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Monsters, Myths And Poetic License In Anne Carson's 'Red Doc'

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Monsters, Myths And Poetic License In Anne Carson's 'Red Doc'

Book Reviews

Monsters, Myths And Poetic License In Anne Carson's 'Red Doc'

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. More than a decade ago, the Canadian poet Anne Carson published a slim book called "Autobiography of Red" and it was a hit. And for a poet and classics professor who writes challenging verse, it brought a new degree of fame. Now, Carson is out with a sequel and for reviewer Rosecrans Baldwin, it's the biggest event of the year.

ROSECRANS BALDWIN, BYLINE: You probably don't read poetry. That's fine. Nobody does. I'm not going to make you feel bad about that. But hear me out about "Red Doc." It's sort of a crossbreed of poetry and prose. In her first book, Anne Carson retold the story of Herakles and Geryon. Now, in case your Greek mythology is a little dusty, I'll bring you up to speed. Geryon was a monster who had some cows, sort of a demon with a ranch. Herakles was supposed to steal those cows. It was part of his punishment for slaughtering his family.

Anyway, Anne Carson rewrote that story, but in her book it was about love. Geryon was a typical kid but he had wings. He was the color of a fire truck. He fell disastrously in love with an older guy and they visit a volcano together. I realize this all sounds nuts but the book is a page-turner.

And now, in the sequel, Geryon is back. He's a shepherd living near a highway. Life is not great. Life is also not going well for Herakles. He joined the army and now he seems to have posttraumatic stress disorder. Once they're back together, the two characters decide to take a road trip. They head north toward the cold and icy, they check themselves into a psychiatric clinic and soon, they face yet another volcano.

Look, this book might not be for everyone, but keep reading for Anne Carson's blend of whimsy, eroticism and sadness, for her insight, like this line about a dying mother.

(reading) Her bed is as big as a speedboat and she, a handful of twigs under the sheet.

Let me press on you, this strange, wonderful pair of novels about a young red man because we all have volcanoes in our lives, but sometimes it takes a poet to show us how to survive them.

CORNISH: The new book by Anne Carson is called "Red Doc." It's a sequel to "Autobiography of Red." Our reviewer is Rosecrans Baldwin and his latest book is called "Paris I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down."

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