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Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse (Red #1)

4.33  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,277 Ratings  ·  798 Reviews
In her first novel in verse, Anne Carson bridges the gap between classicism and the modern, poetry and prose, with a volcanic journey into the soul of a winged red monster named Geryon.

There is a strong mixture of whimsy and sadness in Geryon's story. He is tormented as a boy by his brother, escapes to a parallel world of photography, and falls in love with Herakles--a gol
Hardcover, 149 pages
Published March 31st 1998 by Knopf
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Jan 31, 2013 Mariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: gaiety transfiguring all that dread
Recommended to Mariel by: Miriam
What do they think about? Floating in there. All night.
That's impossible.
You can't be alive and think about nothing. You can't but you're not a whale.
Why would it be different?
Why should it be the same? But I look in their eyes and I see them thinking.
Nonsense. It is yourself you see- it's guilt.
Guilt? Why would I be guilty about whales? Not my fault they're in a tank.
Exactly. So why are you guilty- whose tank are you in?

Australian goodreader Sean (account since nuked, sadly) wrote
Laurie Neighbors
Aug 13, 2007 Laurie Neighbors rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Oh, you should read this book. It's smart and sweet and tender and original. It's erotic, but just under your skin. It's a novel in verse, but don't let that deter you. You can pick it up off the shelf and settle into a big armchair in the bookstore and read the whole thing for free in an hour (even relishing and re-reading parts). But then you'll probably want to buy it anyway so that you can take it home and sleep with it under your pillow for the rest of your life.
Sep 10, 2011 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: samantha morgan
I read this book when I was about twenty, and it was the greatest thing that I'd ever read. Then I purposely avoided rereading it for over a decade after that, terrified that it couldn't be as incredible as I remembered.

So recently I did have to reread it, for school. And no, it didn't do to me what it did the first time that I read it, and it no longer seems light years greater than any other book in human history. HOWEVER, it is still really great and one of my all-time favorites, and I'd reco
Jun 09, 2010 Miriam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: synesthetes
Recommended to Miriam by: Ceridwen Christensen
Shelves: poetry, mythology
Seldom have I seen a writer so maximize the balance between raw, grated, difficult, emotional pain and beautiful words that make me want to clutch them to my bosom and squeeze them with delight while making burbling noises of pleasure.
It was taking him a very long while
to set up the camera. Enormous pools of a moment kept opening around his hands
each time he tried to move them.
Every so often my education comes in handy when I am confronted by a piece that does not seize me by the heart and wring it till I weep like it has apparently done for most everyone else. One could say peer pressure, or one could admit to capitalism and how a measure of discipline is needed in analyzing any work that is mandated, regardless of persona
Neal Adolph
In my short life I have learned that short novels need to be read for as long as they can be. Then the good ones should be reread. This is a challenge. These short novels masquerade themselves as something that you can appreciate in a few hours of reading. Yes, you can read The Lover in an afternoon, or The Hour of the Star in a few hours on a park bench with a good coffee in hand, or you can sit with The Crying of Lot 49 one Tuesday evening and get through it all. If you have the ability to han ...more
Andrew Tibbetts
Jul 12, 2007 Andrew Tibbetts rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any fan of creative literature
Shelves: canadian
This novel was written for me, it feels. It has the perfect blend of funny and sad, raw and elegant, intellectual and sensual. It blew my mind when I read it. And it's the one of only two books I've re-read several times (Great Expectations being the other.)

There are some clever metafictional framing sections which come at the material from historical and literary angles, but the central section, the heart of the book, is the story, the novel in verse.

"Verse" in Anne Carson isn't strident metri
Oct 27, 2013 Pewterbreath rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not in a long time have I obsessively read anything, just to want to obsessively re-read it all in one fell swoop. There's two parts to this book: first is the meta-writing bit--poem fragments and the like from the original Hercules myth, a writer who goes blind for insulting Helen, and then regains his sight again for rescinding his comment (how very political) and the like. This part is good (not great--just good).

It's the story itself that is absolutely wonderful. Anne Carson is good at many
Mar 08, 2015 Ellie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes I read a work that is so complete that I don't want to write a review. Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson is that kind of book.

A retelling of the story of Geryon, a red-winged monster who has a short but painful affair with Heracles that reverberates through his life.

