Saturday, February 14, 2009

Men in the Off Hours

Anne Carson's "Essay on What I Think About Most" (in her collection Men in the Off Hours) contains a much better statement of what I was trying to get at at the end of my post on her book The Beauty of the Husband:

The fourth thing I like
about Alkman's poem
is the impression it gives

of blurting out the truth in spite of itself.
Many a poet aspires
to this tone of inadvertent lucidity
but few realize it so simply as Alkman.
Of course his simplicity is a fake.
Alkman is not simple at all,
he is a master contriver ...

"Inadvertent lucidity" that is the result not of "simplicity" but of a mastery of contrivance that looks like simplicity—the trap I fell into was to talk about "transparency" without talking about "artifice."

Of the many other passages that struck me in re-reading Men in the Off Hours earlier this month, I'll just mention one, from "TV Men: Lazarus," in which Carson puts forward a striking theory about Plato's allegory of the cave:

I have grasped certain fundamental notions first advanced by Plato,
e.g., that our reality is just a TV set

inside a TV set inside a TV set, with nobody watching
but Sokrates,
who changed
the channel in 399 B.C.

Television as the realization of Plato's cave! (I suspect this is something like what Alexander Nehamas argues about television, but I'm just guessing!)

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