catching were an industry, and perhaps it is. Now this amounts to a joke when placed outside of the television program with its apparent irrealities. But still...

Anne Carson appears to be doing something similar with poetry. Or with art. She's an artist, but poet could be debatable. (As I've discussed before, "poet" should be a self-label.) But there's something to be learned or at least gleaned from her work. There's something there. And I don't have it just yet. The problem, of, course, with interior debates is the Bateman stand-by.

"inside doesn't matter"
but our essence/soul/being is inside,
so, if not, what does matter?

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