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Anne Carson’s haunting and beautiful Nox is her first book of poetry in five years―a unique, illustrated, accordion-fold-out “book in a box.” Nox is an epitaph in the form of a book, a facsimile of a handmade book Anne Carson wrote and created after the death of her brother. The poem describes coming to terms with his loss through the lens of her translation of Poem 101 by Catullus “for his brother who died in the Troad.” Nox is a work of poetry, but arrives as a fascinating and unique physical object. Carson pasted old letters, family photos, collages and sketches on pages. The poems, typed on a computer, were added to this illustrated “book” creating a visual and reading experience so amazing as to open up our concept of poetry. 50 color and black-and-white prints

192 pages, Hardcover

First published April 1, 2010

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About the author

Anne Carson

82 books3,672 followers
Anne Carson is a Canadian poet, essayist, translator and professor of Classics. Carson lived in Montreal for several years and taught at McGill University, the University of Michigan, and at Princeton University from 1980 to 1987. She was a 1998 Guggenheim Fellow, and in 2000 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She has also won a Lannan Literary Award.

Carson (with background in classical languages, comparative literature, anthropology, history, and commercial art) blends ideas and themes from many fields in her writing. She frequently references, modernizes, and translates Ancient Greek literature. She has published eighteen books as of 2013, all of which blend the forms of poetry, essay, prose, criticism, translation, dramatic dialogue, fiction, and non-fiction. She is an internationally acclaimed writer. Her books include Antigonick, Nox, Decreation, The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry; Economy of the Unlost; Autobiography of Red, shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize, Plainwater: Essays and Poetry, and Glass, Irony and God, shortlisted for the Forward Prize. Carson is also a classics scholar, the translator of If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, and the author of Eros the Bittersweet. Her awards and honors include the Lannan Award, the Pushcart Prize, the Griffin Trust Award for Excellence in Poetry, a Guggenheim fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship. Her latest book, Red Doc>, was shortlisted for the 2013 T.S. Elliot Prize.

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Profile Image for Greg.
1,109 reviews1,844 followers
January 21, 2011
I'm pretty thoroughly depressed after reading this. Actually after reading it twice in one sitting and after watching the second half of Kieślowski's sixth film in the Decalogue series I'm now feeling pretty fucking bleak.

Both the film and this book deal with the unknowableness of the other. In the film a young man is in love with an older woman whom he spies on from his bedroom. He watches her with lovers, stalks her, steals her mail, makes phone calls to her and then hangs up and does other creepy things before he finally approaches her and tells her what he has been doing. Something intrigues her about the man and they end up going on a date of sorts where she asks him what she wants from him and he tells her nothing that he loves her and wants nothing from her. She laughs at him and tells him there is no love and later in the evening they have an awkward sexual encounter that leaves him ejaculating in his pants after he touches her thighs and she tells him that all that love is what just happened and he can go clean up the love with a towel in the bathroom. He runs home instead and tries to kill himself (I'm butchering this plot synopsis). After he leaves her apartment she has a change of heart about her feelings and spends the rest of the film trying to find him. She falls in love with him but is as far from being able to let him know how she feels as he was when he was in love with her from afar.

Neither then man or the woman ever really know the other person and there is an impossibility to their feelings. There is something solipistic at play, the other to each character is something of their own devices and the gap between the idealized and the real is insurmountable. I'm really doing a terrible job with this. What each wants is impossible for the other to give and in both cases it isn't even necessarily love that they are looking for but a knowledge about the other person.

Nox is a eulogy for Anne Carson's brother, Micheal. In 1978 he ran away to Europe to avoid going to jail. For the next 22 years he communicated sporadically with his family. Some letters and postcards with no return addresses and a handful of phone calls were all that Carson knew of her brother. After her brother dies it takes his widow a couple of weeks to track down a phone number for Carson to let her know about her brother. The book is a meditation on the unknownableness of her brother, the wanting to be able to fill in the gaps of his life but having no way to bridge the gap between the person who was as distant from her in life as in death.

