Autobiography of Red, by Anne Carson
Oh Anne Carson, you razor-sharp, tender-hearted, steel-cored alien. This novel took more than just a keen ear for truth and a way with words to birth it. It seems to have careened in straight from some rocky cold moon somewhere. You can expand your vocabulary, tighten your plot, finesse your descriptions and flesh out your characters til the cows come home, but unless you are like Carson, you will never produce something like this.
I don’t mean to say that it is superior to all works, just that it felt incredibly unique. The novel deals with Geryon, the principal figure from Stesichorus’s Geryoneïs (written in the 6th century BC). The first few chapters discuss Stesichorus’s work in a poetic, but academic way that went completely over my classically-untrained head. Then Carson dives into her own retelling of Geryon’s story in free verse, transposed to a surreal and semi-modern setting. He’s still a red-winged demon, but he’s a person, too, growing up and desiring and hurting as we all do. Carson also brings along Herakles, who was the hero figure in the Geryoneïs and becomes Geryon’s first lover.
At times it’s melancholy, funny, raw, gorgeous, sensual, profound. It’s really stunning. I mean this novel constricts your breathing to a long slow rise and fall.
The 213 in 2013 series chronicles every book I read in 2013. Each review contains exactly 213 words, because 2013 words is too long and 2013 characters is too dang short.