‘The Albertine Workout’ By Anne Carson

The Albertine WorkoutThe Albertine Workout is really more of a chapbook than a traditional book, a saddle stapled booklet.

Some sort of official description calls it:

The Albertine Workout contains fifty-nine paragraphs, with appendices, summarizing Anne Carson s research on Albertine, the principal love interest of Marcel in Proust s A la recherche du temps perdu.

I actually read it as a sort of poem. Or rather, like much of Carson’s work, a mixture of sui generis and something else. The way her The Economy of the Unlost is an academic work on the poets Simonides and Paul Celan, yet is also sui generis, to me, The Albertine Workout is poetry/sui generis.

There. I just used ‘sui generis’ more times in a single, short paragraph than I did in the entirety of the year of our Lord, two thousand and fourteen.

But it is fifty-nine paragraphs of about Albertine. Her sexuality (lesbian? bisexual?), her unattainability, her lack of desirability after attainment, her presence only being felt when her presence is an absence. The paragraphs are numbered and it leads my mind to Wittgenstein’s ordered of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which, insofar as I understood it, which is not much, is also about a certain unattainability and unknowability.

And yes, damn it, it is poetry. At least, if you have half a mind to read it that way, it is. And I read just assuming it was poetry. So, there it is – a classic case study of reader expectations and reader subjectivity. We’ll discuss author intentionality some other time.

 

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