Coupled with the memories and 'story' of her brother is a lexicon of latin words and their definitions from Cattulus' 101st poem, a elegy to his own dead brother. The reader is silently invited to translate the poem a feat that I attempted to do for a bit but found it too difficult to make sense of all the various ways the words could be used and I ended up cheating and looking up the poem online, only to find that in about the midway point in the book Carson provides her own rough translation. Earlier she stated that she had been trying since high school to make a translation of the poem but she had never made one that caught the feeling of the original Latin. Even with all of the words and their various definitions and usages given there is a gap between the original poem and a real feeling of the poem in English. Not knowing Latin I have to take her word on how much better the original is, how it conveys something that her translation can't capture (and I'm guessing the translation on Wikipedia fails at too), I can get a glimpse of the poem but there a gap between it and me. Maybe if I were smarter and had learned Latin there wouldn't be, but would I be able to put to words the original poem into my own native language or would the original poem be something that could only be experienced through the medium of a language that would never be my own?

Mixed with the story of her brother is the question of what history is. Going back to Herodotus and the fantastical stories that fill his Histories she seems to be asking if the bits and pieces that she knows of her brother are fact or are they the almost mythological tales that Herodotus gives the reader of the lore and customs of people who were alien to him, never mind to someone reading translations of his words over two thousand years later. And does the 'falseness' of the stories make them any less important? Are our own stories true, or the stories we compose to give us understanding of the people closest to us, and do they need to be true? Can they be? Or will there always be gaps and inconsistencies. Is there always ultimately a refusal of the other to really tell us everything we want to know, a refusal of knowing. An ignorance. A darkness.

This is another shoddy review filled with words that mean almost nothing. A spilling of half-completed thoughts, a rambling of some of my favorite topics of meandering about. I know I'm not saying what I want to say and I don't think I even know what it is that I want to say. If I can't even figure out myself what I want to be saying how can I expect anyone else to understand me.

On a more concrete level, Nox is stunning in its design and appearance. After reading it a couple of times I kind of want to own it, instead of having to give it back to the library. The book intrigued me when I first saw it but the thirty dollar price tag and the size of the book made me just admire it from afar and usually be annoyed at the book when I'd be near it because of it's difficultly in getting more than a couple of them at a time on the shelf, the way it demanded so much space. At the gall I imagined New Directions and Carson at having for producing a book that stood so much outside the 'norm' of what a book should be like. But I still admired it too. And now after reading the 'book' I'm very impressed by its physicality, by the way it proclaims itself to be a book and exist within a very set medium. I'm sure this book could be offered in some bastardized digital format but something gigantic and important would be lost. This needs to be touched and handled while reading it, the accordion pages need to be turned and gone back to, the definitions used to re-inspect the Latin poem at the start of the pages. Without wanting to encourage gimmicks for the sake of gimmicks, maybe more books need to be created that assert the 'bookness' of the medium.
Profile Image for Jonathan Terrington.
593 reviews559 followers
May 28, 2013

If, possibly, one could describe what Nox is as a work of abstract poetry it could possibly be considered a kind of meta-elegy. Because, in many different ways Nox is a haunting work that talks about the elegiac mode while existing as an elegy in and of itself. The title itself appears to be from the Latin for different variations of 'night' or 'nightfall' therefore reflecting the age-old idea of death being like sleeping or passing into shadow.

The book itself is structured like a journal with the interesting gimmick of accordion folded pages set inside a box, rather than a true hardcover. There are scraps and fragments of Latin dictionary definitions alongside handwritten and typed notes. At the same time a poetic commentary from Anne Carson herself exists intermittently and in many regards this fragmented, fractured prose poetry seems to show a sense of grief and loss to a far greater extent than any structured eloquent piece of work could. That is not to say that Carson lacks eloquence, indeed, she is very well versed in how to utilise language, it is simply that her work possesses a raw emotionally jaggedness that comes across to the reader.

The fact that Nox does not even appear like a true book is the most obvious statement made by Anne Carson to the reader. Though there is a sense of the gimmick as noted above there is also the sense that Carson attempts to school the reader that grief destroys all sense of form and the known. That, when night falls upon a soul, there is a sense of total destruction of normality or formality, at least initially.

Anne Carson herself describes the book as being "'based on a poem of Catullus...whose brother died in Troy when Catullus was living in Italy...In my book I printed out the text of the poem, and then took it apart...I dismantled the Catullus poem, one word per page, and I put the Latin word and its lexical definition on the left-hand side, and then on the right-hand side a fragment of a memory of my brother's life that related to the left-hand side of the page. Where the lexical entry didn't relate, 1 changed it. So I smuggled in stuff that is somewhat inauthentic. But it makes the left and the right cohere, so that the whole thing tells the story of the translation of the poem, and also dismantles my memory of my brother's life'(sourced here)." In retrospect it is apparent as to how Carson has used form and her sensibility to convey this other poem in respect to her own experience. Isn't that how all readers must take literature? In connection to their own experience?