What struck me was Geryon's unending effort to make art out of his life-first through writing, even as a child before he could actually write, and then as a photographer. Geryon's life is painful but he constantly searche
Feb 27, 2016 Pavle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: takozvano-ostalo
Čudno. Jako čudno, ali u potpuno pozitivnom smislu. Na tren mitološka dekonstrukcija, na tren metaforička rekonstrukcija jednog malog delića Herkulove legende, iz druge, beskrajno interesantnije perspektive. Priča o osetljivim, ličnim temama, o identitetu i ljubavi, o umetnosti i odrastanju i kako smrt tj. ubistvo ne mora biti bukvalno. Neću da zalazim u detalje same priče, pošto je ona ovde na drugom mestu. Dovoljno je reći kako se radi o malom crvenom dečaku, a posle mladiću, koji ima krila i ...more
Jeff Jackson
Jun 24, 2013 Jeff Jackson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This was surprisingly engaging, emotional, and compulsively plot-driven. I've found other Carson texts occasionally too knotty and the first 20 pages made it seem like this was more of the same. But the importance of the set-up soon becomes clear and gives way to a poetically charged and compelling coming-of-age story that seamlessly mixes modern life with Greek legend. There are lots of wonderful reviews for this, so the only thing I'll add is that if you've been hesitating DON'T BE DAUNTED. Ta ...more
Nov 05, 2008 brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
if you no like this book, i no like you
Mar 15, 2011 Kathryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, religion-myth
I liked this very much. The entire work is perfection, with the exception of the evasive ending. The awe I felt while reading was lessened due to this, which makes me very sad as this is a beautiful and heartwrenching book. I really wish it had ended with a stronger conclusion.

This book managed to smack against my ick wall pretty early. Umm, yeah, I am so not qualified to write a review or anything resembling a review about this book.

I found the book accessible yet distant, dreamy but familiar
Sep 25, 2010 Msmurphybylaw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-the-best
Most people who know me through work or socially find my cynicism biting yet funny. I get compliments often on my wit, though it is dark and sharp. I'm surprised when people tell me that I'm quite entertaining, because I tend withdrawal and am generally introverted. I have psychological test to back this up. I am forever the INTJ. Sometimes bordering on the J, but never the I.
This review contains, what may seem an infinite narcissistic hall of mirrors, reflecting Fibonacci images of big ol' Al,
Dec 06, 2011 Patty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's not often that a book of poems makes my heart pound.
I started reading it before bed on Sunday night. I was EXCITED TO WAKE UP ON MONDAY MORNING because I couldn't wait to get on the subway and continue reading it. On a Monday. Morning. Enough said?
Nov 03, 2015 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, poetry
I'm reminded of Michael Ondaatje's book of poetry, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid . The book is a "verse novel" that loosely follows the exploits of Billy the Kid under the pretext that he is the author (though Ondaatje frequently deviates). There are aspects of this in Autobiography of Red (as you may have gathered from the title).

The idea, a classic story from another perspective, is more reminiscent of John Gardner's Grendel (Beowulf from the perspective of the monster). The same appro
Aug 05, 2007 Bina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This hybrid novel / epic poem is one of my favorites. It wreaked havoc on my life, mostly in a good way.

Based on the Greek myth of Herakles (Hercules for all you Romans), it recasts Geryon, the slayed, sheepherding red-winged monster, as a protagonist who also takes form as a gay, socially-marginalized school boy. From the monster's perspective, a story unfolds that is at once disturbing, coruscating, and beautiful.

The way Carson shapes verse awes me, you want to touch her craft, know its conto
Jan 06, 2011 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Eric by: Ceridwen Sparkle Princess
Shelves: bagatelle, poetry
Formally very beautiful, delivers all the pleasures (celerity, compression, wit) I associate with "A Novel in Verse." But I found the story (assuming it can be considered apart from form) wan and Geryon vaguely annoying. Looking forward to Plainwater.
Jun 27, 2012 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is the perfect combination of story and philosophy. It conveys the immediacy of sensory and emotional experience while simultaneously asking serious intellectual questions about that experience. The main character, Geryon, is a version of a monster from Greek mythology. Carson turns his monstrosity into all that is both beautiful and difficult about being a creative and desiring person.

The main part of the book is the story of a romance between Geryon and Herakles (In Greek mythology H
Jun 24, 2008 Ruby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: poets, underdogs, people who have fallen in love with a breeze
This book marks, without an ember of doubt, the first time I've ever felt burned by my lack of education in the classics. I approached this book ready to feel cowed and lost, so I was enthralled when that was not the case.

I understand Geryon intimately, for I, too am a red creature.

