Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Autobiography of Red-Anne Carson

Autobiography of Red-Anne Carson

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 149
gender: F
nationality: Canada
year: 1998
Novel (in verse)

"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."

I've had this book on my shelf for five years without ever really reading it. I was hesitant because though I've only heard good things about Anne Carson, they've mainly been uttered by the poetry lovers of my acquaintance. I am not the biggest poetry reader so I guess for that reason, unfortunately, Autobiography of Red languished unread for so many years. At times I have to admit that while reading it I wondered how it differed from simply poetic writing because at times it just seemed like a well written story with 'unusual' punctuation choices. But I really don't know much about poetry so what can I say.

I loved this story with Greek names recognizable from obscure Greek mythology built into a wholly modern tale of identity and living as an outsider in Peru. Wings under a t shirt and a complete identification with red make this a great study of a character whose mystery is never compromised even as his flaws annoy you. This is a sensitive and strangely heartwarming story that vividly draws you through to the end. Told in glimpses and snatches of verse that walk the line between myth and modernity almost every line.

The last part was a bit jarring actually after the beautiful middle. The anachronistic interview seemed a bit too ironic as if the middle was too earnest and the ending needed to cut the reader off of the spell.


  1. Sounds fascinating. Is it really in verse?

    1. here's an excerpt:

      "I better be getting home."
      They continued to sit. They were parked way out on the highway.
      Cold night smell
      coming in the windows. New moon floating white as a rib at the edge of the sky.
      "I guess I'm someone who will never be satisfied,"
      said Herakles. Geryon felt all nerves in him move to the surface of his body.
      "What do you mean satisfied?"
      "Just—satisfied. I don't know." From far down the freeway came a sound
      of fishhooks scraping the bottom of the world.
      You know. Satisfied. Geryon was thinking hard. Fires twisted through him.
      He picked his way carefully
      toward the sex question. Why is it a question? He understood
      that people need
      acts of attention from one another, does it really matter which acts?
      He was fourteen.
      "Sex is a way of getting to know someone,"
      Herakles had said. He was sixteen. Hot unsorted parts of the question
      were licking up from every crack in Geryon,
      he beat at them as a nervous laugh escaped him. Herakles looked.
      Suddenly quiet.
      "It's okay," said Herakles. His voice washed
      Geryon open.
      "Tell me," said Geryon and he intended to ask him, Do people who like sex
      have a question about it too?
      but the words came out wrong—"Is it true you think about sex every day?"
      Herakles' body stiffened.
      "That isn't a question it's an accusation." Something black and heavy dropped
      between like a smell of velvet.
      Herakles switched on the ignition and they jumped forward onto the back of the night.
      Not touching
      but joined in astonishment as two cuts lie parallel in the same flesh.