Other reviews have also noted the form of Nox transforms the book into more than a book. It becomes a document or an artefact, a work of memory and a monument to a lost life. All of which is in general the aim of the elegy. Yet the fact that Carson can talk about other elegies and about mourning as an act makes this work a kind of meta-elegy as already noted. So this book becomes more than merely a work of non-fiction where Carson describes her reactions to hearing that her almost unknown brother (who hurt her mother) has died. It becomes a work of non-fiction for all those who have lost someone in their lives. And therefore it becomes a work for all those who read literature because it is concerned with both life and death.

"The very essence of literature is the war between emotion and intellect, between life and death. When literature becomes too intellectual - when it begins to ignore the passions, the emotions - it becomes sterile, silly, and actually without substance."
- Isaac Bashevis Singer
Profile Image for Janet.
Author 22 books87.7k followers
January 21, 2023
An exploration of loss, of death and absence, in Anne Carson's always unique cross-genre style. Here, Carson uses a poem famous in latin classes across the world, Catallus 101 (in which Catallus grieves the death of this brother) as a mirror in which to reflect the loss of her own estranged brother--who was himself haunted by the death of his one true love, and killed himself 4 days short of a meeting he and Carson were going to have to end a 20 year separation.

The technique is presenting the Catallus poem being translated word by word--you can see all the various meanings of each word a translator must select among to assemble a poem in a new language. Like translating the scraps of her brother's correspondence and memories of him into the poem of this book.

which in itself would have been enough. More than enough. But this book is more than a work of literary art, it's also a visual work, an art work, an object, where the concrete text is visually tortured and washed out and overlaid--it's a box in which the work is printed on an accordion-folded continuous page, so that as the story is unfolded, the book is literally unfolded. I spread it out down my dining room table to read it all at once.

Fragile, mysterious, assembled, exploded, full of clues and gaps, the form and the content are spectacularly in sync. It wasn't cheap, but I have it in a place of honor where I can just look at it and remember the experience of reading it.

I think that as content becomes so disposeable and presentation generally more and more utilitarian, as the e-book becomes the uber-paperback, there will be more and more an opposite force--interest in the physical book as an artistic object as well as a conveyor of meaning. I believe actual books, particularly hardbound books, will become more beautiful, more highly designed, tactile and intricate. As a type/book arts lover, it's the silver lining.
Profile Image for El.
1,355 reviews503 followers
April 21, 2019
I blabber a lot about hybridity in writing. Can poetry intersect nonfiction? Can fiction play a role in both/either? I like playing with form and genre and breaking concepts of what genre is expected to be. I came across Nox in some of my research on these sorts of topics but, as usual, didn't investigate it too much beforehand. I put in a request at my campus library and waited for it to arrive. When the notification showed up in my email that this was ready to be picked up, I was eager to get my paws on it. And when I got there and the work study student stared at the box on the counter and looked at me and looked at the box and then looked to her boss I knew I was in for a treat. Her boss called from her office, "Yes, the box. She requested the box."

I requested the box.

I didn't know the book I ordered would come in a box. But there it was. The work study student picked it up, almost gingerly, and handed it to me. I don't think she stopped staring at the box by that point. It was like she expected it to maybe bite her.

Anne Carson wrote this for her brother after he died. It was a handmade book with paper glued to the pages and photographs and dictionary definitions. It was a way for Carson to make sense of her grief, it was part of her process. And here, for all of us, is a facsimile of the handmade book, Carson created. Perhaps to help us each with whatever we are grieving. We all grieve something. Someone.

