Anne Carson's NOX, a middle finger to the Kindle?At least a fitting nest of elegies.
I had to buy it the minute that I saw it sitting on the top shelf of the Marina del Rey Barnes & Noble. During my visit to Los Angeles, I had time to kill, so naturally I wandered into a book store. I was trying to decide whether I wanted to see a trashy movie or book shop and as a terminal nerd, I went to the book store.
Anyway, there's buzz about this book. Here's an article from the New York Magazine Book Review.
There's also an interesting interview with Carson and her book designer here on Michael Silverblatt's Bookworm. Give that interview a listen. Silverblatt brings up the idea of digital media and Carson has a bit of a giggle as she mentions the Kindle.
All that said, what do I think of the book? Oddly, the first thing I thought about were elephants. Yes. Elephants. But I don't want this to sound trite. It's been documented that elephants have an enormous capacity for empathy. There's evidence that there are elephant graveyards and that elephants will pay homage to the bones of their dead by touching their skulls and tusks with their trunks. And so comes Anne Carson's NOX, an homage to her dead but estranged brother. It's as though Carson's journey back to Copenhagen to discover more about her lost brother is that trip to the elephant graveyard and the book is the remains of her brother, where we see images of him in his youth and we struggle with Carson to translate Catullus. (Silverblatt in the KCRW interview succinctly describes the book as both a "grief project" and a "nest.") The very act of reading the book is difficult, just as translation from a dead language is difficult . . . just as assembling the features of a face from the bones of one's dead is difficult.
Difficulty is inherent in the idea of grief. And so the speed at which one may read text on devices like the Kindle or the iPad becomes suspect when one must labor through one's grief.
The book is a performance of grief. It is like a sculpture one may encounter in a museum, its unwieldy accordion pages occupy so much space.