It’s not quite accurate to call Anne Carson’s latest work a “book,” said Craig Morgan Teicher in Publishers Weekly. Nox is roughly 10 feet of paper, folded accordion-style and tucked into an elegant gray box. Its pages reproduce a scrapbook the poet assembled after one of her brothers died, unexpectedly, several years ago. It was her editor’s idea to label the entire package as poetry, even though various photographs and other people’s letters are mixed in alongside Carson’s bursts of spare verse. “I just really have no idea what I’m writing most of the time,” she says. “I guess it’s a memoir because it’s about memory. But I keep calling it an ‘epitaph.’ I didn’t want this to be about me mainly.”
It’s not, said Sam Anderson in New York. Nox is at once a moving portrait of one deceased brother and “a declaration of the impossibility of creating portraits of dead brothers.” Carson’s brother Michael was a troubled spirit who eventually began dealing drugs and, in 1979, fled overseas to avoid arrest. Carson received letters from him only occasionally, until he phoned out of the blue just before his death, in 2000. “We made a plan to meet: I was going to go to Copenhagen,” she says. Finding herself mourning a man who had become a mystery, she started assembling his epitaph. “I kept it for a number of years as a book that I showed to one person at a time,” she says. Published, it’s become a funeral song for every fleeting life that we treasure without understanding.