Autobiography of Read
June 23, 2008 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Happy Birthday, Anne Carson! The iconoclastic modern poet who published the arresting, compulsively readable Autobiography of Red turned 57 this weekend.

The Canadian writer has been called “a philosopher of heartbreak” and “unclassifiable” due to her genre-bending novel in prose poetry, though in her own words she is measured and cerebral. Professor of the Classics, recognized as one of the definitive translators of Sappho, Carson’s appealing mastery of ancient literature and contemporary prose has garnered her more mainstream attention than many of her contemporaries, as well as peer accusations of shilling pretentious, anti-bourgeois pastiche, fomenting an intra-critics debate. So where do you stand? Read her poetry for yourself. Enjoy.
posted by zoomorphic (9 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Any encomium of Carson should begin with Eros, The Bittersweet. It's extraordinarily penetrating philosophy and literary criticism, beautifully written and the key (in my mind, at least) to much of her poetry. Her translations of Sappho are masterful. Much like Seamus Heaney, who has single-handedly dragged Beowulf into the 21st century, her Sappho is without peer for its poetic and philological sensitivity. Carson has been for years on my short list of people with whom I'd love to have a long dinner conversation. Or a short and heartwrenching affair.
posted by felix betachat at 8:02 AM on June 23, 2008

Eros, the Bittersweet makes a cameo in the lesbian drama The L Word, and I enjoyed Megan O'Rourke's in Slate (linked above) about how the dialogue on the show oversimplifies Carson's assessment of erotic love: that we experience love as a sense of loss, vacancy, and regret. Carson's ability to mix high-brow academics with evisceratingly clear-eyed emotions is best exemplified in that collection of essays. It's like she has peeled back the thick skin of the world and is telling us what lies underneath.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:15 AM on June 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

zoomorphic, you are may favourite person on Mefi today. Thank you for this.
posted by jokeefe at 8:34 AM on June 23, 2008

Smorgasbord of shrimp! Despite being very interested in poetry for like 30 years now, I had never heard of Carson until Laurie Anderson mentioned her in an interview I read a couple of weeks ago before heading to Toronto to interview Anderson herself about her new multimedia show Homeland. Then I found a number of Carson's books in local bookstores, and could certainly see why Anderson was impressed -- even possibly influenced -- by Carson's work. She's an astonishingly original writer.
posted by digaman at 8:47 AM on June 23, 2008

Ode to the Sublime by Monica Vitti is one of my all-time favorites. I love to read it aloud. Thanks for this, zoomorphic!
posted by Uccellina at 8:51 AM on June 23, 2008

I proselytize my friends using Autobiography of Red, as I find it to be Carson's most accessible book, and a good launching point for the rest of her work. Carson's writing is the Open Sesame for weaseling into my pretentious, English-majoring, overly-literate heart. A boyfriend of mine read AoR in college and deemed it "depressing," which was our dealbreaker. AoR, The Glass Essay, and Eros, the Bittersweet are among the most soulful, modern, steely pieces of literature I've ever read.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:46 AM on June 23, 2008

Lovely post. And thanks for thoses notes, felix betachat. I was just leaving for the bookstore.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 12:49 PM on June 23, 2008

Thanks for this, zoomorphic. Anne Carson is a favorite of mine, and it's fascinating to read others' opinions of her work.
posted by dizziest at 3:31 PM on June 23, 2008

A great teacher too. I took a Classics course from her as a sophomore, and it remains one of the most informative and enlightening educational experiences I've had.
posted by O Blitiri at 4:43 PM on June 23, 2008

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