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Men in the Off Hours

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,141 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Following her widely acclaimed Autobiography of Red ("A spellbinding achievement" --Susan Sontag), a new collection of poetry and prose that displays Anne Carson's signature mixture of opposites--the classic and the modern, cinema and print, narrative and verse.

In Men in the Off Hours , Carson reinvents figures as diverse as Oedipus, Emily Dickinson, and Audubon. She vi
Kindle Edition, Vintage Contemporaries, 176 pages
Published May 20th 2009 by Vintage (first published February 29th 2000)
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4.06  · 
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 ·  1,141 ratings  ·  80 reviews

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Jun 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Mar 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Crossouts are something you rarely see in published texts. They are like death: by a simple stroke—all is lost, yet still there. For death although utterly unlike life shares a skin with it. Death lines every moment of ordinary time. Death hides right inside every shining sentence we grasped and had no grasp of. Death is a fact.”

It is not even my favorite Carson and still it is incandescent, brilliant, staggering. The poems lost me more than usual, but many of the shorter fragments and the clos
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: want-to-own
“As tree shapes from mist / Her young death / Loose / In you.”

I’m tired of trying to review Carson’s work. It’s just too beautiful.
sarah louise
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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.
Aug 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jacques Boudreau
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't connect to every poem or work in the collection, in fact I had a hard to time connecting with quite a few. But when I did, I loved every syllable. That might suggest you should go through and pick out poems, but one of the strengths of the book is how well it coheres. Every additional poem helps to expand the previous works, and phrases and ideas that reoccur help weave it all together. It was a great read. My favorite poems/pieces:

Ordinary Time
Essay on Error
Interview with Hara Tamiki (
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
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Difficult to read and sometimes impenetrable, and yet by the final pages I was enraptured. The book is an extraordinary project of juxtaposition, comparison, and connection, and it is unlike any other book of poetry I have read.
i liked the ones that i understood
Yes yes yes.

a line from this book has stayed with me for weeks: ‘There is something you should know. And the right way to know it is by a cherrying of your mind.’
Embodying others. Always fun with Anne.
Naomi Ruth
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I especially enjoyed Irony is Not Enough and the essay on dirt and desire.
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
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i was lost for quite a bit but i do think this is exquisite. should revisit
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Nina Powles
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 15, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Courtney McCarroll
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 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.

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.
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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 to 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 langu

I wanted to run away with you tonight
but you are a difficult woman
the rules of you -

Past and future circle round us
now we know more now less
in the institute of shadows.

On a street black as widows
with nothing to confess
our distances found us

the rules of you -
so difficult a woman
I wanted to run away with you tonight.”
“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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