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Autobiography of Red

(Red #1)

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  18,644 ratings  ·  1,853 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
Paperback, 149 pages
Published July 27th 1999 by Vintage (first published March 31st 1998)
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Claire Wang Nope. The intro gives you an overview of the mythology, and the book itself is quite different.

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Average rating 4.31  · 
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Laurie Neighbors
Aug 13, 2007 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. ...more
“Sometimes a journey makes itself necessary.”
Anne Carson ~~ Autobiography of Red


Anne Carson’s Autobiography Of Red took my breath away. I don't think I've felt this way about a book since I first discovered Virginia Woolf. I was stunned by Carson's poetic novel.

Autobiography Of Red is packed with so many emotions, perhaps the most glaring is Geryon ~~ the protagonist’s ~~ continual struggle with loneliness and loss ~~ something I can relate to all to well. From an early age, Geryon must deal wit
Dec 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: gaiety transfiguring all that dread
Recommended to Mariel by: Mir
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
Apr 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, poetry
An arresting novel-in-verse about art, desire, and abuse, Autobiography of Red blurs the line between the mythic and the mundane. The work charts the brief life of a marginal figure from classical myth: Geryon, the red-winged monster slain by Hercules as part of his tenth labour. In plain verse, Carson invents a modern, tragic backstory for Geryon, framing him as an abused child who, as an adult, becomes a sensitive photographer and the much-wronged lover of Hercules. Across dozens of fast-movin ...more
Jan 13, 2018 rated it liked it
If this is poetry, then I guess I don't really understand

what poetry is.

If it's not about rhyme, or meter, sound, or the controlled use of precise, flowing,

poetic language,

then it seems to resemble prose exactly, but with arbitrary


which does not preclude it from being a beautiful story

about heartbreak,

and growing up, one that is deeply moving, and filled with powerful


just that I felt distracted by the form, driven to constantly question

why it is written

in this way: perha
"Who can a monster blame for being red?" ...more
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
While I do appreciate the imagery, at times it became annoyingly random:
Well Goodnight Then they said and drove him up
 Those hemorrhaging stairs to the hot dry Arms
 To the ticking red taxi of the incubus
 Don’t want to go want to stay Downstairs and read (c)
When Geryon was little he loved to sleep but even more he loved to wake up.
 He would run outside in his pajamas.
 Hard morning winds were blowing life bolts against the sky each one blue enough
 to begin a world of its own.
The word each blew
Sep 26, 2007 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
Apr 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: synesthetes
Recommended to Mir 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.
Jul 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, fantasy, lgbtq
One of those books that everyone else loves and I just did not get, oops. Autobiography of Red has so many things I find relatable and should have liked more: a main character who experienced abuse in his childhood, a queer love story, and a plot that features the importance of art. Unfortunately this novel in verse did not resonate with me. I wanted more character development and a more substantial plot. Perhaps I do not "get" poetry or I have been spoiled by my favorite gay novels, including ...more
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
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 perso
Elle (ellexamines)
I really loved the translated section of this—I think Anne Carson has a way of conveying thoughts and feelings that is impressive to say the least. I do not know if I can say the rest of this resonated with me.

I began very much loving this, but the second half meanders, never really coming to any kind of release for me—and I didn’t find what was in between quite good enough to ignore that. The language is very beautiful. The story in outline is brilliant. I felt it never built to the release I
Andrew Tibbetts
Jul 12, 2007 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
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtqia, canadian, poetry
Upon rereading, from 4 stars to 5. I was either a bad reader when I first read this or just not in the right place. In any case, Carson is a master and I don't think I could live without her now.

“Then he met Herakles and the kingdoms of his life all shifted down a few notches. / They were two superior eels / at the bottom of the tank and they recognized each other like italics.”
Jan 02, 2011 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
Khashayar Mohammadi
A truly unique poetic experience. An important milestone for the verse novel. An idiosyncratic, fantastic (in the purest sense of the word) tale that explores the most important issues of our society from a somewhat comedic and surreal perspective. One of the great classics of Canadian poetry.
Nov 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
if you no like this book, i no like you
Jan 28, 2008 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
Jeff Jackson
Jan 16, 2013 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
Bon Tom
Jun 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: erotica
This has to be one of the most unusual books I've ever read. But I like it! ...more
Matthew Mousseau
Dec 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
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 app
Eric Anderson
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve been meaning to begin reading Anne Carson’s poetry for some time. Multiple people recommended I start with “Autobiography of Red” and I’m so glad I read this incredibly inventive book! Carson translated the existing fragments of a poem about a red winged monster with a human face named Geryon which was written by the Greek lyric poet Stesichorus’ who lived from 630-555 BC. In the opening sections Carson imaginatively discusses Stesichorus’ life and the legend of his being rendered blind for ...more
May 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
so so beautiful. a coming of age story told in verse and from a modern perspective of the monster geryon as a sensitive boy . feel like im going to do a bit more reading on geryon and hercules and then read this again to fully absorb it but i did love it
Nov 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion-myth, poetry
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
Dec 05, 2010 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. ...more
Brenda Cregor
Jan 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
This will only make some, albeit sarcastic, sense, if you have actually read the book:

WHETHER The Autobiography of Red

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
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Strange, and lovely. Funny and sad. a wonderful book I will certainly read again.
anna (½ of readsrainbow)
rep: gay mc, gay characters

more than five years later, im still so fucked up over it
May 27, 2008 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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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 to 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 langu

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