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Rating: 4 of 5 stars
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 autobiography he begins at the age of five. As he grows older, Geryon escapes his abusive brother and affectionate but ineffectual mother, finding solace behind the lens of his camera and in the arms of a young man named Herakles, a cavalier drifter who leaves him at the peak of infatuation. When Herakles reappears years later, Geryon confronts again the pain of his desire and embarks on a journey that will unleash his creative imagination to its fullest extent. By turns whimsical and haunting, erudite and accessible, richly layered and deceptively simple, Autobiography of Red is a profoundly moving portrait of an artist coming to terms with the fantastic accident of who he is.
So I’ve read this novel-in-verse multiple times, most times when I was too young to understand it but mature enough to get it, and it remains one of the biggest and most influential pieces of literature that’ve left such an impression on me as to inspire worlds. Little red Geryon’s journey through his life with his family and Herakles always sat with me in a heavy, potent way that I haven’t been able to shake for years. Not that I’d want it to. It’s certainly typically not my cup of tea, and I care nothing for verse novels, but this one, for some reason, sticks with me like none other. Thank you Anne Carson. Thank you.