Norma Jeane Baker of Troy

Anne Carson. New Directions, $12.95 trade paper (64p) ISBN 978-0-81122-936-4
It is a hallmark of Carson’s style to leave the juxtaposition of two cultural entities unexplained. The latest stirring verse play by Carson (Nox) takes this practice to its extreme, crafting its title (and only) character by overlaying Marilyn Monroe and Euripides’s Helen, who went to Egypt during the Trojan War and was replaced in Troy by an illusion: “I never went to Troy, that was a cloud, don’t forget this,” she declares. Carson doesn’t attempt to create direct correlations, but rather compresses two women who both entranced the world to study loneliness, motherhood, and the motivations and costs of war in the process: “Hell smells stale. Fights aren’t about anything, fights are about themselves.” Carson wades through the implications of certain Greek words, generating some of her signature lyricism: “Sometimes I think language should cover its own eyes when it speaks,” she writes in “History of War: Lesson 3.” While readers will find themselves more readily oriented if they have some familiarity with both Monroe and the Euripidean Helen—especially when Norma Jeane’s daughter Hermione appears, having overdosed, to mark the distance between the two women’s lives—those willing to follow Carson will be rewarded with her ability to conjure a sentence and character beyond any illusion. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 12/12/2019
Release date: 02/25/2020
Genre: Poetry
Paperback - 64 pages - 978-1-78682-761-6
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