Claudia Putnam's Reviews > Nox

Nox by Anne Carson
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it was amazing
bookshelves: poetry, memoir, the-year-of-reading-women

I've been meaning to read this since it came out. I got it from the library and if anyone wants to get it for me for Christmas or my birthday (April), I'd be fine with that... I'd like this one for my shelves.

It seems like a grief memoir, and it is, but it's also a translation attempt, failed, according to Carson, of Catallus 101, an elegy for a brother. The etymologies included are powerful and interesting, but as it dawns on you that this is part of the research for the translation, the dimensions expand. The sense of a failed translation, of grief for all of the meanings of a word or phrase that do not make it into the final, rendered version, is an ideal metaphor for the experience of deep loss, which of course can never be adequately expressed in words.

I'm mixed on the book design. On the one hand it was gorgeous, and that's part of why I want to own this book. Yet, sometimes it felt a little too self-consciously artsy, given the pain and fragmentation it was meant to convey. The accordion pages--on the one hand effective, because of that sense of ever-expanding dimensions to the pain and loss, on the other, perhaps too connected? Implying a flow that just wasn't there? Some of the etymologies were presented as torn from the page and pasted on. The pasted-on part worked for me, but the torn aspect... not so much. It called attention to itself as a design decision, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in some art works, but in this case I found it distracting to the meaning I was seeking--no one would tear out those columns. They'd be cut. The letter made more sense torn and pasted, but I wondered if tearing up the letter helped. Yes, processing the letter came in fragments over a long period of time, but I kind of wanted to just read the thing. I also wished the Latin version of the Catallus had been included, since I'm sure Carson lives and breathes it.

In some ways the artwork presented here was even harder to approach--more amorphous--than the words.

Still, overwhelmingly a beautiful as well as agonizing experience.

"His voice was like his voice with something else crusted on it... All the years and time that had passed over him came streaming into me, all that history. What is a voice?"

"My brother dies in Copenhagen in the year 2000 a surprise to me."

"History and elegy are akin. The word 'history' comes from an ancient Greek verb... meaning 'to ask.' One who asks about things... is an historian. But the asking is not idle. It is when you are asking about something that you realize you yourself have survived it."

"Always comforting to assume there is a secret behind what torments you."

"Repent means 'the pain again.'"

"You can think of Lazarus as an example of a resurrection or as a person who had to die twice."

"There is no possibility I can think my way into his muteness."
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Reading Progress

January 15, 2015 – Started Reading
January 15, 2015 – Shelved
January 15, 2015 – 0.0% "reading this is conjunction with the 2015 Year of Reading Women Goodreads Group."
January 21, 2015 – Shelved as: poetry
January 21, 2015 – Shelved as: memoir
January 21, 2015 – Shelved as: the-year-of-reading-women
January 21, 2015 – Finished Reading

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