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Autobiography of Red (Red #1)

4.35 of 5 stars 4.35  ·  rating details  ·  6,583 ratings  ·  664 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
Paperback, 160 pages
Published July 27th 1999 by Vintage Canada (first published March 31st 1998)
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Jan 31, 2013 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.
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
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
Jun 09, 2010 Miriam rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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
Andrew Tibbetts
Jul 12, 2007 Andrew Tibbetts rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Jeff Jackson
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
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
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,
if you no like this book, i no like you
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?
Jan 06, 2011 Eric rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Eric by: Ceridwen Sparkle Princess
Shelves: poetry, bagatelle
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.
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
August Smith
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
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
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
Jun 24, 2008 Ruby rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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-
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.
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?!

Nick Jirsa
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
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
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
Wow, I read this in one setting. While engulfed in the party culture that is Berlin.

Uh... I mean, really, you should go to someone else to read a synopsis. But this book is rough re-telling of one of Stesichoros' poems, which is a re-telling of one of the "labors" of Herakles. In the common myth, Geryon is a fearsome monster with many heads and hands and wings and all red, and Herakles kills his dog, his friend, and then pops his skull with an arrow. And then steals his cows. Stesichoros tells
Meet Geryon: sensitive, stupid boy and winged, red monster. This is the story, written in verse, of his flight from an abusive brother and cipher-like mother. It's the story of Geryon coming to love a young man named Herakles, and losing him, then finding consolation in art, behind the lens of a camera. It's the portrait of an artist as winged, red monster coming of age into self-knowledge and acceptance. Both novel and poem, comedic and tragic, Autobiography of Red rewrites Greek myth in the pr ...more
My favorite college professor recommended this book to me because of how much I loved Gertrude Stein. Stein's influence is clear in the book (She is even quoted in the beginning: "I like the feeling of words doing as they want to do and as they have to do."

What I love about Stein and what I loved about this book was that it makes reading like a mental exercise. It forces the reader to really engage and work to understand everything. It makes reading so much more rewarding. This amazing, pleasura
I had to read this book a few times before I fully understood it, but I mean that in the best way possible. I first read it as I would any other piece of fiction, after which I appreciated it as such. The second time, I examined the poetic elements, and this surprisingly added more depth to my basic understanding of the story. Now, when I read it, I notice different connections woven throughout the book, and I'm still finding new philosophical references. It's wonderful how new details keep appe ...more
Jessica D. Bicking
I am so happy I came across Anne Carson!

Autobiography of Red is such a charming, heartbreaking piece. I think I can without reservations say, that it's one of the most original, intelligent and beautiful things I have read in a long time.

It's an unconventional blend; projecting elements of classic mythology into a modern world, it is coping with love, self-acceptance, awareness and self-expression.
It is very much the "Novel in Verse" that the subtitle promises, yet more than I expected.
Anne Cars
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Endicott Mythic F...: Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse - Discussion 12 66 May 08, 2013 08:26PM  
Review of "Autobiography of Red" 1 20 Apr 16, 2013 07:23PM  
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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 fifteen books as of 2010, all of which blend the forms of poetry, essay, prose, criticism, translation ...more
More about Anne Carson...

Other Books in the Series

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“Words bounce. Words, if you let them, will do what they want to do and what they have to do.” 97 likes
“Desire is no light thing.” 53 likes
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