09 June 2011

Autobiography of Red, by Anne Carson

This is a really interesting book, a fascinating modern take on the epic*. There are several pieces; a collection of verse fragments (the story of Geryon) seemingly written by an Ancient Greek poet, a few bits dealing with the life of that poet, and then a longer poem about Geryon that seems set in the present day, though it's hard to say where. Geryon is gay, red and has wings. It's slightly confusing. It's definitely not a realistic work, but it's not exactly fantastical either. It sort of trades on the ambiguities of poetic language and does it very skillfully, particularly as concerns the relationship between these various pieces, between the ancient and the modern, and different styles of writing. I read it in one sitting, and I feel like I could easily read it 5 more times and learn something new every time. The language, by the way, is just gorgeous, particularly when describing desire. It's one of the few works I can think of where the descriptions of desire are better than the ones of love-making. I generally am not so into poetry, but this book was the perfect blend of narrative and poetic language. Very much recommended.

*It thus called to mind both Derek Walcott's Omeros and Bożena Keff's Utwór o Matce i Ojczyźnie (which I apparently neglected to write posts on. Huh. Well, they're great. I really hope someone gifted translated Keff into English, because it is one of the most incredible books I've ever read).

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