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Glass, Irony and God (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – November 17, 1995

4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fusing confession, narrative and classicism, Carson's poetry witnesses the collision of heart and mind with breathtaking vitality. In five long poems and a final essay (the provocative "The Gender of Sound"), her often droll tone and limber use of poetic form mediate a deeply philosophical undercurrent. The nine-part narrative poem, "The Glass Essay," delivers a truth-telling mosaic of diverse subject-matter?including the speaker's departed lover, a visit to her mother, The Collected Works of Emily Bronte, sexual despair and loneliness and visions termed "Nudes." Twenty wry, swift takes on "The Truth About God" include God's Christ Theory and The God Coup; "T.V. Men" wittily casts Sappho and Antonin Artaud as television personas, and explores the medium with ever-shifting refrains such as "TV is made of light, like shame." The 70 brief sections comprising "The Fall of Rome: A Traveller's Guide" deliver a round-robin meditation on strangers, dread, holiness, and mastery; "Book of Isaiah" retells the prophet's struggles in jarring language that reads at once futuristic and supremely ancient. Like a miner's lamp, Carson's nuanced voice illuminates often-unexplored interior spaces.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Bringing a classical education and a philosophic quest to challenge tradition, Carson seamlessly blends these traits in her poetry and prose. This collection of mostly long poems demonstrates Carson's daring and dramatic approach to writing, especially in "The Glass Essay," where she intertwines repercussions of a failed relationship, encounters and attempts to understand her parents, the theme (recurring almost symphonically) of Emily Bronte's glass-box life and intrigue with darkness and death, and Carson's fear and attraction to Bronte's vision. "The Truth about God" brilliantly characterizes biblical language and stories, recontextualizing them and re-envisioning our beliefs about what we have learned. "The Fall of Rome: A Traveller's Guide" contains brief but recurrent phrases like "A stranger is . . . ," with each ending changing and offering new insight. Readers weary of overtly intellectual poetry will find Carson emotionally accessible, and academics will appreciate her obvious knowledge of history and her mental acuity. But mostly, Carson will appeal to readers who are open minded, willing to ask, seek, and learn, and those wanting to be overcome, in a grand way, by an intense, urgent, new kind of poetry. Janet St. John
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Paperbook
  • Paperback: 142 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; First Edition edition (November 17, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811213021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811213028
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is some darned fine and aggravating poetry. The Glass Essay is a kind of hybrid of verse and essay; poetry with a point to make. The last piece, The Gender of Sound, is an essay --but you're not the sort of reader who reads reviews at Amazon if you're the sort who'll make it all the way through that sucker. I was with her for "the haunting garrulity of the nymph Echo" and could follow her assertion that Hemingway was afraid of Gertrude Stein the meat-eater because of her voice. Where I lost her, and bet you will too, though I admire and am jealous of those who won't, is when she veers into "lyric fragments of the archaic poet Alkaios" which she reproduces in the original language and explicates with words I am absolutely unfamiliar with. But here's the rub. Just because I can't follow where this Canadian classics professor's brain can go in an essay doesn't mean I can't read her poetry, slap the ground, say holy cow, and want to go out and be a better man because of it. The rigorous scholarship she shows off in the essay informs the poetry and prods along my reading of it. The Truth About God, TV Men, and The Fall of Rome are poetry nobody's written before.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book of poetry is purely amazing. It's worth every cent I paid to discover the delightful poetry of Ms. Carson. My favorite poem is "God's Justice" which I share below. Buy this book and experience the magic of her words.

God's Justice
By Anne Carson

In the beginning there were days set aside for various tasks.
On the day He was to create justice
God got involved in making a dragonfly

and lost track of time.
It was about two inches long
with turquoise dots all down its back like Lauren Bacall.

God watched it bend its tiny wire elbows
as it set about cleaning the transparent case of its head.
The eye globes mounted on the case

rotated this way and that
as it polished every angle.
Inside the case

which was glassy black like the windows of a downtown bank
God could see the machinery humming
and He watched the hum

travel all the way down turquoise dots to the end of the tail
and breathe off as light.
Its black wings vibrated in and out.

From: "Glass, Irony and God" page 49
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Format: Paperback
This book contains one traditional essay, a fascinating study of language and gender (classical Greece to Freud), and five poems which blur the line between essay and poetry. The net result is the exploration of very complex thoughts in a very readable form - a form that hides the complexity behind very concrete, common life images.
In "The Glass Essay" grief over a lost relationship, the relationship between the Bronte sisters, the relationship between mother-daughter, and the writings of Emily Bronte are explored in a seamless manner.
"The Truth About God" is a search for the meaning of God in our era. The opening stanza sets the tone for the exploration: "My religion makes no sense / and does not help me / therefore I pursue it." It draws from Beethoven's life, from Teresa of Avila, from the apophatic theology ...
"TV men" mixes Greek heroes and Gods with filming - meet Hector and Socrates in a new environment. "The Fall of Rome: A Traveller's Guide" explores personal relationships (or lack thereof) when language becomes a barrier not a bridge. "Book of Isaiah" explores the mindset behind the Biblical text of Isaiah.
The strength of this book is that the vast knowledge behind the writing is made accessible to the reader rather than being required of the reader. This is a book that makes the reader want to read more of the author's work.
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Format: Paperback
While experimental verse often risks feeling contrived or convoluted, Anne Carson's ambitious voice builds on accomplishments of previous works such as "The Life of Towns"-always feeling genuine and purposeful, yielding moments of intense irony, rhythm, and blade-sharp line breaks facilitated by Carson's idiosyncratic punctuation.
Aside from grammatical and linguistic devices, though, another successful experiment is Carson's capacity for engaging in biography and autobiography simultaneously in "The Glass Essay," as Emily Bronte's life becomes a mirror for the speaker's own predicament and contributes an additional layer of complexity and pathos.
Where Emily Dickinson uses dashes to reveal the full power of a particular word or line, Carson resorts to an unusual frequency of periods, creating abrupt shifts of focus that help the poem encompass as much subject as possible within just a few sparse lines. In "The Glass Essay," she resorts to this device immediately and often:
She lives on a moor in the north.
She lives alone.
Spring opens like a blade there.
Already, in just three short lines of the 38-page poem's fourth stanza, we encounter loneliness, landscape and season, distinctly echoing past triumphs such as "The Life of Towns," as in "Town of Spring Once Again," for instance:
Rain hissed down the windows.
Longings from a great distance.
Reached us.
Despite the periods, the enjambment of these lines is obvious, and more startling. Drops of rain become "longings from a great distance" but, at the same time, the origin of these "longings" remains mysterious. From where are they "reaching" the speaker? The reader is left to imagine and savor.
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