you used to say. “Desire doubled is love . . .

From Anne Carson’s “fictional essay” The Beauty of the Husband.

Repression speaks about sex better than any other form of discourse
or so the modern experts maintain. How do people
get power over one another? is an algebraic question

you used to say. “Desire doubled is love and love doubled is madness.”
Madness doubled is marriage
I added
when the caustic was cool, not intending to produce
a golden rule.

I thought this was a very successful book. I read it in a couple of hours over the Atlantic. I’m not quite sure what the term “fictional essay” means, or where Carson got it from, but it does look to be her doing (as opposed to something the publisher tacked on at a later point), so I’m taking it as part of the aesthetic statement of the book.

The 29 poems (or “tangos” to again quote Carson) deal with an unreliable husband, plus the eventual end of the marriage and drifting apart. This story is told from the perspective of the wife (who narrates most of these poems). Carson is very successful in getting across the wife’s mixed feelings—her husband is a jerk and a serial cheat, but one’s feelings for an ex are not so simple. The poetry throughout is very minimalist (many lines are made up of a single word) although also very emotionally penetrating, and, as I think the above shows, philosophically deep.

This is the third work by Carson I’ve read, after the pamphlets Nay Rather and The Albertine Workout, and I’m very much looking forward to my next Carson book. I’ll also soon be seeing a theatrical production of Carson’s translation of Sophocles, found in her book Antigonick.



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