MEN IN THE OFF HOURS by Anne Carson

MEN IN THE OFF HOURS

KIRKUS REVIEW

Elaborately and often successfully innovative, this sixth book by classical scholar and poet Carson proves that poets love

to play not only with the textures and meanings of words, but also with syntax, sound, diction, line, punctuation, form, and even

genre. Part prose, yet mostly poetry, this is an extravagant collection of treatises and experiments, generally on the theme of

metaphor (which Carson defines in a poem ironically entitled “Essay on What I Think about Most”). Creating metaphor (i.e.,

saying a thing is something it's not) “causes the mind to experience itself / in the act of making a mistake.” Yet metaphors

“teach the mind / to enjoy error / and to learn / from the juxtaposition of WHAT IS and WHAT IS NOT the case.” Such

juxtapositions (and not merely verbal ones) fascinate Carson. She often unites incongruous figures or concepts—Virginia Woolf

and Thucydides, Edward Hopper and St. Augustine, television and Tolstoy—in order to force from each some hidden nonpareil.

Like Sappho (whom she scrutinizes in “Dirt and Desire”), Carson “plays havoc with boundaries and defies the rules.” Her

diction is inventive (“whitely Septembered,” “Praguing the eye”), her syntax often unusual (“Now the mind isn't she an avid

previous hobo?”). Poems packed with one-word lines and sentences with abandoned punctuation force the reader to confront the

extraordinariness of words themselves, though Carson is interested in more than just renewing the power of language. However

experimental her means, she produces powerful literature marked by humor, sensuality, spirituality, and poignancy.

Complex, yet surprisingly and enormously readable.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-40803-7
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2000




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