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Eros the Bittersweet

4.43  ·  Rating Details ·  1,450 Ratings  ·  105 Reviews
A book about love as seen by the ancients, Eros is Anne Carson's exploration of the concept of "eros" in both classical philosophy and literature. Beginning with: "It was Sappho who first called eros 'bittersweet.' No one who has been in love disputes her. What does the word mean?", Carson examines her subject from numerous points of view and styles, transcending the const ...more
Paperback, 189 pages
Published March 1st 1998 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1986)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Oct 02, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lovers
If something terrible happens to me one day, and all that's left is my body, and if, around the same time, something terrible should happen to Anne Carson and all that's left is her brain, I would hope that somehow medical science and luck would combine, and allow these terrible accidents to be resolved through a relatively happy solution, by which one of us (not Ms. Carson) would be greatly improved.
Anthony Vacca
Jun 05, 2014 Anthony Vacca rated it liked it
Anne Carson’s debut book is certainly an impressive piece of scholarship, which, for this particular reader, made this both a pleasure and a burden to trudge through. Summoning her impressive knowledge of Greek drama, prose (both philosophic and fictional) and poetry, Carson conjures a daring argument about the symbiotic and triangular connections between words on a page, their writer and their reader, with the notion of “desire” as the Spanish Fly that keeps all the sweaty limbs and soiled ...more
Laura Leaney
Nov 24, 2013 Laura Leaney rated it it was amazing
In one of her chapters Anne Carson writes, "Imagine a city where there is no desire. Supposing for the moment that the inhabitants of the city continue to eat, drink and procreate in some mechanical way; still, their life looks flat. They do not theorize or spin tops or speak figuratively. Few think to shun pain; none give gifts. They bury their dead and forget where [ . . . ] A city without desire is, in sum, a city of no imagination."

Carson's elucidation of this idea - that desire is what mov
Grace Hobbs
Jul 08, 2013 Grace Hobbs rated it it was amazing
There are no words for how perfect this book is. A gorgeous exploration of the edges of personhood, letters, desire. Endlessly fascinating and utterly engrossing. I couldn't put it down. I want to fall in love.

A sample from a favorite passage:

"The English word 'symbol' is the Greek word symbolon which means, in the ancient world, one half of a knucklebone carried as a token of identity to someone who has the other half. Together the two halves compose one meaning. A metaphor is a species of sym
Feb 06, 2016 yarrow rated it it was amazing
Anne Carson, following Sappho, argues that Eros is a lack, a wound, a gesture toward a wholeness that's only possibility exists in our total self-annihilation. This sort of also describes my relationship to this book. I can only read it as a void, a gaping hole in myself, knowing that I will never make something so perfect.
Aug 28, 2008 Ashley rated it it was amazing
I have to admit, I read this book because oh-so-literary characters on "The L Word" dropped the name while flirting. And again, I admit, I have also tried to talk about this book while hitting on women.

Why? Because this book, so thick with Carson's immense knowledge of classical literature, is also incredibly romantic.

To the Greeks, the idea of writing itself was relatively new. Instead of telling stories orally - a setting that allowed the listener and speaker a closeness with the words, beca
Sep 27, 2013 Troy rated it liked it
Shelves: theory, read-in-2013
I was in pain when I read this. Wanted a guide to the mysteries of love and lovepain and Carson had just cracked me open with The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos . (What was Kafka's thing about a great book cracking open the ice berg of the soul? Wait... let me look for it: "A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.") So I wanted more. More insight. More guides to the mysteries. But this book wasn't that. This book, instead of being a guide, inste ...more
Jun 28, 2015 Matthew rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
"It is arguable, then, from the way they wrote and the tools they used, that ancient readers and writers conceived the Greek alphabet as a system of outlines or edges. But let us penetrate beyond the physical procedure of their writing to the activity of mind that informs it. It is an activity of symbolization. Being a phonetic system, the Greek alphabet is concerned to symbolize not objects in the real world but the very process in which sounds act to construct speech. Phonetic script imitates ...more
Aug 21, 2007 Luisa rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Poets, Helenistic Studies
Do you know how what we call "love," came to be? Anne Carson does. She examines the nuances of love, through the lens of Greek fragments and culture. Her chapter titles: "Ruse," "Tactics," "The Reach," pars out the subtleties of desire with all its paradoxical underpinnings. If you've ever wondered if your lover was playing a "game," read this book to understand the impossibility and awesome responsibility for wanting what you want, denying it so you can eventually enjoy it, and where honesty ...more
Apr 08, 2015 Nicole rated it it was ok
It's all coming back to me now, why I dislike this kind of theoretical, transhistorical argument grounded in a series of close readings. The author appears to believe that she has stumbled upon a deep psychological, even ontological, truth which transcends all context and time, as well as any counter-examples. This is an enormous claim, and it would take something verging on religious faith to countenance it based on what it presented here. My own personal experience is an important ...more
Jan 17, 2016 Abby rated it it was amazing
“Eros is always a story in which lover, beloved and the difference between them interact. The interaction is a fiction arranged by the mind of the lover. It carries an emotional charge both hateful and delicious and emits a light like knowledge. No one took a more clear-eyed view of this matter than Sappho.”

