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Autobiography Of Red (Cape Poetry) [Paperback]

Anne Carson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
RRP: 15.00
Price: 10.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

15 July 1999 Cape Poetry

In this extraordinary epic poem, Anne Carson bridges the gap between classicism and the modern, poetry and prose, with a volcanic journey into the soul of a winged red monster named Geryon.

There is a strong mixture of whimsy and sadness in Geryon's story. He is tormented as a boy by his brother, escapes to a parallel world of photography, and falls in love with Herakles - a golden young man who leaves Geryon at the peak of infatuation. Geryon retreats ever further into the world created by his camera, until that glass house is suddenly and irrevocably shattered by Herakles' return. Running throughout is Geryon's fascination with his wings, the colour red, and the fantastic accident of who he is.

Autobiography of Red is a deceptively simple narrative layered with currents of meaning, emotion, and the truth about what it's like to be red. It is a powerful and unsettling story that moves, disturbs, and delights.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; 1st ed. edition (15 July 1999)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0224059734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224059732
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 15.4 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 219,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Anne Carson is a Professor of Classics as well as an innovative and well-regarded poet: Autobiography of Red draws on both in a highly original "novel in verse". But this is by no means a straightforward narrative poem--rather it is a formally inventive and diverse investigation into the nature of story, its inheritance from the past and its transformations of inherited materials. The foreword gives a brief account of the work of the Greek poet Stesichorus, of whose twenty-six books only a few fragments have survived. Stesichorus was a poetic innovator--he disrupted the stable descriptive traditions of oral Homeric poetry and, perhaps equally importantly, reinterpreted epic themes through the medium of lyric verse. It is this which gives the clue to Anne Carson's own reinventions, for concepts of the fragment, innovative language and formal revisioning are key elements of this long and ambitious book.

Among the Stesichorus fragments are parts of a poem known as the "Geryoneis" which deals with the slaying of the winged red monster Geryon by Herakles (Hercules). What is interesting is the fact that many of these fragments deal with the monster's own experiences: instead of the epic struggle, the fable of "culture versus mostrosity", we see Geryon, for example, as a child playing with his dog. Carson extends this frozen moment of youth: as well as translating passages from Stesichorus, she expands, reworks and invents a whole childhood for Geryon, relocating him into a more contemporaneous milieu with him and Herakles as young, strangely antagonistic lovers. The idea of the fragment is taken up in the pastime of the child-monster Geryon--photography, the art of snatching fragments from the real, the lived, the experienced-- and in the language given to Geryon, for Carson fuses the beast with the classical poet so that the fresh descriptive energies of the latter are grafted onto the naive eye of the creature outside of culture.

What Carson achieves is admirable: the book is an exploration of youth and a philosophical project while at the same time formally varied and challenging. In exploring ways of inheriting and responding to a literary past, it also invites us to be more generous with our freedoms and to be creatively ambitious--we should see naively and make the world anew, like Stesichorus, and like Carson's Geryon. --Burhan Tufail


"Like all of Anne Carson's writing, this book is amazing - I haven't discovered any writing in years that's so marvellously disturbing. I just feel so happy that she's around" (Alice Munro)

"Her work is full of moments of startling originality and beauty. The poems play with character and plot, myth and magic; they are rich with attitude and wit and the undertow of grief. If she was a prose writer she would instantly be recognised as a genius" (Colm Tóibín Times Literary Supplement)

"Anne Carson has created, from fragments of the Greek poet Stesichoros, a profound love story...forty-seven compulsively readable long-lined poems of intense cinematic detail. Carson writes in language any poet would kill for: sensuous and funny, poignant, musical and tender, brilliantly lighted" (Ruth Padel New York Times Book Review)

"Anne Carson is a daring, learned, unsettling writer. Autobiography of Red, which perhaps comes closest to representing the range of her voice and gifts, is a spellbinding achievement" (Susan Sontag)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent 14 Oct 2011
By HartWud
A stunning, magnificent, warmly enveloping work - startlingly evocative imagery on both a grand and intimate scale.

Carson uses her boldly brilliant words to conjure an engaging involvement in the small things of Geryon's life, while effortlessly laying open the eternal themes of outsider experience and unrequited love.

Rewards multiple readings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but a little flat. 20 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ultimately I was hoping for something a little more in tune with the classical world it invokes. Despite the character being called Geryon and Herakles, they really have nothing more in common with their mythical counterparts than the name. I also felt the world of the classics did not seem present. Other authors (such as Mark Merlis in his novel An Arrows Flight) manage to set the myths in the modern world whilst still keeping ancient Greece as an influence. Anne Carson leaves every trace of classicism behind. That isn't necessarily bad, but it raises the question of why she is using these myths at all when her poem has so little to do with them. it just feels like a waste, and is a little frustrating when the matter around the poem itself promotes the myth so heavily.

The poetry is solid but unexceptional. There were some nice passages, though nothing really memorable.

Ultimately, this is an enjoyable enough poem, but I couldn't recommend it at the price.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing and emotional read 5 Aug 2014
By Rosie
One of the most absorbing books I have ever read. As a non-academic type it was a bit strange at first, but once I got over that I was lost so deeply that I carried the character and his story around in my head all the time for weeks on end. Reading this was an emotional experience! I can't wait to buy the sequel.
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