The pages are accordion-style. You could stretch all the pages out on the floor if you desire to, and then walk from one end to the other. It works like that. Or just turning the heavy pages as though you're reading a typical book. You can jump in anywhere. Life is an accordion-style timeline.
Herodotos tells us the king made this bowl in order to leave behind a "memory" or "monument" of the number. The number itself who knows. History can be at once concrete and indecipherable. Historian can be a storydog that roams around Asia Minor collecting bits of muteness like burrs in its hide. Note that the word "mute" (from Latin mutus...) is regarded by linguists as an onomatopoeic formation referring not to silence but to a certain fundamental opacity of human being, which likes to show the truth by allowing it to be seen hiding. (Compare the Latin word mutmut, representation of a muttering sound, used by Apuleius). In cigarette-smoke-soaked Copenhagen, under a wide thin sorrowful sky, as swans drift down the water, I am looking a long time into the muteness of my brother. It resists me. He refuses to be "cooked" (a modern historian might say) in my transactional order. To put this another way, there is something that facts lack. "Overtakelessness" is a word told me by a philospher once: das Unumgangliche - that which cannot be got round. Cannot be avoided or seen to the back of. And about which one collects facts - it remains beyond them.
I can be a bit iffy on books that feel "gimmicky." At times during reading this I wondered if it was more gimmicky than was necessary, until I remembered, again, this is a facsimile of what Carson created to deal with her grief. How dare I accuse that of being gimmicky?

My mentor this semester recently wrote in one of her feedback letters to me: "I think the different points-of-view you use work, but I like quirky writing."

Quirky. Writing. I haz it?

I'm still processing that.

But that's the point. (Well, it's my point and since a lot of what I read is for my own research, that's the perspective I take when studying these things.) Genre is fluid. Let's break some boundaries. Let's cross some streams. Let's see what might happen. In my case, it won't be an accordion-style collection of writing, definitions, letters, and photographs tucked away inside a box. But I can appreciate why Carson did that. To her, that made sense.

Let's all write what makes sense to us.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
April 30, 2016
An elegy for an older brother Carson grew up with but she didn't know as an adult, really. The last twenty-two years of his life, she had five phone calls from him. Two weeks after he died she was contacted by his last wife, who revealed that the love of his life was really another woman he had never married. We learn Carson's mother mourned his loss for much of her life. We don't know much about Carson's own relationship to her brother. Not really.

Carson is the amazing Canadian classicist and poet and maker of interesting non-traditional books, equally comfortable writing about Sappho as "being" Sappho in her passionate poetry.

One of the most attractive aspects of this book is its format, an accordion-like production that comes in a large box, which would appear to be the facsimile of a process: On facing pages she seems to have torn entries out of Latin-English dictionaries (and/or written her own translations?) of words such as loss and grief and brother and so on, and on the opposite facing pages we have entries in notebooks, copies of old (1950s) photographs of them together, quotes from Basho, various other thinkers and poets. She has scraps of letters from him, scraps of her notes from telephone conversations, a spare narrative pieced together, some reflections, very little there of substance about him. Ephemera of grief. Longing to have known. Some sketches, drawings. Feels fading and faded, much of it, as if it is moving steadily and inexorably to dust.

The point would seem to be that we and language itself are unknowable, untranslatable. Carson translates works from authors centuries old in ancient languages that would seem to be continually fading away, lost to an increasing number of us. The meaning of words in translation get lost. It's like trying to make meaning from some ancient archaeological dig. In the wind. In the dark! In Nox!

Carson's brother's words are few and reveal little about his life. He never contacted his mother in the last seven years of her life. I am reminded of Jack in Marilyn Robinson's Home and Gilead, the prodigal son missing for that same number, 22 years, but suddenly home, so we can now learn a bit in scraps and jots about why he was gone for so long. Carson's brother does not do Carson and her family the same favor, so we can't have a novel about him. Only scraps and jots. Part of the mourning is having and knowing so little, and now gone. Absence. What does it mean? What sense can you make of a brother, long gone, now dead?

Nox: Night, in Latin.

Nox: A chemical compound, nitric oxide, a free radical.

Nox: A counter to the Lumos charm in Harry Potter.

Nox: scraps of light in a box. [stole this from Lee, thanks!]

For a classical scholar, Carson seems to me always to be remarkably experimental and unstuffy, but I know she would probably tell me that my comment reveals my ignorance about some of the fiery and passionate and often free-form work from the antiquities. Like Sappho.

This elegy reminds me of the remembrance of David Foster Wallace by his wife, Karen Green, Bough Down, which also uses some art to express what the written language cannot seem to do. The ineffable. The source of the lyric, what we call "the poetic," just on the edge of language meaning.