What must it be like to have Anne Carson’s mind? What does she think about while eating breakfast or tying her shoelaces? Perhaps eros and every shade of its meaning from Sappho to the presen
Aug 20, 2016 Anders rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book! I had read some of Carson's translations of Euripides (from her collection called Grief Lessons, which also features some really interesting but small commentary on, in the same vein as this book, the concepts of grief and rage in Greek tragedy) and thought they were pretty good and then I found this at one of my favorite bookstores in Astoria.

First and foremost this book is about conceptually mapping eros and what it meant for the ancient Greeks. Carson's analysis is
Sep 06, 2011 Mike rated it it was amazing
Ruth read this earlier and I decided to give it a go. And Ruth is right—it's a great book. I would add that if anyone is actually going to write about Heraclitus, as I would like to have happen, Anne Carson is the person to do it. For one thing, she spells the greek names with "k's" instead of "c's." This might seem pedantic, but when I thought about it, it made sense for two reasons. First, the ancient Greeks didn't have the letter "c." And second, Anne Carson devotes a great deal of thought to ...more
Kate Wyer
Jan 08, 2013 Kate Wyer rated it really liked it
"Infants begin to see by noticing the edges of things. How do they know an edge is an edge? By passionately wanting it not to be. The experience of eros as lack alerts a person to the boundaries of himself, of other people, of things in general..

If we follow the trajectory of eros we consistently find it tracing out this same route: it moves out from the lover toward the beloved, then ricochets back to the lover himself and the hole in him, unnoticed before. Who is the real subject of most love
Jan 09, 2011 Ruth rated it really liked it
What can we learn about romantic love by looking at ancient greek poetry? I would have said I don't particularly care but Anne Carson's writing, ever poetic in itself even when it's in the form of essays, drew me in. And there's actually a lot to connect to- like, when I go to the movies, why is it that the best moments in an eros-related story are the ones before they hook up, from the moment you realize it's a possibility until when it actually happens (or doesn't happen- it almost doesn't ...more
Jessica Bicking
Jul 25, 2016 Jessica Bicking rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers, learners, thinkers
Recommended to Jessica by: Susan Sontag, sort of.
As my background in literary analysis, as well as my knowledge of mythology and greek poetry is more than just meager, I'm sure a good deal of what Carson was trying to tell me went straight through my head, unnoticed. Nevertheless, reading about Eros, the indeed bittersweet has been one of the most enlightening rides in a long time. Carson isn't only impressively learned across a number of disciplines, but her writing -despite its academic packaging- is conveying a humane intimacy, a witty and ...more
Aug 15, 2014 Will rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ancient-world
Here are some things I learned while reading my bajillionth Anne Carson book: I don't understand love. Greek philosophy confuses me, but I love it. The chase really is better than the catch. Time is weird. I love love.
Feb 21, 2008 Dawn rated it it was amazing
bought at the strand and read in a bar on the lower east side when you could still smoke indoors and was I a smoker, fucking yes I was.
Francisca Pageo
El gesto del hombre es muy libre, muy calculado. Debería experimentarse el mismo impacto erótico que al principio. Ella aparece con el pelo despeinado como la víspera, en la cama. Se deja quitar la toca, se deja hacer, la víspera, el amor.

Ella baja los ojos. Mueca incomprensible. Juega con algo que hay en el suelo.

Levanta los ojos hacia él. Él dice con una lentitud enorme: me das muchas ganas de amar.

