Anne Carson’s Float flirts with the genre of the artist’s book just as did her somber, brilliant Nox and Antigonick, her collaborative edition (with illustrations by Bianca Stone) of Sophocles’s Antigone. In Float, Carson disperses texts in twenty-three individual chapbooks that arrive in a plastic case reminiscent of a DVD collector’s set.
There are poems, essays, and what amount to performance scripts on subjects familiar to readers of Carson’s work but which still yield new insights here. Carson engages with the art of Francis Bacon, Yves Klein, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Roni Horn, as well as themes of grief, and silence, and translation, and more.
The chapbooks do not feel flimsy (though they are) so much as precious and portable. You can carry them around, open with both hands, like a score of music—what in French they call a partition. Each section is partitioned from the next, loose and floating in your hands like Carson’s title suggests. A score is a partition, too, in the sense that it gives each of us our own part to read and to play—each our own part to lose or to find ourselves in the shuffle. In an essay on prophecy, Carson writes, “The etymologist makes cuts that show Being as it floats inside things and how it floats and can it.” In making these cuts visible and palpable to her readers, Carson has created her own work of phenomenal etymology, or what we might call prophecy.
PHILLIP GRIFFITH is a writer, editor, and scholar living in New York City.