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by Anne Carson

Pub Date: April 14th, 1998
ISBN: 0-375-40133-4
Publisher: Knopf

            From the fragmentary remains of the sixth-century B.C. Greek poet Stesichoros, Carson (a McGill classics professor) fashions a contemporary tale of “identity memory eternity,” a postmodern extrapolation that blurs the distinction between the figural and literal.  If Stesichoros’s mostly lost narrative about a red-winged monster reads like an experiment by Gertrude Stein, Carson’s deliberately fractured epic reimagines the Greek poet’s Geryon as a confused and lonely young man, who nevertheless still sports wings, which seem to be an objective correlative of his differences, especially his homosexuality.  Surprisingly readable, this verse novel evolves into a fairly straight-forward story about Geryon’s travels in South America, where he runs into the great love of his life, Herakles, who, in Carson’s version, is not Geryon’s killer, but his emotional slayer, and also shares with Geryon a love of volcanoes.  As enigmatic as it may sound, this mock epic peroration on the color red seems to differ little from Kermit the Frog lamenting the difficulties of being green.  Fans of Guy Davenport’s dense fictions will appreciate Carson’s innovative style, which shouldn’t be confused with, say, Vikram Seth’s more formal and transparent verse novel.