We don't get to know Carson's brother, but we get to know the sad Carson a little here, in grief for the brother she never really knew as an adult, now gone. Like us, faced with meaning-making in a (sometimes? always?) void, with precious words. Ineffable. Nox.
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,023 reviews4,065 followers
December 14, 2017
I purchased this beautiful artefact for my girlfriend last Xmas and received not the rapturous response required. A year later, I had a look. Too many verso entries from the Latin dictionary fail to spoil this quietly affecting and visually calorific tribute to a mercurial dead brother. It is the sort of thing that one might appreciate more in the wake of a loss, as Michael Silverblatt explains in this Bookworm episode, on which Anne Carson reads a poem from the book in Latin.
Profile Image for Liam O'Leary.
479 reviews116 followers
May 29, 2021
29/5/21 Update:
I think I underrated this book, in retrospect from my original review below. Nox sticks in my memory. I think the ambiguity bothered me. But with time I've seen maturity and necessity for distance in a memoir. This wasn't meant to be easy to understand, but it's a beautiful book, and needs to be seen that way.

15/4/16 Original
On a sunny day like today I decided read the elegy by a writer I might be seeing down the road giving a reading tonight. Life can be strange.

Me: I spent my afternoon with Nox today
Anne: That's good [*signing my newly purchased Autobiography of Red*]
Me: I unravelled it on my floor, and then on my bed, it was...fun.
Anne: Do you have two stories?
Me: What? [I've barely started working on a story :S]
Anne: Your house, do you have two stories in your house?
Me: Yeah [sort of]
Anne: You should throw it from the top of the stairs!
Me: Oh yeah that'd be great [my stairs spiral...]
Anne: You can also write on the back, the pages are blank on the other side
Me: Yeah [I have a university library edition so maybe not]

Signed "Respectfully, AC 2016"

The book design is very nice and encourages alternative reading postures. I unravelled it on my bed as far as I could, it was 'fun'. This will appeal to people who do not shy away from semantic analysis.

-Why 3*s?
A rating system seems inappropriate for an elegy, but it bothers me to not have rated every book I have read. So I will imagine this were fictional and base my rating on solely on my enjoyment of the work (rather than, as per usual, whether the author met what I believed was their intention, whether the source material was worth this intention and this all weighed by how much I think this might be biased by my personal perspective relative to what I think is a general reader perspective...or something).
Profile Image for Cindy Newton.
622 reviews129 followers
June 20, 2018
I read this text as part of the curriculum for a university-sponsored weeklong poetry seminar. I love poetry, but readily admit that I don't read as much of it as I should. My encounter with this book and the others from that week really broadened the horizons of my limited experience.

Anne Carson uses more than her words to create her elegy for her dead brother: she uses pictures and other relics of their childhood, interviews with people from their past, and the definitions of Latin words. All of these things work together to present a sketchy outline of the brother she had not really known. Part of her grief stems from his loss, part in the fact that he was lost to her long before his death. She leaves us, the reader, with questions of our own as she never reveals how he actually died. To me, this was symbolic of her own unanswered questions at the end.

Profile Image for belljareads.
106 reviews11 followers
May 13, 2018
I don't have much to say about this work ... except that it is the highest/purest/most beautiful thing a human being can create to honor someone who has passed away. No other epitaph could surpass this one.
Profile Image for angel.
46 reviews13 followers
October 14, 2022
Que deleitoso leer a Carson en su boca original (inglés).
Profile Image for ipsit.
84 reviews112 followers
July 24, 2016
"Prowling the meanings of a word, prowling the history of a person, no use expecting a flood of light. Human words have no main switch. But all those little kidnaps in the dark. And then the luminous, big, shivering, discandied, unrepentant, barking web of them that hangs in your mind when you turn back to the page you were trying to translate . . .
—Anne Carson, NOX

To read NOX is like unwinding an ancient scroll, or following a frieze around the porch of a temple, or tracing a history twisting down a column, or walking through a house in Pompeii, with story in tiny bright fragments underfoot, painted in walls, and carved into the wood of couches . . .
-Jane Alison

Everything that makes NOX hybrid and modern also makes it ancient, taking us back thousands of years to when “fiction,” “nonfiction,” and “poetry” were not penned in separate rooms, when shades of the same story might equally appear as a red-figure painting on a vase or as a voice singing in darkness.Because it is both so modern and ancient, because it looks back thousands of years and finds blood still quick in the oldest flesh of narrative, NOX has made me renew my vows to this nervy act of reading and writing: the barking web of image and word.
Profile Image for Paige Hettinger.
321 reviews75 followers
February 16, 2023
i could try and say a lot of really intelligent things about this text, but i won't do it that disservice. an absolutely masterful work that takes up how we literally and figuratively translate to understand grief from one of the most skilled and artful translators of all time, and a work that ultimately deems grief something inherently untranslatable. a real challenge to our definition of elegy.

