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Nox (2010)

by Anne Carson(Favorite Author)
4.3 of 5 Votes: 3
0811218708 (ISBN13: 9780811218702)
New Directions
review 1: Nox by Anne Carson is a close copy of an epitaph she wrote for her brother when he died. Comprised of photographs, dictionary excerpts detailing Latin words, the indents of words in a page and an organized telling of the authors thoughts and facts, Nox tells the story of Carson's musings, reactions and the actions that lead to her discovery of her brother's death as well as her memories of him and post-death events. The style of the piece is almost reminiscent of an eulogy where blunt sentences add a heavy seriousness scattered throughout the text like realizations made during shock compounded by a methodical, ordering of each separate thought/event that seems as if there is an attempt to make sense of everything with constant, categorical numbering. Each excerpt that appe... morears to come from the author's point of view is interspersed with photos of her brother and life along with relevant, random scribbles on the pages between folds. There's an almost agelessness in the Latin words that explain their meanings to the reader. This can be taken as a calling back in time, that death is prevalent throughout human history, that this is an unfortunate experience with which a grand majority, if not all, of us are well versed.The "book" format consists of a box made to look like a book while the inside pages aren't pages at all but one large sheet folded over and over like an accordion to fit inside the box. There is a constant separation of the Latin texts and the numbered thoughts, each kept on the left and right sides of the folds respectively. I feel these keep the story together, that the positioning of the numbered texts are held and connected to each other through this placement on the right side so that the reader may turn fold after fold without moving their eyes from side to side. Yet, the continual Latin texts also provide a type of distancing from Carson's story, allowing the reader to experience the grief but holding the reader back from being consumed by it.
review 2: “Nox,” is Greek/Latin, meaning: 1. Night, 2. Darkness, 3. Dream, 4. Confusion, 5. Ignorance, 6. Death. [The Greek or Latin-English transations (of words from the Catullus elegy) show how many meanings (or what depth) a single word may have, such as Nox – which summarizes many of the themes of the book.] “Nox Frater Nox” – the title beneath the cover of Anne Carson’s book– “Frater” means: 1. Brother, 2. Friend, lover, 3. Sibling, 4. Brethren, 5. Monk. [On the majority of the left pages of Carson’s book are cut out and pasted definitions of the words of Catullus’ 101 poem, many of which deal with “Nox”/the night and seem to relate to her brother and family: et nocte: you know it was night; noctis gentes: nightpeople, clan, family, birth, offspring; multa nox: late in the night, perhaps too late. History, and historical figures who were interested in history – Hekataios and Herodotus – are mentioned multiple times, in addition to Catullus’ poem/elegy for his dead brother – planting the concept that “Nox” is the blended elegy/history of Carson’s estranged brother, who had only contacted her five times over a twenty-two year period.] “Nox” is an elegy/memoir/history/scrapbook (it is many things at once, and the list can be extended) Carson created after her brother’s unexpected death. Michael died in Coppenhagen in 2000 - two weeks after his funeral his widow contacted Carson. In “Nox” Carson recounts some of the time she spent with Michael’s widow, as well as the memory of her mother on her deathbed, how her family decided to stop thinking of Michael as being alive and in that way remove him from their daily conversations, and hazy memories of Michael as a child. The accordion book is contained in a grey box with a photograph of her brother (as a boy) on the front, similar in appearance to a box for stationary – the book contains many letters. These letters seem to be, for the most part, torn up bits of the original handwritten letters from her brother – one sent to his mother the year Anna, the “love of his life,” died – as well as one typed letter sent from Carson’s mother to Michael; though since she did not have his address, whether or not the letter was ever sent or received is questionable. Michael left home in 1978 to escape going to jail; he then wandered through Europe and India, fell in love with (and then lost) Anna, and married two women – one of whom divorced him. It is mentioned that Michael began to deal drugs at one point in his life, before he left home, so it can be speculated that this is related to the reason why he was going to be arrested. The left pages of Nox is a word by word translation (stretched over the course of the book) of the poem 101 by Catullus. In “Nox,” Carson is experimenting