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Autobiography of Red (Red #1)

4.33  ·  Rating Details ·  9,092 Ratings  ·  917 Reviews
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award

Winner of the QSpell A.M. Klein Poetry Prize

Award-winning poet Anne Carson joins the Vintage Canada list with this stunning work, both novel and poem, both unconventional re-creation of an ancient Greek myth and wholly original coming-of-age story set in the present. Geryon, a young
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Paperback, 160 pages
Published July 27th 1999 by Vintage Canada (first published March 31st 1998)
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Mariel
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.
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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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.
Miriam
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.
Jessica
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
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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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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
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Pewterbreath
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
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Ellie
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
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Pavle
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: 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 05, 2008 brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
if you no like this book, i no like you
Matthew
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
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Msmurphybylaw
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,
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Kathryn
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
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Patty
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?
Eric
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.
Ruby
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
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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
Beth
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
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Will
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.
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
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
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Abby
“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.
Jim
Aug 31, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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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
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Anastasia Hobbet
Jun 04, 2013 Anastasia Hobbet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel-in-verse
I've long been an Anne Carson addict but had myself under control for years--until a profile of her appeared in The New York Times a couple of months ago and plunged me back into her weird, tangled, miraculous world. I first read this...novel--or maybe novel in verse is more accurate--shortly after it came out, but began anew, experiencing her dark and powerful undertow all over again. Stronger this time.

Autobiography of Red is a retelling of a Stesichorus poem (he lived 640 – 555 BC) about Hera
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Lori
Aug 06, 2016 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
Leanna
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-
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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
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500 Great Books B...: Autobiography of Red - Anne Carson - Neal 2 15 Feb 06, 2016 11:39AM  
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Review of "Autobiography of Red" 1 23 Apr 16, 2013 07:23PM  
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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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“Words bounce. Words, if you let them, will do what they want to do and what they have to do.” 134 likes
“Desire is no light thing.” 76 likes
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