Autobiography of Red

by Anne Carson

Paperback, 1998




Vintage (1999), Edition: First Edition, 160 pages


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.… (more)

Media reviews

...Carson writes in language any poet would kill for: sensuous and funny, poignant, musical and tender, brilliantly lighted.
1 more
It is a novel, all right; a story which creates characters that are surprising but credible, involves them in an action that works to what seems an appropriate if somewhat mysterious end and, in this case, leaves the reader with a feeling that it contains depths which only rereading and reflection will sound. But the reader cannot help wondering: Was the decision to tell the story in verse justified?

User reviews

LibraryThing member bitterfierce
Mythology and modern love intertwine gracefully in this shockingly gorgeous story. Carson captures the ontology of love and all its facets with wrenching accuracy. Her spare poetry pulls the reader into Geryon's senses with a deftness that gives his world the immediacy of a lucid dream. A reflection on passion, loneliness, and the sustaining power of art, Autobiography of Red is as sensual as it is elevating.… (more)
LibraryThing member dawnpen
I am Anne Carson's overblown novel a' la verse Autobiography in Red. While I am not as good as everything else; I'm neat in the sense of having a lot of pockets to put things but I'm okay, so don't not read me but don't go thinking I'm the end of the end. I'm a hug and a kiss and sort of a Queerbot.
LibraryThing member plenilune
A thoroughly original and imaginative modern re-telling of myth, both heart-rending love story and dynamic coming of age. Geryon is our classically flawed protagonist, both sympathetic and maddening: moody artist, vulnerable teenager, and monstrous in a way both inviting and distancing. Herakles is his first love, and first real lover, a flighty heartbreaker, a wanderer and wonderer and vagabond. Over the course of their travels, Geryon pursues, seeking to be loved and pondering why he isn't, not in the way he yearns to be; and we, the readers, can't help but be swept up in the adventure, and in his journey and struggle.… (more)
LibraryThing member g0ldenboy
Despite the innovative format, I expected more profound writing. Short, sensitive, heartwarming.
LibraryThing member yarkan
I've never read anything like this. It was described as a verse novel. A modern story, yet using characters from Greek myth, Herakles and Geryon, a red, winged creature. It was relatively thin book, but thick with content. I read each section twice and thought some more. The whole story is metaphorical about something. Identity, love, isolation. I'm not sure what exactly. But some searing emotional images. I wonder if the Brokeback Mountain person read this. And some scenes from Peru reminded me of our trip there. Seeing soccer on the beach, Inca Kola, a roasted guinea pig.… (more)
LibraryThing member KRaySaulis
Rarely do I finish a book and turn right back to the first page again. But that is exactly what I did. Because at the last line I was handed a revelation which I needed to further explore. One I still don't understand. This book carries an ambiguity that is equal parts comforting and disconcerting. I can not review or explain it. You just have to experience it.

I also rarely finish books and know exactly how many "stars" the book deserves. I will be honest and say I am not sure four is the right number here.
… (more)
LibraryThing member ignorantleafy
So good you can hardly bear it. Yes, it's literature, because it's so well done, but it's also funny and strange and vivid and smart and wise. It's in verse, but in no way is it obnoxious.

This is a modern adaptation of the story of Heracles and Geryon, the red dragon. They are lovers. And yet it is not a story of homosexuality, it is a story of love--no politics.

People who do not like this book are not my people.
… (more)
LibraryThing member snash
What is it? A retelling of a Greek myth but so much more; a novel, a poem, a story of human emotion, a philosophical contemplation of time, a collection of dazzlingly perfect word images, and more.
LibraryThing member barrettlucero
Beautiful. A joy of language and longing. You should read it.
LibraryThing member b.masonjudy
Autobiography of Red was a tender story with beautiful scenes that incorporated some compelling ruminations on art and identity. I had a hard time getting over the introduction and appendices, which were kind of funny, but it also felt like the adaptation of the lyric fragments served more of a pretentious pedestal than a grounding that deepened my appreciation of the text. The linking of childhood incest/rape to homosexuality also felt unnecessary insomuch as it perpetuates a cultural stigma at the expense of nuancing Geryon's character and familial relationships.… (more)
LibraryThing member drbrand
It is intimidating to write anything about Autobiography of Red. Anne Carson’s verse is both formidable and abundant in style, and her story is complexly layered. Emotion and understanding erupt in moments of intense convergence. She creates a narrative that is distant, yet somehow intuitive and sympathetic--a Bildungsroman of one misunderstood, red and winged. It is a perplexing book in some ways, akin to reading reading a journal from another time or a document that has been redacted--occasionally incomprehensible, but deeply intriguing. Carson can intimate so many things in her writing, and much of her writing has the feeling of revelation, ancient gnostic arcana, and deep allegorical truth. Highly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member varielle
There are few reviewers who find any flaws in what they deem a work of genius. The author has taken scraps of a classical story and endeavored to wordsmith it into a verse novel. I found it strained and distasteful and have thrown it across the room. It’s going to the free little library for some other unfortunate souls to stumble upon.… (more)
LibraryThing member TheAlternativeOne
6 Stars

Autobiography of Red is the very best in narrative prose and retells the story of Geryon and Herakles told in modern vernacular. What a wonderfully full voice Anne Carson possesses. She manages to fill a classical story with poetry, prose, narration, fable, emotion, love, desire, loss, and every one of the myriad of human emotions into a single touching account. This is one story that will stick with you forever…… (more)


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