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The Inscrutable Brilliance of Anne Carson
March 14, 2013 9:00 PM   Subscribe

Famous writer Anne Carson on ice bats: "I made up ice bats, there is no such thing." (SLNYT)

Anne Carson previously.
posted by Rustic Etruscan (34 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
I feel really dumb for asking this, but, what's an ice bat?
posted by yeoz at 9:12 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


...I mean, it says right there?
posted by en forme de poire at 9:15 PM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I assume it's what you hit ice baseballs with.
posted by aubilenon at 9:16 PM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is fascinating; thanks.

'Carson did admit, in the end, that part of her desire to learn Greek came from her childhood desire to be Oscar Wilde — classically educated, elegantly dressed, publicly witty.

'I asked her when she stopped wanting this.

'"I didn't," she said. "Who could stop? It's unachieved, as yet." '
posted by librarina at 9:18 PM on March 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


Does this have anything to do with the The Pacific Northwest tree octopus (Octopus paxarbolis)?
posted by surazal at 9:20 PM on March 14, 2013


I feel really dumb for asking this, but, what's an ice bat?

Ice bats
posted by birdherder at 9:27 PM on March 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


There is a dreamlike journey into the heart of a glacier, where Geryon meets a flock of ice bats: “They are blueblack. They are absolutely silent. They are the size of toasters.”

Um, she says they're made up? I will stop feeding them then. I guess.
posted by bert2368 at 9:35 PM on March 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


You can actually have your very own ice bat to cuddle and love. I've a tiny inky one hanging from my rearview mirror, currently.
posted by batmonkey at 9:53 PM on March 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


“Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.”
posted by KokuRyu at 10:07 PM on March 14, 2013 [14 favorites]


That photo is perfect.

I'm not a big poetry reader, but I loved The Beauty of the Husband.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:13 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am in the process of moving, and two of the books I didn't want to pack because I didn't want them to be inaccessible to me were Antigonick and Autobiography of Red. Anne Carson is a marvel.

(This is how Antigone describes her unburied brother's body in Antigonick—"sweet sorrymeat for the little lusts of birds." I just cannot.)
posted by bewilderbeast at 10:19 PM on March 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


What a weird, terrible profile — like a workshop exercise in "I'll write about my failure to write." Memo to Sam Anderson: being conscious of your total inadequacy to your subject doesn't actually excuse it. Memo to Sam Anderson's editors: next time, hire someone who actually knows things instead. (Want to read a good, non-dumb take on Carson? Try this by Stephen Burt on Nox from the LRB.)
posted by RogerB at 10:30 PM on March 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


In her day job, Carson, who is 62, is a professor of erratic subjects

Damn hard to get a degree in it though, they keep changing the coursework. And sure the lectures are great, but the lab work...
posted by Smedleyman at 11:28 PM on March 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


Her admiration of ladybugs killed me.
posted by orme at 12:32 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also have an ice-bat. Mine is on a keychain. It hangs out with Big Toe sometimes.
posted by NoraReed at 12:41 AM on March 15, 2013


Well, as mediocre as the article itself might be I didn't know about Anne Carson and so at least I have that to look forward to.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:21 AM on March 15, 2013


I had this vague memory about Oscar WIlde and Greek and viva voce exams and in checking up on the anecdote, found this somewhat extended explanation.

posted by IndigoJones at 3:44 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


According to the LRB, it appears one needs to have worked through the Loebs to properly appreciate her. That's kind of a big prerequisite. It also makes me wonder if her reviewers are somewhat awed by her classical education such that they overestimate the quality of her verse. I've heard a similar quip about Hannah Arendt.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:02 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


leotrotsky, that's not really how her work feels. Some books are more allusive or referential than others, but the quality and beauty of her language doesn't really depend on being conscious of that.
posted by sixswitch at 4:19 AM on March 15, 2013


Does this imply that the ice weasels do not come at night?
posted by tommasz at 4:53 AM on March 15, 2013


There are ice bats in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but unless you've read Homer and Hesiod, you can't really appreciate it.
posted by ersatz at 4:55 AM on March 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Anne Carson's books are amazing and wonderful to read, but reading the profile makes me realize it is less because she is a brilliant author, and more because her brain is just fascinating.
posted by corb at 6:17 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's an ice bat? About .500.
posted by eamondaly at 6:27 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I first came to know her through a friend recommending her Short Talks, which is a collection of little things of brilliance, and which is a nice introduction as well.

Here's a video I just found of her reading from Short Talks, if you want a sample of both the book and her deadpan humour.
posted by onwords at 6:32 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is the ICE-600 bat.
posted by vrakatar at 6:36 AM on March 15, 2013


I feel really dumb for asking this, but, what's an ice bat?

It's what happens when you lock the Aquabats in a freezer.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:05 AM on March 15, 2013


While the profile isn't perfect by any means ("an electric reputation" - really?), I disagree that it's terrible. The NYT article is someone attempting to wrap it's mind around Carson as a person, to embrace her in toto, something I suspect many people would have trouble with.

