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Men in the Off Hours

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  950 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
Anne Carson has been acclaimed by her peers as the most imaginative poet writing today. In a recent profile, The New York Times Magazine paid tribute to her amazing ability to combine the classical and the modern, the mundane and the surreal, in a body of work that is sure to endure.

In Men in the Off Hours, Carson offers further proof of her tantalizing gifts. Reinventing
Paperback, 176 pages
Published February 13th 2001 by Vintage (first published February 29th 2000)
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Jun 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
It is best not to read Anne Carson's poems in isolation, but rather to read a collection (well, at least not this one) in one sitting -- if possible -- and later return to poke through the shards to examine various bits and pieces. Carson is a poet who relies on fragments: personal, classical (her specialty), and popular. She starts with a canvas of grief — in this case her mother's passing away -- and proceeds to build a collage, using spray paint, glue, wit, the occasional essay, quotes, and w ...more
I'm not going to lie: I don't understand 98% of this. This does not stop me from saying that it is beautiful. (I understand the essays on classics most, I think, and they are dense and thoughtful and intelligent.) The poetry is bewildering, evocative and free-wheeling. Anne Carson's mind must be an amazing place to live. It made fantastic bedtime reading, because I could read a few lines and lie in the dark and drift off, turning them over in my head.
Mar 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Anna Carson never fails to impress with her inventiveness. In this collection, she explores (among other things) reinvention. This is apparent in her use of dratfs. Whether or not she is revealing drafts (it's unlikely that she is), Carson refers to several of her poems as being "1st draft" or "2nd draft". The poems in question are "Freud (1st draft)", "Lazarus (1st draft)", "Flatman (1st draft)", "Flat Man (2nd draft)", "Lazarus (2nd draft)", "Essay on Error (2nd draft)", "Why Did I awake (Flat ...more
Diann Blakely
Canadian classicist Anne Carson shares the High Modernist attraction to the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome, but with an inimitable style some might deride as "post-modern," or even pastiche. But what does "post-modern" mean, anyway? As for "pastiche," some will remember the same charge was leveled against THE WASTE LAND. Carson's work seems the obvious product of an era that exists only in small fragments--as do Sappho's poems, which Carson translated in IF NOT, WINTER (2002)--or timelessness ...more
Nina Powles
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
as a collection of poetry and prose, I found Men in the Off Hours among the most challenging of Carson's books (and she is a really challenging writer). but, as usual, by the end I was breathless. there are 3 pieces in particular that I know will haunt me for some time to come:

1. the sequence of biographical poems about Anna Akhmatova

2. "dirt and desire: essay on the phenomenology of female pollution in antiquity". I sometimes find Carson's more academic essays really difficult to follow, but
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
And its emotions.
On the brink of error is a condition of fear.
In the midst of error is a state of folly and defeat.
Realizing you've made an error brings shame and remorse.
Or does it?"

A meditation on the felicity of error and war and television that shook my radio feelers to the core. Constantly engaging, eloquently erudite, and many other things I have yet to discover. Carson writes poetry that astonishes you by its apparent simplicity of purpose, its radiant ideas, and its knowledge of t
sarah louise
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
sigh. to explain why you should read this book now would be to write my MFA annotation on it --- and let's face it, that's not going to happen.

suffice it to say, you should read this book. it has all of Carson's poetic depth, insight into both language and human experience, and a heart-boggling take on gender, history, and power. I literally had to put the book down several times to recover from the beautiful tragedy of it.

standout work: TV Men (Antigone, Akhmatova, Catherine Deneuve and the Woo
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Half the time I know I'm missing most of what's going on in Anne Carson's poems, but they're so beautiful and built on such a profound bedrock of knowledge and intellect and compassionate connection that I'll happily read them all day anyway. This collection was a little less successful for me than Glass and God, but the prose pieces are extraordinary and the long series on Anna Akhmatova is also heartbreaking. She's just a very, very good poet. Please believe me.
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015, read-2016
Selle aasta esimene raamat sai kella kolme paiku läbi.
Algus on hea, alati on hea, kui raamat on, kuigi see ei mõjunud mulle nii kui too, mis ma mõne päeva eest lugesin, ja seega hoidun tärnikestest.