Hiroshima Mon Amour, Marguerite Duras

Además de poeta y traductora, Anne Carson también es ensayi
Heather Fowler
Jul 18, 2012 Heather Fowler rated it it was amazing
There is something intoxicating about reading a scholar who brings erudition and poetic vision to a creative analysis of desire. This book, via a discussion of Sappho and other figures, proves a stunning, trans-textual analysis of variations on the constructions of amorous triangulation, whether that which is seen between three people entangled, viewers and lovers, or those triangulations created by either physical distance or prose via correspondence. It is an essay/adventure, which is ...more
Dec 03, 2009 Rae rated it really liked it
Relatively recently, I realized I didn't have a working definition for eros anymore - that it had expired. Of course that meant it was time to review my Anne Carson: I haven't read this book in almost a decade. Surprisingly, I didn't find myself connecting with this one as much as I used to. She's so elegant in her respect for scholarship and original, lyric travel - and I so enjoy being at her intellectual command - but on this reading I really saw how much of her definition of eros is about ...more
Nov 02, 2015 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essay, canadian
[Update] I'm re-reading it (as I hoped I would), and it is so interesting and provocative. I am understanding it differently than I did the first time through, moving all my old book darts to new locations. Anne Carson makes me feel so inadequately educated! I would love to study this book in a class that also covered the source material. Maybe I'd like to be a closet classicist.

[Original] Extraordinary book, and one I'll be returning to again and again, I hope. Beautiful and provocative discus
Jamie Bernard
Aug 04, 2016 Jamie Bernard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016-bruh
I keep running into beautiful little books. Presents a very compelling argument about the relationship between knowledge and Eros and brings together Socrates and Sappho in a way that I didn't think possible. Made me want to reread Plato and dive more deeply into Sappho. Anne Carson writes academic prose that manages to feel like poetry.
Jun 26, 2007 Alexander rated it it was amazing
I teach from this book also. It's a fantastic read for anyone who enjoys language and thinking about the time when written language first appeared for the Greeks, and they thought it was a dangerous new technology that would destroy intellectual life.
Nobody should tell another human being "I love you" without reading this amazing book. (Once they have, they might not want to. Unless they say it to Anne Carson.)
Carrie Chappell
Dec 16, 2013 Carrie Chappell rated it it was amazing
Carson always ignites a fire in my mind. This book helped me formally realize some of the strange situations and sentiments of learning and loving.
Apr 27, 2011 Aran rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Very interesting for the most part. The connections she draws and interpretations she makes sometimes seem a little thin... but she's Anne Carson--she can do what she wants! Goes on a little long.
Erin Fitzhenry
May 29, 2015 Erin Fitzhenry rated it it was amazing
I loved this. This one will stick with me.
B.R. Sanders
Jul 17, 2015 B.R. Sanders rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Eros the Bittersweet, by Anne Carson, is a short and curious set of essays about the nature of desire. That sentence alone captures very little of the scope and character of the book: Anne Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet is a reflexive, paradoxical, expansive and narrow work. It is fine as filigree in its craftsmanship, and Anne Carson, as always writes in an easy, conversational, endlessly approachable style. It is, I can see, a great scholarly work, a great piece of thought, but it is unfortunat ...more
Nov 06, 2016 Saettare rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books by Anne Carson. I reread bits of it every fall when it comes time for me to teach the Greeks, especially during Sappho week. This year I reread it in its entirety and fell under its spell like never before. Her brand of poetic scholarship works its magic on me like few others, only Hugh Kenner's "The Pound Era" and Wyndham Lewis’ Villon come to mind. This time she sent me back to my Plato and I went through a whole Plato phase rereading the Phaedrus, the Lysis ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Update Cover for Anne Carson's Eros the Bittersweet 2 13 Jul 05, 2016 09:32AM  
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Anne Carson is a Canadian poet, essayist, translator and professor of Classics. Carson lived in Montreal for several years and taught at McGill University, the University of Michigan, and at Princeton University from 1980-1987. She was a 1998 Guggenheim Fellow. and in 2000 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She has also won a Lannan Literary Award.

Carson (with background in classical language
More about Anne Carson...

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“Eros is an issue of boundaries. He exists because certain boundaries do. In the interval between reach and grasp, between glance and counterglance, between ‘I love you’ and ‘I love you too,’ the absent presence of desire comes alive. But the boundaries of time and glance and I love you are only aftershocks of the main, inevitable boundary that creates Eros: the boundary of flesh and self between you and me. And it is only, suddenly, at the moment when I would dissolve that boundary, I realize I never can.” 76 likes
“The words we read and words we write never say exactly what we mean. The people we love are never just as we desire them. The two symbola never perfectly match. Eros is in between.” 43 likes
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