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This review is taken from PN Review 277, Volume 50 Number 5, May - June 2024.

Cover of Wrong Norma
Valerie Duff-StrautmannAnne Carson, Wrong Norma (Vintage) £14.99
A Philosophy of Time

Anne Carson has made a career out of writing books made up of fragments, wildly-roped-together characters and pieces that defy genre. Her latest offering, Wrong Norma, feels very much part of her overall work, with a diverse cast of characters, a strange montage of typed lines interspersed as art throughout the text, together with an illustrated storyline about Paul Celan’s visit to Martin Heideigger to Todtnauberg, ending simply, fatefully: ‘Celan loaded his cart and started back down’. Carson herself says about Wrong Norma that it is ‘a collection of writings about different things, like Joseph Conrad, Guantanamo, Flaubert, snow, poverty, Roget’s Thesaurus, my Dad, Saturday night. The pieces are not linked. That’s why I’ve called them “wrong”’ – but the only ‘wrongness’ a seasoned Carson reader can find is her insistence on further fragmentation of genre – not poems, not stories, not plays, not visual art – pieces shaken together in an already fractured whirl of text.

As in previous work, the reader is set loose in the candy store of Carson’s ruminations, finding well-known figures or those who appear only in Carson’s mind – her friend Chandler, visitors from Iceland, Carson herself. In these selections, there are moments of grounded narrative (as in good film) or (again, as in good film) moments of being whisked along on the ride. Carson mentions the French director Eric Rohmer at various points (‘do you like the films of Eric Rohmer’), and while there is a mixed bag of response (from ‘no’ to ‘I find realistic techniques delightful’), ...

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