deserves to be read and unraveled again and again, i am sure i missed so much.
Profile Image for Lee Klein .
799 reviews851 followers
November 16, 2010
Negotiations with preposterous debt owed to night. Original accordian-in-a-box form, old obscure photos, handwritten frags, definitions (scans sometimes of wrinkled pages), classical refs, Basho. (David Shields [[book:Reality Hunger: A Manifesto|6712580]] would love it.) Could probably never be more than it is, by which I mean -- not to demean it -- little more than nox (strips of light at night in a box), considering the abstract relationship she apparently had with her troubled absent older bro.
Profile Image for cycads and ferns.
479 reviews2 followers
May 15, 2023
…I came to think of translating as a room, not exactly an unknown room, where one gropes for the light switch. I guess it never ends. A brother never ends. I prowl him. He does not end.

There is a picture of Carson’s brother, Michael, standing by the base of a tree that has a treehouse, built high above. There are several older boys in the treehouse, the ladder has been pulled up and Michael is seen standing alone. That’s the piece that got me.
Profile Image for Jane.
Author 58 books530 followers
December 21, 2012
(The following was written for The Millions' A Year in Reading feature, 12/20/12, occurred to me I should also post it here.)

Published as poetry, Anne Carson’s Nox is closer by far to W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz than to any book of pocketable lyrics. Ultimately uncategorizable, this physically onomatopoetic facing of the death of a long-absent, long-estranged brother comes (as effects or ashes do) in a box. The pages not sewn, not glued, but accordion-folded into one inseparable, extendable fan of grief. On the left-hand pages: an OED style meditation on each Latin word of the saddest elegy ever written, that of Catullus for his own brother. The scholarship is visibly stained by its originating situation — almost every entry holds some reference to night, to vanishment. On the right-hand pages: meditations on history-gathering itself, familial photos, single lines of thought or perception, stories — a record of how the mind scratches against the obdurate to raise some glint of comprehension. Both typography and images take the form of ransom notes, rubbings, recollections, glimpsed parts of an unfathomable whole. There is a story. What matters — as always, in matters of literature — is the penumbra around it in every direction.

A book can be a battering ram against the doors of the actual. The intention is not to break but to break into. Resistance, in electrical circuitry, is both the manifestation of the objective world’s recalcitrance and the part that throws heat and light. I have perhaps made Nox sound difficult, depressing, a book of distance. I suppose it is — I owned it for a year before I could bring myself to read it through fully. The density demanded it simply sit near at hand, a mute and almost mineral presence. Bring yourself to enter, it becomes riveting, a daredevil-defiant and heartbroken confrontation of fracture. The welding torch’s ferocity arcs through it, drawing the eye it burns.
Profile Image for Renee.
1,503 reviews22 followers
April 3, 2015
I certainly acknowledge that I am in the minority with my bleak two star rating of this well loved book and if there was a separate category for the "idea" separate from the book itself, I would give Anne Carson 5 stars for sure.

The author created this book after the death of her brother in effort to come to terms of his life and death. She did this though a series of poems, definition of words, pictures and other things meaningful to her. The book is thick, unusually shaped with fold-out pages that one can't help but be excited to read.

However the book was extremely formulaic, repetitive in it's construction and lacked any shred of creativity. On the left side of EVERY page was a dictionary definition of various adjectives that accounted for 50% of the book and felt like nothing more than filler.

On the remaining pages were a trite collection of (for the most part) unreadable jottings and pictures that resembled coffee stains, blurred sticks and perhaps a smear of mud.

Yes, there were some readable passages that described the author's brother and the tumultuous life he led and the sorrow he caused those around him and I would have like to have heard more of that story. Perhaps I am not artsy enough but literally not being able to read passages because they have been purposely smeared beyond recognition and not being able to tell if a one inch picture is a twig or a piece of licorice does absolutely nothing for me.