Edit: märts 2016
Lugesin uuesti ja meeldis rohkem. Olles lugenud mõnda Catullust meeldis ka tema osa kohe rohkem ja puha :)
Aug 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, criticism
Who else but Anne Carson would have Hector (of Trojan War fame) appearing in a TV series fighting off helicopters in the desert. Poor man didn't make it but Carson's imagination survives. There's no adequate way to explain Anne Carson; just read her.
Dec 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I say read but read means still thinking and still to pick it back up. Carson provokes me. Her "Idea of a University" rejuvenated my teaching of first-year writing and, I swear, it will help me teach "Multicultural America" the way that my students need it.
Gabriel Clarke
Anne Carson is a puzzle. Her translation of Sappho is one of my favourite books ever. This one, less so. Some poems are frankly awful, some are essays split into short lines (a common criticism, it seems) and some are luminous, thoughtful and sad. There is also a quite wonderful essay (an academic, though beautifully written text complete with several pages of references - Carson is a distinguished classicist, remember) on the meaning of pollution and it's relation to women in classical Greece. ...more
Indigo Wayworth
2.5 Stars. Some poems I really enjoyed, but others I really didn't. Made for a weird experience as a collection.

Read for ENGL 4471: Contemporary Canadian Poetry
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
“The mad state is, as he emphasizes over and over again, empty. Teeming with emptiness. Knotted with emptiness. Immodest in its emptiness. You can pull emptiness out of it by the handful. “I am not here. I am not here and never will be.” You can pull it out endlessly. ”

Hello Anne. I read your book in the guesthouse. I got everything together to take over the world. I took over the world while reading. I slept it off and the world slept so very near me.

Flatman (1st draft)

I was born in the circus
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2014
For me, Anne Carson is brilliant when she's working closely with a previous author/text (usually a classical one) and almost impossibly abstruse when she isn't. The latter isn't compelling at all. In part, that's why I think it works better reading her as a collection; that way, even the more difficult and abstract parts feel like they have something -- not much, sometimes, but something -- to tether themselves to.

Her language is often beautiful when incomprehensible ("A fell dark pink February
Dec 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
i mean, you know, anne carson being anne carson. anyway what's important here are her translation/adaptation of catullus 70 (tho she seems to prefer calling them by the first line, guess i'm not surprised—"nulli se dicit mulier mea nubere malle"), irony is not enough: essay on my life as catherine deneuve (for selfish reasons), and the essay on dirt and female pollution and boundaries in antiquity (!!) i mean i'll be honest, i was very dazed by this book for, like, winter-break-college-malaise-y ...more
Apr 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Anne Carson doesn't just defy categorization - she flaunts her defiance and changes masks and dances around and starts speaking in Latin and then does something quite easy to categorize (like an essay) even though the book's stamped POETRY on the back cover. I dig her, and anyways, I'd basically have to be terminally lame to not dig her, but I have yet to be quotably "moved" by her (and I don't just mean emotionally I mean, like, a narrative arc or even contrast... any movement besides like a se ...more
Jan 15, 2015 rated it liked it
An interesting read to say the least. My first (actual) dive into the world of Carson and her poetry, written in a disjointed and almost experimental style I've come to recognize is her trademark uniqueness, and while not amazed, I am impressed. What I like best about Anne isn't her grasp of the subject she's writing about, honestly I don't think she so much as scrapes the surface in that regard in this book, rather it's her talent with diction, with bending language back on itself and around in ...more
S.D. Johnson
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
A stunning poetry when it's at its best & of course I am always drawn to poets with a sense of time & timelessness... Carson's language sizzles now & then, but at others becomes weighted down in works which are a bit damaged, I think, by academic life. Carson is a real poet & should always have that high standard of language in mind. Real poetry is judged primarily by aesthetic criteria... I am also annoyed at Carson's use of anachronism... Antigone interviewed on a mike? And Cat ...more
Courtney McCarroll
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
I'll be honest: I didn't love this, and I really can't even say that I liked it all that much. I have an extraordinary amount of respect for Anne Carson, but much of Men in the Off Hours was inaccessible and incoherent to me. There's an interesting threaded commentary here on performance and performative natures (which I think is especially interesting given the title of the collection) but, I think that's also its' downfall: this would've been more impactful to see performed, not read in my hea ...more
Jul 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Anne Carson has a fantasticly new style that i've not seen before. I'm not a new reader of poetry, but i've been reading more 50's based poets (new critics, new york school, etc), and so turning to carson has been a treat. her treatment of classical works with very unclassical form is really something to read over and over.

it's always hard to rate. some of her longer poems here are a bit difficult, but that's what poetry is for, sometimes: to delve, delve.