From a forgotten notebook of mine:

"On my steady diet of nicotine and coffee, my thoughts grind (like bad teeth) into points. I am a sharp-shaped thing. A needle, an arrow, I cut. I can touch rage: rage that was the o
August Smith
Dec 10, 2012 August Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll be honest, my initial reaction as I began "Autobiography of Red" was a rolling of my eyes. The book opens with a short, informal "essay", which functions as a way of contextualizing the main narrative in the mythological/historical framework of Stesichoros' writing. And while reading this essay, I grew worried that the "novel in verse" was going to be another fragmented postmodern reference-fest; the essay evokes a snarky sense of humor, drops a Baudrillard quote, and talks about how "words ...more
Autobiography of Red is an epic without the endless description and patronymics. And that only makes it better. Anne Carson is a literary genius. Her syntax is remarkable and her purpose is never clear. Those are two reasons I loved this, but there are many others. Read it. You will feel strange, but undoubtedly you will learn something from this. I don't know what you'll learn, nor do I know what I learned. Judge it for yourself.
Apr 25, 2015 Pete rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i could quibble and say that the novel aspect trails off a little but that would be only quibbling. this is smart, cruel, loving, literary, accessible, weird, universal, poetry, prose, short, voluminous, comic and tragic. all books should be more like this book.

here is Geryon flying in a plane to Buenos Aires:

Fear of time came at him. Time
was squeezing Geryon like the pleats of an accordion. He ducked his head to peer
into the little cold black glare of the window.
Outside a bitten moon rode fast
Sep 01, 2009 Leanna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, I finally finished this. I suppose I find the style intriguing (long lines, short lines)) as well as the concept (red-winged monster-person has his heart broken), but ultimately the book didn't do much for me. I know this book is much loved by many friends of mine, so I do kind of have that "what am I missing?" feeling.

I guess here is why I didn't like it that much--what's the point of all that framing stuff in the introduction? And, more importantly, I found the love story very ordinary-
“There is no person without a world.”

Deliciously bizarre. I felt breathlessly intrigued and confused the entire time, and I was so swept away by it that I instantly bought myself a copy after I finished my library loan, because I think this is a little book to be savored and puzzled over for years to come.
Allison: So is it, like, an autobiography of the color red?

Me: No, it's the autobiography of this red, winged monster guy who--

Allison: Oh my god, is he a metaphor for menstruation?!

Rowan Lane
Mar 23, 2016 Rowan Lane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have had this book checked out for two months as of today, the day I completed the book. For the amount of late fees I have paid and will pay on the book, I probably should have bought a copy. In fact, I believe I plan on buying a copy. I found that this silly little book, less than 150 pages, written in double-spaced free verse, should have taken an afternoon to read instead of several fortnights.

Yet I found I could not help but take my time. Reading a chapter, rereading a chapter, rereading
Nick Jirsa
Dec 05, 2014 Nick Jirsa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nick by: Mary M
Stellar read. This work could be mentally exhausting at times. It's large in scope, yet incredibly intimate. Sensual, funny, and philosophical at turns; thoughts are shaded by emotions, colors run magnificently, and push inward, and outward. Anne Carson does a heck of a lot with the language she uses. It's fairly minimal in a sense since it tells the story through verse, but there always something greater than the words being used. A sense that goes beyond the words, and reaches up past the page ...more
Jul 02, 2014 Lori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anne Carson took all the words and did something with them that I've never seen before. I read in awe and wonder, and often laughed or had to stop and catch my breath. All I want to do here is write some of the dozens of passages I underlined, sentences, phrases, word pairs circled, starred, noted. The 'what' of this astonishing book is marvelous (other reviews or the blurb provide that), but it's the 'how' of it that is unlike anything else. There are echoes of her phrases bouncing around in my ...more
Jan 20, 2014 Zoe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, queer, z, unacquired
In this tender but brutal book, Anne Carson writes an iron-fortified queer heart, a little red monster hiding his wings:

"A healthy volcano is an exercise in the uses of pressure.
Geryon sat on his bed in the hotel room pondering the cracks and fissures

of his inner life. It may happen

the the exit of the volcanic vent is blocked by a plug of rock, forcing

molten matter sideways along

lateral fissures called fire lips by volcanologists. Yet Geryon did not want

to become one of those people

who thin
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A professor of the classics, with background in classical languages, comparative literature, anthropology, history, and commercial art, Carson blends ideas and themes from many fields in her writing. She frequently references, modernizes, and translates Ancient Greek literature. She has published eighteen books as of 2013, all of which blend the forms of poetry, essay, prose, criticism, translatio ...more
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“Words bounce. Words, if you let them, will do what they want to do and what they have to do.” 121 likes
“Desire is no light thing.” 70 likes
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