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Norma Jeane Baker of Troy


Anne Carson’s new work that reconsiders the stories of two iconic women―Marilyn Monroe and Helen of Troy―from their point of view

"There is a stark awareness nowadays that we need new ways of thinking about female icons like Helen or Marilyn Monroe, new ways to revolve the traditional male version of such events 180° and find different, deeper sorrows there." - Anne Carson

Winner of the Governor General Award in Poetry

Norma Jeane Baker of Troy is a meditation on the destabilizing and destructive power of beauty, drawing together Helen of Troy and Marilyn Monroe, twin avatars of female fascination separated by millennia but united in mythopoeic force. Norma Jeane Baker was staged in the spring of 2019 at The Shed’s Griffin Theater in New York, starring actor Ben Whishaw and soprano Renée Fleming and directed by Katie Mitchell.

""This little grenade of a book is difficult to categorize. It's a performance piece and a treatise on war and beauty, reality and fakery, bombshell and bombing―with ancient Greek etymology lessons woven in to show us how the small and everyday becomes epic, and vice versa. Marilyn Monroe (neé Norma Jeane Baker) is fused here with Helen of Troy, and elements of both milieus―Homer and Hollywood―populate the narrative. It's easy to imagine the blunt beauty of Carson's language being spoken and sung on stage.""
― Barbara Engel, Booklist

"This book fuses poetry, fun Greek history lexicon lessons, Helen, and Marilyn. 'War creates two categories of persons: those who outlive it and those who don't.//Both carry wounds.' Delicious couplets. There are dancers who have internalized the music to such a high vibration that they no longer fit into a strict categorization for what they do. They weave with the music in an ancient alien way. Anne Carson brings intergalactic musical moves to the written page. 'Hermione it’s me, hello hello hello hello hello.' I dare you to get to that line and not ache. How does an artist write this way? Brilliance and cherries light her stage"
― Young Eun Yook, Literati Bookstore

""Carson at her best: arresting, exact, at once surprising and unsurprised. She depends on Euripides throughout, but pushes him further than he was prepared to go.""
― Jeff Dolven, Public Books

"There’s no other writer that can present such demands on a feather pillow for the reader, fuse erudition with insights so fluidly, and naturalize unorthodoxy in a manner preserving stylistic originality with timeless thought."
― Rain Taxi

"There’s a long tradition of using original epics as the departure point for new texts that foreground minor characters in their antecedents. Carson has been writing into the cracks of the classical corpus her whole career, but in this book she is partially following in the footsteps of HD’s Helen in Egypt, itself a modernist epic poem. Carson places Marilyn Monroe alongside Helen of Troy and investigates the incendiary, nation-shaking potential of sex appeal."
― Stephanie Sy-Quia, The Guardian

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