Mar 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: hardcore poets, hardcore readers
Shelves: poetry
I have no idea what is happening in this book . . . yet. . . .

I've now read it all, except for the ends of the essays because they were DEAD boring. Anne Carson, I do not care for your essays. They are boring. Please write more fake poems.

Anyway, three stars until I read it again--read it having researched Catallus, Hopper and Freud and having re-read Augustine's Confessions--and understand more.
May 24, 2008 added it
Got this as a recommendation from a friend. Serendipitously, it has a portion dealing with Edward Hopper (literature inspired by Hopper is one of my pet projects). This raised my interest enough to read the book.

Not really my cup of tea as poetry goes (though my range is pretty limited). Carson obviously revels in her erudition, which normally I'd expect to dislike, but her writing does achieve occasionally surprising, even enjoyable effects.

Oct 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
As with every one of Carson's books, Men in the Off Hours has a careful construction, with the peak of the work coming in her "TV Men" poems. The selectivity film or television uses in telling a life is a fairly consistent trope for her, but with each use I still feel an intellectual freshness in it. My favorite thing to notice on this read is Lazarus, and the perspective a man might feel coming back from the dead.
Feb 11, 2013 added it
Shelves: poetry
Thank goodness I knew about the lives of Tolstoy and Akhmatova. Otherwise I'd feel too dumb to appreciate Anne Carson's poetry. (I had to look up Catullus to understand her homage.) She conjures up historical figures to place them in interesting juxtapositions and focuses on time (the past, cinematic, linear). Reading this book felt like catching a glimpse of a bird startling and flying away--a momentary impression accompanied by fleeting, inchoate emotions.
Niina Pollari
May 24, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Like Glass, Irony, and God, this had its startling moments. Carson writes with a certain kind of scholarly, detached clarity that nevertheless still comes close to the sublime, especially in its hypersensory use of imagery, once in awhile. But when it remains detached, it remains noticeably detached. Worth reading, though.
Oct 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is amazing, profound and memorable. I find myself emailing poems to friends. She is an alchemist of the most disparate elements, and although the result is mysterious and never finite, never known, it nevertheless hits you with tremendous power. Reading these poems is like watching a great sleight of hand magician--no matter how close you sit, you still can't tell how it's done.
Jul 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poems
i disagree with sarah insofar as i quite enjoyed the essays. i need to look around and research carson's inclusion (or not) in seriously feminist discourse, since this book strikes me as an anthropological consideration of men as a wholly distinct species. fascinating and troubling and no doubt a work to be revisited.
Ba Jin
Dec 28, 2016 added it
Shelves: fiction, poetry
The whole history of ancient and modernist literature is both a crushing weight that leads to deflation and flatness and at the same time this validating freedom because the pressure's off and there's no need to worry about what goes unsaid. Also this might also be another novel like "Autobiography of Red."
Nov 03, 2014 rated it liked it
If you've liked Carson's other works, you will enjoy this one. While not as obviously thematically arranged, the collection captures the fantastic nature of conversations that take place behind curtains, stages and public spaces - the ones that reveal true intent. It is an engaging, challenging read. Don't miss the essay on Dirt and Pollution that closes the collection.
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  • Grief Lessons: Four Plays by Euripides
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  • Blue Hour
  • Rising, Falling, Hovering
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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
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All the same there are some small questions one would like to put to Sokrates. Or better still Sappho. Avec tes mains brûlées.”
“In myth, women's boundaries are pliant, porous, mutable. Her power to control them is inadequate, her concern for them unreliable. Deformation attends her. She swells, she shrinks, she leaks, she is penetrated, she suffers metamorphoses. The women of mythology regularly lose their form in monstrosity.” 1 likes
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