Red Doc> by Anne Carson

14 Apr

Let’s talk about Anne Carson. Or, let’s talk about her presence in my life. If you’ve been reading my posts you’ll remember me mentioning some books a professor once recommended me. Before becoming a Librarian…and sometimes while I’m a Librarian….I used to wonder “what SHOULD I be reading?” instead of “What would I enjoy reading?” And I would ask my professors to give me recommendations. A great idea if I had actually read any of these. A missed opportunity but the point is, back in 2005 or 2006 a professor recommended a book by Anne Carson. It wasn’t until I took this professor’s class on hybridity that I actually read the book she recommended, which was, “The Autobiography of Red.” We were talking about bestiaries and hybrid forms and I totally got into the novel/poetry/whatever. I love when Geryon says he’s a philosopher of sandwiches.

I’ve also read “The Beauty of the Husband” (right before I got married of course) and “Men in the Off Hours” (I remember loving it). So, you could say I’m a fan. I am a fan of Anne Carson, the poet, who lives in Canada. Or did, or, whatever. I missed her speaking in Ann Arbor specifically because I was too nervous that seeing her speak in public (in person!) would ruin my idealized vision of her in my head.

On to the book. When I heard that Anne Carson had a new book out I was so excited! I rushed to Amazon, bought my copy, and waited. And then I got it and I got nervous I would hate it. And then there was this nice interview with her in the New York Times online and then I thought: I definitely need to read this. And then I read a couple of other books.

And then I read it.

The NYT ruined the form a little for me when I found out that it was simply because poor Anne Carson doesn’t know how to use Word properly. But then I thought, well, it’s a happy accident and it was unfortunate that you had to learn about it and can’t try to decipher her decision to write the story like this.

Next: the whole thing felt like a big 70s mod-lit experiment or something. But then I thought, get over it, it’s just because you don’t read a lot of stuff like this. This is what brilliant women write!

And then Anne Carson did what she always does: she writes words that were meant for me and this exact moment in my life. Just like I had been hoping.

I’m going to say it now: Spoilers from here on.

I haven’t exactly been shy about it, my Mom died about 3 months ago. And I’m not going to sugar-coat it, it’s a very big loss to lose your Mother. I know it sounds lame, but I keep hoping I’ll pick up a book and it will tell me what to do next or how to feel next. “Red Doc>” didn’t necessarily do that but it proved to me that there is always something greater than myself working in my life.

While in a lot of ways this review isn’t going to deal with what the book is majorly about, it deals with the loss of Geryon’s Mother. The loss comes late in the book and it hit me hard. I don’t usually cry when reading but then…

I got to this passage: pg 143

“TIme passes Time does not pass. Time all but passes. Time usually passes. Time passing and gazing. Time has no gaze. Time as perseverance. Time as hunger. Time in a natural way.”

and then, pg. 145:

“He brings lilacs from the bush by the corner of her house to which she will probably not return this time. Or ever and he leans his face into them.”

And then I couldn’t stop tearing up, pg. 154:

“In later years this is the one memory he wishes would go away and not come back. And the reason he cannot bear her dying is not the loss of her (which is the future) but that dying puts the two of them (now) into this nakedness together that is unforgiveable.”

Though, not really biographical in my life–I had  a lot of closure and forgiveness with my Mom at the end.

Carson writes on pg. 160:

“He’d almost forgot about the rain. Unloading on the roof and squandering down the gutters. Rain continuous since the funeral a wrecking      rattling bewildering   Lethe-knuckling mob of rain. A rain with no instructions.”

“Listening to rain he thinks how strange all its surfaces sound like the’re sliding up. How strange his mother is lying out there in her little soaked Chanel suit. The weeping has been arriving about every seven minutes. In the days to come it will grow less.”

pg. 162:

“Mothers ashamed and Ablaze and clear / At the end / As they are / As they almost all are, and then / Mothers don’t come around Again / In spring.”

I get it. This isn’t a very good review. But, I hope you take my reaction to reading this book AS a positive review. Much of poetry isn’t just about dissecting and tearing apart, much of it is the reader’s response to poetry and how the words affect the reader. Ann Carson has written a very interesting narrative about what happened to our red friend G in later years. She has flown through genre and plucked the loveliest flowers from each and designed a book around them to delight, mystify, and bewilder. Anne Carson might be the most innovative poets writing today. “Red Doc>” is worth a read but only after you read “The Autobiography of Red” first and only if you promise to let yourself be carried in Ms. Carson’s river of myth, poem, and icebats.


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