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Autobiography of Red (Red #1)

4.32  ·  Rating Details ·  9,794 Ratings  ·  957 Reviews
The award-winning poet Anne Carson reinvents a genre in Autobiography of Red, a stunning work that is both a novel and a poem, both an unconventional re-creation of an ancient Greek myth and a wholly original coming-of-age story set in the present.

Geryon, a young boy who is also a winged red monster, reveals the volcanic terrain of his fragile, tormented soul in an autobio
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Paperback, 149 pages
Published July 27th 1999 by Vintage (first published March 31st 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Laurie Neighbors
Aug 13, 2007 Laurie Neighbors rated it it was amazing
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.
Mariel
Dec 15, 2012 Mariel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: gaiety transfiguring all that dread
Recommended to Mariel by: Miriam
What do they think about? Floating in there. All night.
Nothing.
That's impossible.
Why?
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
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Miriam
Apr 20, 2010 Miriam rated it it was amazing
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.
Jessica
Sep 26, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it
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
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Aubrey
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
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Andrew Tibbetts
Jul 12, 2007 Andrew Tibbetts rated it it was amazing
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
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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
Ellie
Jan 02, 2011 Ellie rated it it was amazing
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
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Pewterbreath
Jan 28, 2008 Pewterbreath rated it really liked it
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
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Pavle
Feb 22, 2016 Pavle rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 16, 2013 Jeff Jackson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club-2, 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
brian
Nov 03, 2008 brian rated it really liked it
if you no like this book, i no like you
Matthew
Dec 24, 2013 Matthew rated it it was amazing
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
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Msmurphybylaw
Jun 21, 2010 Msmurphybylaw rated it it was amazing
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,
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Kathryn
Nov 04, 2010 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
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
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Will
Nov 29, 2013 Will rated it it was amazing
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.
Eric
Dec 05, 2010 Eric rated it liked it
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.
Patty
Aug 27, 2011 Patty rated it it was amazing
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?
Beth
Jun 26, 2012 Beth rated it it was amazing
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
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Bina
Jul 30, 2007 Bina rated it it was amazing
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
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Ruby
May 27, 2008 Ruby rated it it was amazing
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
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August Smith
Dec 10, 2012 August Smith rated it it was amazing
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
Ammara Abid
I'll rate it later.
Because now at this moment
I'm in between like and dislike -_-
imagination was good
writing style was good enough but that one thing -_- the concept of 'pedestary in ancient Greece' ughhhhhhhhh. I don't think so that beautiful poetic fiction need that content. The book is good without it too.
Pete
Jul 18, 2014 Pete rated it it was amazing
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
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Abby
Jan 07, 2016 Abby rated it it was amazing
“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.
emily
Nov 29, 2016 emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: twenty
i feel like i just *have* to give this 5 stars..but i have no idea how to talk about it
Scott
Feb 15, 2016 Scott rated it liked it
One of this book's many enthusiastic reviewers on GoodReads declared: "This book was written for me." I envy him. I've only felt that way about a few books in my lifetime...

"Autobiography of Red" wasn't one of them, though I enjoyed it very much and I continue to think about it, with pleasure and perplexity. The heartbreaking, sad, lonely story of Geryon is moving, and easy to identify with. Sometimes the poetry is pretty, the words actively contributing to the emotion. Sometimes not.

I was talk
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Brenda Cregor
Jan 07, 2014 Brenda Cregor rated it did not like it
This will only make some, albeit sarcastic, sense, if you have actually read the book:

CLEARING UP
THE QUESTION OF
WHETHER The Autobiography of Red
IS WORTH THE PAPER IT
IS PRINTED ON

1. Either THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF RED is a good story/poem or it is not.

2. If the book/poem was good, either the goodness of it will enlighten the mind of its reader or it will not.

3. If it is not a book/poem which enlightens the mind of its reader, then there is a reason this is so.

4. If the reason is that the "protagonist
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Jim
Jun 03, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
With the publication of Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse in 1998, Anne Carson became something of a cult figure.

Carson employed the familiar trope of taking a story out of Greek lore and making it contemporary. But Autobiography of Red is neither epic like James Joyce's Ulysses nor archaic like Mary Shelley's retelling of "The Modern Prometheus" in Frankenstein.

Carson uses the obscure story of Herakles' killing of Geryon, a red-winged creature who watches over a herd, to explore why we are
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Kyle
Jan 18, 2017 Kyle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Actual rating: 4.5

"Identity memory eternity" are just a few of the themes that encompass Autobiography of Red, a strangle little novella set in verse. Of the other themes, though, they are not so easy to pin down. For this book, as short as it is, seems so simple from the onset, but hides within its briefness a complexity and depth I haven't encountered before. The story is of Geryon, most recognizable from Greek mythology as a red winged monster, but here... Anne Carson has turned that mythos o
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Anne Carson is a Canadian poet, essayist, translator and professor of Classics. Carson lived in Montreal for several years and taught at McGill University, the University of Michigan, and at Princeton University from 1980-1987. She was a 1998 Guggenheim Fellow. and in 2000 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She has also won a Lannan Literary Award.

Carson (with background in classical language
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More about Anne Carson...

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“Words bounce. Words, if you let them, will do what they want to do and what they have to do.” 147 likes
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