with a way to create a book that resembles her (lacking) memories and the pieces of information she has about her brother, in order to create an elegy/history for the brother she knew – though, as she says, others know him in different ways (in addition to being a memoir that records this specific event in her life). In this way, “Nox” depends heavily on her perspective (it captures her state of mind), and delves into her knowledge of Greek and Latin (language) and history. The reader is taught, in the excerpts of definitions for Greek words pasted on the left pages, how to translate Carson’s perspective, one piece (or one word) at a time. Opening the book for the first time, the contents might fall onto the reader’s lap or onto the floor, so they will have to figure out how to fold the accordion pages and stack them back into the box, and then find a suitable location (a flat surface like a table) to set the book on so it can be read. [It is a book that requires stable conditions – being stationary (like Carson at home) versus in motion (like Michael).]Once placed on a table, the pages may be turned, like a normal book, and read from left to right or right to left. [I found the contents on the right more interesting and sometimes found myself reading the right page before the left.] A picture may say a thousand words, but that is often limited to the single millisecond of time that is captured in a mute, motionless image (often distorted, compared to perfect/actual reality). One picture states a thousand simple words, that there are two boys in a tree house and one boy below them on the ground. Only when Carson adds to the image by identifying Michael as the boy on the ground, by providing a history for his crooked (unhappy) expression, his desire to play with older boys and the exclusion and rejection he faced as a result – only then do we see the photograph with the complexity revealed. Michael’s letters were put together with simple (usually nondescript) words, and short statements or run-ons that abide by their own grammatical structure that (perhaps) relied on how Michael spoke – (his own language.) What Carson provides are observable things that take on a deeper meaning once she “defines” them – much like the words on the left pages. On the left pages of “Nox” Carson translates each individual word (in order) of Catullus’ 101 poem which mourns his brother who died overseas, mirroring Carson’s memoir/elegy to her own dead brother who died far away from home. I consider “Nox” to be a memoir, since it records Carson’s experience of dealing with her brother’s death and what his running away did to her mother and their relationship. The experiment Carson attempted with “Nox” was also a blending of “categories” – definitions, first-person text, pasted letters, photographs – producing an accordion-memoir-dictionary-scrapbook-photo album-collage-art piece that records Carson’s confusion and sadness and teaches the reader how to experience her struggle to grasp her brother’s character and sudden death. “Nox” is a work of nonfiction that does not have a strict layout, yet the disorderly-organization is as intentional as an arranged scene that is then photographed. Catullus’ poem is physically parallel to the content concerning Carson’s brother, and the poem is as disjointed as her understanding and memory of Michael – as she states in 1.0, his was a “plain, odd history” and in 2.1 “WHO WERE YOU,” “I make a guess, I make a guess.” By providing the left pages, Carson taught me how to read her memoir – as a string of beads that will come full circle by the end, but which can also be cut so each bead (photo, letter, excerpt, passage) can be examined for the many different meanings/messages it contains – like the many meanings of the individual words of Catullus’ poem. Carson says in 1.0 that she “wanted to fill [her] elegy with light of all kinds,” yet Nox feels dreary, with a grey scale and the shadows left from a photocopier machine that seem to bend, wrinkle, and crease the pages and pasting’s though the actual pages are flat. This provided me with the feeling that “Nox” had been a personal project, a means of wading through her confusion, and was then organized in a publishable format. “Nox” makes me want to attempt creating a visual memoir, though not in an accordion format, and perhaps with a variant color-scheme (blues, reds, greys, and so on) to change the moods/tone on occasion. I would be hesitant to make it about something as personal as Carson’s experience, and I don’t have much experience with autobiographical work/writing it myself, so I’m not sure if what I produced would resemble a scrapbook more than a memoir. less
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Hmmmm. Not really sure what to think of this one. Have any of you fine folk read it?
The most beautiful book I have ever read.
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