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The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos (2001)

by Anne Carson

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557731,011 (4.05)13
The Beauty Of The Husbandis an essay on Keats’s idea that beauty is truth, and is also the story of a marriage. It is told in 29 tangos. A tango (like a marriage) is something you have to dance to the end. This clear-eyed, brutal, moving, darkly funny book tells a single story in an immediate, accessible voice–29 “tangos” of narrative verse that take us vividly through erotic, painful, and heartbreaking scenes from a long-time marriage that falls apart. Only award-winning poet Anne Carson could create a work that takes on the oldest of lyrical subjects–love–and make it this powerful, this fresh, this devastating.… (more)

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» See also 13 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
All myth is an enriched pattern,
a two-faced proposition,
allowing its operator to say one thing and mean another, to lead a double life.
Hence the notion found early in ancient thought that all poets are liars.
And from the true lies of poetry
trickled out a question.

What really connects words and things?


In spite of some great passages, The Beauty of the Husband left me feeling a little underwhelmed. Many readers described this book as Anne Carson's most accessible work, and that well may be true, but what was gained in accessibility was lost in complexity. Much of what was so compelling in Autobiography of Red and Eros the Bittersweet was lacking, or at least seemingly diminished, in Husband. Had this been the first book I read by Carson, I suspect I would have rated it higher, but much of the ground covered here feels more thoroughly worked through in Plainwater and Men in the Off Hours. In spite of these criticisms, I would still say it's worth reading, especially for fans of Carson. ( )
  drbrand | Jun 8, 2020 |
“Dawn Was pushing the night sky up like a Venetian blind and blue ran straight into the world from somewhere”

“ a cold ship moves out of harbor somewhere way inside the wife and slides off toward the flat gray horizon,

Not a bird not a breath in sight” ( )
  soontobefree | Nov 16, 2018 |
4.5/5

Good thing I don't have Keats on hand, else there I go.

A lie, for I have a form of it in nightingale, third from the top of a section labeled 'Poetry' in some chimera thing brewed for the last six years if the transcribed origin date does not lie. Six hundred pages passed just this week, the cut and paste accumulating in smallish fur, micro soft for the consumer, so pardon my crankiness whenever the adulation for paper and pen and etc grow a bit much. I chomped the bit in typing school on the digital plane, pitter pattered in trepidation of tendonitis across the backs of books wedged to the height of the keyboard, and when the time came to write my thought has never been on good terms with my penmanship, so why shouldn't I make use of the time I was born in? If not for that, I would never have my Keats, and what a pity that would be.

Carson frightens me. She's a single focus to an extraordinary extent, run run run after a solitary author till she can write a work even I can recognize as totally immersed, something I have spent year and page in six and six hundred outrunning in an effort to find my 'self'. Whereas Carson is those respectives reversed, reminding me too much of that dread of being on the cusp of graduating to engineer to a single celled slice of idea pitted and potted to pieces with all the money in the world riding on a single bloodying calculation and not a blessing of literature and/or diversity to be found. I'd sacrifice the span of my attention in a heartbeat to forgo being stuck, and that's a line on which I've stood both sides.

How does she compose, I wonder? I do so in fluid stutters never looking back, so the fact she feels the same is suspect. Then I think on the more obvious references and the even more damning bibliography and I wonder just how much of an academic is she? I'm a fair hand at the journal article myself, judging by the published results, but my current train of composition is different, no matter how long I must go. Try as I might, I can't imagine careful checking beyond the interspersed quote (instinct, now) without a full throated cringe, although I do so admire the sheer density of allusion woven with play. For, despite all the Greek and French and English, she is playing; a trickster tonguing our supposed truth, beauteous as the shine and twice as likely to slit our throats for that's the only way to talk of love.

She looks up from her work, deep/ in the pleasure of it as he can see, something about her/ blinds him.

Excuse this digressive brevity as inadvertent incentive to try your own hand. ( )
1 vote Korrick | May 29, 2014 |

♥Anne Carson♥!! ( )
  S.D. | Apr 4, 2014 |
I read a review of this book years ago in the New York Times Book Review, and was happy to receive this book from a swap site. I have finally tried to read it and have been unable to connect to the style or the story. ( )
  Lcwilson45 | Oct 24, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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The Beauty Of The Husbandis an essay on Keats’s idea that beauty is truth, and is also the story of a marriage. It is told in 29 tangos. A tango (like a marriage) is something you have to dance to the end. This clear-eyed, brutal, moving, darkly funny book tells a single story in an immediate, accessible voice–29 “tangos” of narrative verse that take us vividly through erotic, painful, and heartbreaking scenes from a long-time marriage that falls apart. Only award-winning poet Anne Carson could create a work that takes on the oldest of lyrical subjects–love–and make it this powerful, this fresh, this devastating.

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