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Anne Carson. Knopf, $30 (272p) ISBN 978-1-101-94684-8

Classicist, poet, and translator Carson (Red Doc>) further expands her reputation as a genre-defying innovator with her latest book-as-art-object: a collection of 23 individual chapbooks presented in a clear acetate case. As a whole, the work initially seems haphazard, as though Carson is responding to her own question, “What would it be like/ to live in a library/ of melted books?” Yet each section exhibits its own merits, illuminating some new facet of Carson’s intellect or digging deeper furrows into her scholarly pursuits. The work is a wildly open text: its essays, plays, poems, lists, and translations include such topics as the ancient Greek prophet Cassandra and Brigitte Bardot’s “transcendent ass.” Joan of Arc and Francis Bacon become comrades in “stops and silence.” Carson’s tone shifts as dramatically as her choice of subject, at one moment deeply philosophical, and the next self-effacing and humorous. As detailed in “Performance Notes,” many pieces arose from creative collaborations with such figures as artist Roni Horn, composer Laurie Anderson, dancer/choreographer Jonah Bokaer, and others. This freewheeling collection is composed of “Cracks, cuts, breaks, gashes, splittings, slicings, rips, tears, conical intersects, disruptions, etymologies,” as Carson writes in her essay about (among other things) Cassandra. Likewise, sections splice into others, and ideas crack open further contemplations. Carson’s whirlwinds of thought, simultaneously swelling and coalescing, disrupt traditional framings, upend cliché, and demand a new kind of candor. (Nov.)