Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Epistolary Review (Part I): Antigonick, Anne Carson & Bianca Stone, New Directions (2012)

Dear R.,

For these melting days there is no better palliative than a pitcher of iced white tea. I like mine with cardamom. You have to start with about a quart of cool filtered water. Heat it in a pot until it's just barely simmering, then throw in a few tablespoons of white tea leaves (or four teabags if you're feeling plebeian, which I often am). Let the solution steep for two to three minutes, then stir in (but only if you like) about a teaspoon of cardamom. Pour into the pitcher of your choice (I prefer glass, slightly cracked) & chill. Serve with strawberries or watermelon. That's it!

Anne Carson has a new book out, always a cause for joy. I list all titles & subtitles here: Antognick (Sophokles), "translated by Anne Carson, illustrated by Bianca Stone." Yes, it's Anne Carson's Sophokles, that is, Anne Carson's Antigone. A couple things about that: 

1) "Translated" is the chosen verb but Antognick feels like more or other than a translation in the catholic sense. It is a response to Antigone with certain additions & elisions (nicks!) that ask you to translate that "translated." An example: the addition to the dramatis personae of "Nick a mute part [always onstage, he measures things]." Translatedness, in Carson, is more, though than the outgrowth of her particular style of post-post-post-modern playfulness (Elegant stutter of "p"s).

2) Part of the sense that translation has become a word in a foreign language seems like a natural step in the development of Carson's poetics. Antigonick bears certain superficial resemblances to her previous book Nox (2010), which drew a great deal of attention to its materiality. An elegy for her brother in which translation of Catullus's 101 was the idée fixe, Nox also thought deeply about the act of translation, though much of its self-reflexivity was more overt (almost every word in the translation was accompanied by a lexical entry that illustrated the difficulties of translation) than what you'll find in Antigonick. But it was the book's physicality that was, perhaps, most commented upon. Printed on a thick, single sheet of accordion-folded paper & tucked into a black box, each copy of Nox reproduced the manuscript on which Carson had originally written, drawn, & pinned old family photos. Antigonick is a slightly more orthodox text object--a regular old codex--but, like many contemporary comics, it is hand-lettered. The hand in question is (I think) Carson's own. Her printing is both heavy & wavering at once. The inks she uses are black & red. This is to say nothing of 

3) Bianca Stone's delicate, menacing illustrations: 

You can just see in the second image how the transparent paper on which the images are printed often allows the text from the next page to show through, so that image & text work together by, literally, touching one another & retreating. It's a material enactment of how the images relate notionally to the dramatic action rather than as direct--I mean, yes I think I mean--translations. Or I suppose I could say that, taken together, text and image are translations of a mood. Illustration as Eleusinian Mystery.

R! I've got quite a bit more to say about the text itself, not merely the packaging, but time escapes me (& I did promise I would post this today.)! I suppose I'll have to leave the rest for tomorrow, which is always 

riper for tragedy.  


(Images via,