1. Could you tell us the name of a book you love, and why?
Eros the Bittersweet by Anne Carson. I love that this book challenges the expectations of the reader. It is academic, yet conversational. Passionate, yet rational. On every page, what we think we know about love and desire is called into question. I like books that I can argue with in my head, or I think of years later as telling me truths I was not ready to hear.
2. Where were you when you first read, saw, or heard of this book?
Somewhat embarrassingly, it must have been the pilot episode of The L Word, a tv show I haven’t ever really committed myself to watching. The scene in which it is mentioned, though, is memorable because it is so fraught, so tense. The main character’s desires begin to shift. I remember that I liked the way the title sounded, and years later I picked up the book while shelving poetry at Prairie Lights and didn’t read it for months. When I finally did, it changed me.
3. Did this book influence your own writing, thinking, sense of the world, or work?
The ideas that Carson presents in this work, in the context of ancient Greek poetry, made me feel vulnerable. I think that’s what real knowledge does. I didn’t feel validated or encouraged by what Eros is. In fact, it made me question where the boundary between love and desire lies. How can we live our lives with the knowledge that both exist, and not always one in the same? How can a person know and love us utterly, but not necessarily desire one another? When boundaries are crossed, how do we reconcile them? How much of this is our of our control, and how then, do we make art from it? How do we maintain distance and still remain close? I am still in the process of trying to answer these questions, both in my writing and in my life.
4. Give us a line or excerpt from the text that intrigues, engages, mystifies, inspires, disgusts, or transforms you. Discuss…
“… your story begins the moment Eros enters you. That incursion is the biggest risk of your life. How you handle it is an index of the quality, wisdom and decorum of the things inside you. As you handle it you come into contact with what is inside you, in a sudden and startling way. You perceive what you are, what you lack, what you could be.”
This is the passage that made me realize why this discussion matters. It is not about willpower, or even trust. Eros is, it seems, is mostly a recognition of your own inner life, and quickly sheds light, even unflatteringly bright light, at the human being you are and want to become.
5. Who did you send this book to, and why?
A human being that I admire.
Bio: Denise Jarrott makes coffee and sells books at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa and was a research fellow/book reviewer for WritingUniversity.org. Her work has appeared in Little Village, Whole Beast Rag, Petri Press, and elsewhere.