Review: Carson’s Norma Jean Baker of Troy

Norma Jean Baker of Troy

Anne Carson


Carson is a genius. An actual genius. She’s a Greek scholar, and a gifted poet and novelist. She’s also someone I’ve admired for years. In fact, I have a whole page of this website devoted to her.

Sometimes her work, which often mixes the ancient with the modern, can border on the too difficult for simpletons like me. But this play — a brilliant mash-up of Helen of Troy and Marilyn Monroe really delivers at the sweet spot of gorgeous, funny and clever. I regret I didn’t see this when it was performed in Brooklyn. If there’s ever a revival, I’ll be there.


Review: Carson’s Red Doc>

Red Doc>

Anne Carson

A bit too much.

As deeply as I loved Autobiography of Red, and as badly as I wanted to like this this, Red’s kinda sorta sequel, Red Doc> was too avant garde for me.  Ostensibly, this is the story of what happened to Geryon, the protagonist of the Autobiography, when he grew up. He returns home, he raises cattle, he meets a woman, he travels again in a new triangle of sorts, he suffers loss. There are parts (sentences, really) that are stunning, but on the whole, the work was too difficult for me.

Carson demanded more than I could give — finishing was a struggle. Perhaps I’ll return to this later, when the kids are older and I’m not so bone tired. For now, this left me exhausted, and underwhelmed. Odds are, I wasn’t really getting it.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Review: Carson’s Autobiography of Red

Autobiography of Red
Anne Carson

Carson’s masterpiece of dysfunctional families, adolescent angst, love, and heart break as told (kinda, sorta) through an interpretation of the missing fragments of Stesichorus’ Geryoneïs and an imagining of was lost to history.

It’s a strange book. There is a daring translation of some of what remains of Stesichorus’s work, and  and “interview” with Stesichorus. But what makes up the bulk of the book, and what moves you so, is the plight of the central character, the “monster” Geryon and his relationship with the sexy, loving and cruel Herakles.

Geryon is, maybe, literally, a monster.  Or perhaps maybe he is just an abused and damaged teenager. It’s hard to tell. Either way, he loves Herakles in his own fucked up damaged way. And Herakles is careless with that love. You’ve read this story before. But never in this way.

This has been called poetry even for those who do not like poetry. Count me among this group. My tolerance for much of contemporary poetry is very low, but this one blew me away.