Profile Image for ......
128 reviews202 followers
June 4, 2022
This beautiful, unusual book is at once a eulogy and a rich portrait of familial relationships. Carson’s brother left their family in his youth and had very limited contact with her. After his death many years later, the poet created this book to come to terms with her loss. She approaches the event through the lens of translating Catullus’ poetry, and her skills (as a translator, classicist, and poet) weave together meaningfully. The fragmented nature of the text mirrors the type of communication that existed between the author and her sibling.

it was a wonderful birthday gift from julia last year on my birthday <3
Profile Image for Rachel.
225 reviews58 followers
January 23, 2018
the first time I reviewed this, 7 years ago, I thought it was kind of cold and pretentious and wrote a goofy review

now I'm reading it again and it is incredibly sad and lovely and beautifully made, so now I feel like a jerk. gonna add a star and tell me from 7 years ago to have a heart, jeez louise
Profile Image for Moira.
512 reviews25 followers
Want to read
January 24, 2011
This is possibly the most beautifully printed book I have ever seen, art books included. It's like magic, I can't even imagine how they did it. If fire broke out in my apartment house I would grab it, fleeing.
Profile Image for Graeme.
157 reviews22 followers
June 30, 2021
A gorgeous elegy, a single folded paged collection in a hard cover like a box, for a brother the author no longer knew or could know. It works as a frustrating statement on experiencing the death of a loved one. My best friend died in March of this year, unexpectedly. I’d been struggling on what I want to say at his memorial service next month, but after reading this, I have a better idea of how I can begin.
Profile Image for Juliano.
16 reviews1 follower
December 4, 2021
One of my favourite reads this year, definitely reading more Anne Carson in 2022.
Profile Image for Ben Bakker.
23 reviews1 follower
July 10, 2020
I just..... just..... someone help this is the most beautiful and rich and unique and delicate and powerful and sad and meditative thing I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering. A tribute to her late brother, an attempt at translation, a reflection on words and language and meaning, a grappling with the unknown and the unknowable and the enterprise of history.... all as a long, disjointed yet harmonious poem, and a scrapbook at the same time.... fuck me Anne Carson you’ve done it!!!!
Profile Image for Dana.
409 reviews27 followers
November 6, 2016
I had to read this book of poetry for my Modern Elegy English course at my school and I found it very interesting. This was the first elegy we had read by a female author, even though we are well over half way through our quarter. I found the poems themselves very convoluted, but they were still fascinating.

I loved the structure of the book itself. It was made to look like a continuous piece of paper, much like a timeline to which someone's life may be measured against. I thought it was really cool the way Carson would pull in the definitions of the words in Latin only to reveal about half way or three quarters of the way through that is was because she was translating an old poem that had originally been written in Latin. That gave it the sense that everything was pulled together.

One thing I enjoyed about this poem was how different it was from other elegies I have had to read over the course of this quarter. Instead of only lauding the deceased, Carson makes them realistic. She does not make them out to be some saint-like, or even god-like creature that had done no wrong. In giving them flaws and pointing those flaws out, the poem itself becomes more realistic and approachable.

I loved how it looked like everything was just scanned in, as well. It gave an informal quality to the poem that, again, makes it accessible to wider audiences than the more traditional elegies might.

Overall, this was a pretty cool poem! I suggest you pick it up if you want to read something different.
Profile Image for Ellie.
1,475 reviews372 followers
June 27, 2015
A powerful, fascinating book. A different kind of poetry. A searching for a dead brother and the meaning of his life and their relationship. An exploration of loss.

Too complicated for a quick review. I will think about this book and write a review later.
Profile Image for Janina Schnitzer.
3 reviews2 followers
February 10, 2014
“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.
Profile Image for Michael Lindgren.
158 reviews58 followers
December 17, 2010
To call Anne Carson’s staggering Nox a book of poetry is not quite accurate, for both its physical and psychic dimensions transcend traditional taxonomies of genre. Nox is many things: an artist’s book, a journal, a collage, an elegy, a meditation on grief, and a souvenir, in the literal sense. It is a powerful statement of personal loss couched in a language of classical rigor, a spiritual exorcism given artifactual manifestation.

To start with Nox’s physical attributes: the book is a careful facsimile of a document the grief-stricken Carson assembled on the occasion of her estranged brother’s death. As such, it is essentially a replica of a scrapbook, containing pasted-in snippets of letters, photos, stained scraps of typing, lexical entries, a translation, and a smattering of jagged, abstract drawings; in the words of Joyelle McSweeney, “a {poetic} model based on an attractively varied set of transhistorical and cross-disciplinary examples.” It has been printed not as a traditional codex but as one uninterrupted accordion-style folding document, which in turn has been housed in a handsome if slightly forbidding case. Not your average book of word-slinging, to be sure.

