“SODERBERGH: In our movie, Side Effects, you were asked to play a woman who is struggling with clinical depression—amongst other things. I must note for the record that, as your director, I did not see you do any preparation for this role. Do you wing it all the time, or were you just trying to fuck up this movie specifically?
MARA: Clearly, on the eve of your retirement, you stopped paying attention to everything. When I do a film, I follow the director. And because you wing everything—like this interview—I decided that that’s the way I should work as well.
SODERBERGH: I think we both know how much I prepared for this interview. But just to give the Interview readers a little bit of insight … For the first week of shooting, I told you to do the opposite of what I wanted you to do, because I knew that you would do the opposite of what I asked. Then you stopped doing that, so I started asking you to do what I wanted, which you did for a while, and then I went back to asking for the opposite, and then, after about day nine, I was so medicated that I’m not sure what happened. Tell me about that.
MARA: If you hadn’t lost your ability to read people, you would have known that at first I was doing whatever you asked—and then slowly, bitterly, I started doing the opposite.”
“Carson is a private person. She prefers to be alone. (When her husband is traveling, Carson will call and tell him, “I miss you, but I’m having a great time.”) Her book jackets have no author photo. Her back-flap biography — “Anne Carson was born in Canada and teaches ancient Greek for a living” — is so minimalist that it sounds like a parody of a back-flap biography. […]
Carson is usually referred to as a poet, but just about no one finds that label satisfying: her fans (for whom she does something more than poetry), her critics (for whom she does something less than poetry) or herself. She often labels her work in conspicuously nonpoetic terms. Her book “The Beauty of the Husband” is subtitled “A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos.” Her book “Decreation” is subtitled “Poetry, Essays, Opera.” Carson gives the impression — on the page, at readings — of someone from another world, either extraterrestrial or ancient, for whom our modern earthly categories are too artificial and simplistic to contain anything like the real truth she is determined to communicate. For two decades her work has moved — phrase by phrase, line by line, project by improbable project — in directions that a human brain would never naturally move. The approach has won her awards (MacArthur, Guggenheim, Lannan) and accolades and an electric reputation in the literary world.
In her day job, Carson, who is 62, is a professor of erratic subjects (ancient Greek, attention, artistic collaboration) at various universities around North America, where she appears for a semester at a time as — as she often puts it — “a visiting [whatever].” (Even when she says this out loud, she makes the bracket sign with her hands.) This, I think, is the best catchall description of Carson. Wherever she goes, whatever she does, she is always a “visiting [whatever].””