It is not often in this day and age we come upon a modern writer with the power to make us think, feel or cry with the prolific nature of their words. Anne Carson does just that. In the Autobiography of Red, a somewhat harrowing tale of a young monster called Geryon, who strives to find himself in a world that has seemingly displaced him in every way; the nuances of humanity are shown through a character that, physically, is anything but human.
A novel in verse, fragmented and seemingly broken into shards of memory, shows only what is seen as important to Geryon, the things he holds close to him. It is his autobiography after all. Therefore it is his view of life, of events, places and those around him, allowing the reader to understand the frailty of his character, his ultimate need to be loved and his feeling of dislocation from his family and society as a whole.
Based loosely on an ancient Greek myth, Geryon's journey from childhood to an equally haunted adolescence and adulthood may be considered an alternative coming of age story, where the protagonist is neither the hero nor the underdog who eventually triumphs. Instead Geryon is a shadow of whom we all are, insecure, unsure and unaccomplished, even as he moves towards knowledge and possible fulfilment he is but a fraction of who he wants to be.
This novel is not only a masterful verse, but a work of art. It captures only the moments of time necessary to love the imperfection of the characters, without allowing the reader to form opinions or become attached. As we follow Geryon through his stages, his grief at his own life and failure to fully comprehend what is within him, we question or own meaning, this novel softens the discovery that there is none.