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.

Recent Posts

Criticism Isn't Free

CR is dedicated to thoughtful, in-depth criticism without regard to what's commercially appealing. It takes tens of hours each month to provide this. Please help make this sort of writing sustainable, either with a subscription or a one-time donation. Thank you!

You could also purchase one of my acclaimed ebooks.

Got Something To Say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

Shop though these links = Support this site

Copyright © 2018. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.