The NRB article OTOH, has a drab, cursory bio, and then launches into litcrit, ignoring the author entirely. (I only read the free part, so forgive me if I missed something later.)

Call me shallow, but I prefer the NYT, especially as an introduction to someone I'm not familiar with. I provides an intro both to the author and her work, and it does so primarily through her own words, which is a great choice.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:07 AM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I love this. Decreation is one of my absolute favourite books to just pick up and get lost inside of. I really do need to pick up NOX.
posted by Fizz at 7:10 AM on March 15, 2013


What's an icebat? $20, same as in town.

This profile was fascinating. I have no idea if ice bats are real or if Anne Carson is real. Some of her "oddities" would just be considered hip or twee if she were of a different generation like 'She sends really short and really long email', 'its all lowercase ad uses irregular punctuation', 'she uses cute little nicknames for people', 'she and her friend have different stories of how they met'.

It seems the author of this piece confuses quirkyness for brilliance, or at least oversells it as the profile of a presumably brilliant person would be otherwise too bland without making such a big deal about it.
posted by jclarkin at 7:21 AM on March 15, 2013


BATCATRAZ
posted by steef at 8:28 AM on March 15, 2013


According to the LRB, it appears one needs to have worked through the Loebs to properly appreciate her. That's kind of a big prerequisite. It also makes me wonder if her reviewers are somewhat awed by her classical education such that they overestimate the quality of her verse. I've heard a similar quip about Hannah Arendt.

Wait, what? No that's, like, seriously crazy talk. I dare you to read Short Talks and then revisit what you just wrote here.
posted by dersins at 8:30 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anna Carson is a marvel. No joke. Decreation is, as Fizz says, a book to get lost in. Autobiography of Red is captivating and achingly tragic throughout. Yes, there's a fair amount of classical references, but in my opinion, they are meritorious additions and useful allusions, not name-dropping. And I can think of plenty of contemporary poetry where the references read to me like pure "I am in/teach grad school in literature" name dropping sessions. Carson's work isn't like that. It's much more vital, much more upending.
posted by hank_14 at 9:02 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The [LRB] article OTOH, has a drab, cursory bio, and then launches into litcrit, ignoring the author entirely. (I only read the free part, so forgive me if I missed something later.)

I apologize for posting a paywalled link without quoting any of the good parts. Apart from providing a lot more samples than Anderson does of her poetry and discussing how it works and why it is good (and I have to say that I find it baffling that "launching into litcrit" should seem like a problem for an article about a poet), what's really valuable in Burt's article is that it at least begins a discussion of the weird disconnect between her poetry and her reputation, and the interesting fact that she's a poet with a significant following among people who don't seem to read much other poetry. Here are some (disconnected) bits from later in the Burt piece that touch on that, including a mention of an earlier Sam Anderson article on Nox:
You might expect a work so insistent on its own material oddities, so dependent on prior texts, so dead-set against the standard codex book, to receive a warm welcome from the North American avant-garde. Nox did find a rapturous welcome, but not from that quarter. Instead it was celebrated in such places as the New Yorker, where Meghan O’Rourke called it ‘a luminous, big, shivering, discandied, unrepentant, barking web of an elegy, which is why it evokes so effectively the felt chaos and unreality of loss’. New York magazine’s Sam Anderson called it ‘a literary object – the opposite of an e-reader designed to vanish in your palm’, and added: ‘The book radiates a kind of holy vibe.’

Few poets satisfy so clearly Eliot’s criterion for a major poet: each of Carson’s works casts light on all the rest. The future should look at everything she has written, Nox included: it is strange and affecting and hard to forget. But it is hard to imagine that the future will rate Nox as highly as reviewers did. It creates a double bind familiar from memoirs, and from the confessional poetry of two generations ago. If you like it, you like the pathos and the rawness of the personal document; if you don’t like it, you are attacking the genuine evidence of somebody’s real life. But Nox, the box, isn’t real life.

[...]

As for Nox, it is a moving document, a rapt exploration of a few more or less deconstructive ideas, a marvellous object of manufacture, a long trip through a short poem by Catullus, and a minor, memorable occurrence in the career of a major writer. Its rapturous reception testifies – through no fault of her own – to Carson’s celebrity, and to the aura her work holds, with its sources and blank spaces. That reception also testifies – again, through no fault of Carson’s – to the continuing prestige but diminished actual interest that poetry as such seems to hold these days. For many readers, and not a few editors, Nox and its ‘poetry of a kind you’re not used to’ has turned out to be poetry of the most welcome kind: a work you can admire and interpret simply by opening the box and unfolding the pages; a book of poems you don’t even have to read.
posted by RogerB at 9:40 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went back and forth with the article-- on one hand delighted to hear about her and her new collaborations (with a member of Sigur Ros!)-- and on the other hand finding the person written about someone who I didn't quite recognize; at times the writing seemed to characterize some of her work as almost facile, easy to understand and read, which it is not. But I'm glad she's married and happy to be, and writing, and making things up. I'll follow wherever she wants to go.
posted by jokeefe at 9:52 AM on March 16, 2013


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