All of this armature—and hats off to New Directions for a very pleasingly designed and printed volume indeed—would be peripheral, even self-indulgent, if the book’s unusual format was not mirrored by the strange beauty and emotional intensity of it contents. As glimpses of Carson’s relation with her troubled brother begin to surface through the textual and graphical chaos, the loss gradually accumulates a fatalistic inevitability worthy of Carson’s classical models. Carson’s brother, his life and his death both, were mysteries to Carson, and they remain mysteries to the reader, which is in part the source of their evocative and haunting appeal.

At first perusal Nox strikes the reader as capricious and disorienting, but as one progresses through the trajectory of Carson’s mourning some structural elements begin to recur and thus to emerge. The first of these is her use of lexical entries, as from a Latin dictionary, both as motif and as explicit manifestation of her fundamentally classicist, in the original sense of the word, outlook. For this reader, it was a revelation to find with what incantatory, onrushing velocity a lexical entry reads:

fortuna: the more or less personified agency supposed to direct events, Fortune…; ill-starred; the way in which events fall out, chance, hazard; a favorable occasion; what befalls or is destined to befall, one’s fate; (applied to persons whose destiny is bound up with one’s own); prosperity, good fortune; unfortunate circumstances, bad luck; social position, rank, station; greatness; wealth, property, fortune.

This particular entry is typical of the whole in that it is subtly but inescapably apposite to the death of Carson’s brother, whose life was “ill-starred” and “bound up with” Carson’s “own” indeed. Through repetition, both contextual and rhythmic, all of the lexical entries come to take on this strange, elegiac undertone.

The book’s second textual variant consists of short blocks of prose detailing the gradual disappearance of her brother: “All the years and time that had passed over him came streaming into me, all that history.” These sequences, numbered as neatly as examples in a grammar textbook, are harrowing in the disjunction between their tragic implications and their matter-of-fact tone. Commentators have frequently noted the unadorned nature of Carson’s work—it is often elastic, to put it mildly, in meter and line—and these passages attest to this plainness of approach. “I guess it never ends,” Carson writes, ostensibly of her attempts to make sense of a Catullan ode. “A brother never ends. I prowl him. He does not end.”

In contrast to these fairly straightforward entries stand fragments of verse (“I love the old questions”, “I am curious about the season of coldness you have there”) that dot the manuscript like snatches of a half-remembered poem or an overheard conversation. These phrases, elliptical, dreamlike, have the power to evoke Carson’s loss by indirection, partly in counterpoint to the prose segments, but also by their function as captions to the fourth and most dominant structural facet of Nox, which is its searing graphical elements. The pages contain many blurry, sepia-toned snapshots and snippets of typed or scrawled letters, often sliced into fanned-out ribbons, as if the collagist were deranged by grief. These last visuals prove in some ways to be the most jarring; there is something violent and desperate about the way they are splattered across the page.

The cumulatie effect of this multimedia assault is dazzling. The expression of grief that Carson delineates creeps up on the reader, its effect being all the more vivid for its subtlety and slow accretion. The ultimate source of Nox’s power is Carson’s deeply classical aesthetic, as she seeks to express a very modern—actually rather sordid and commonplace—loss in a way that is steeped in the alien sensibility of an ancient culture, what Sainte-Beuve referred to as “the vast living expression of a whole epoch and a semi-barbarous civilization.” This is a very unusual position from which to attack the craft; as a prosodic tactic it seems, to this reader, quite possibly unique. Carson’s poetic voice genuinely has more in common with the ancient poets of Rome than it does with her twentieth-century peers: although there are some very private and intensely personal emotions portrayed, one would never think to describe Carson’s poetry as “confessional” in the same way as Lowell or Plath. Even the towering elegies of Shelley and Tennyson, by comparison, seem a mite… soggy, when contrasted with the radical austerity of Carson’s reflections. All told Nox is a singular achievement, and if its strategies are a bit opaque, it nevertheless stands as an affecting document and the product of an original and fertile mind working in a highly distinctive vein. From Zoland Poetry Review online, Winter 2010.
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