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Sunday April 20, 2014
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A New Way to Read

 

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died I made an epitaph for him in the form of a book. This is a replica of it, as close as we could get." Once the beautifully designed "box" folds open, we find a couple of hundred "pages," all printed on one sheet of paper that folds out accordion style. On them we find partial photographs of Carson's brother Michael, her own collages constructed around images his life and death sug-gested to her, fragments of his letters reproduced so exactly that they look three-dimensional, small fragments of the narrative of his life written by the poet, a word-by-word translation of Catullus's elegy for his brother, and Carson's occasional comments on the uncertainty of history and the difficulty, perhaps even the impossibility, of finding a language for grief.

All that sounds very complicated and difficult, but Carson's intellectually demanding work has found an inexplicably large audience around the world, and this "book" opens up for any-one who pays attention. Carson gives us just the essential hints of her brother's life, but "No matter how I try to evoke the starry lad he was, it remains a plain, odd history." Her only sib-ling never seemed to find his way in the world. Carson tells us that he left Canada because he was likely to end up in jail. He moved through various cities around the globe under an assumed name and was mostly penniless, until he died in Copenhagen. Carson didn't find out until weeks later, by which time his ashes had been scattered in the sea.

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