Red Doc> by Anne Carson
by Anne Carson
Knopf, March 2013
192 pages / $24.95 Buy from Amazon or IndieBound
As a semblance of promotion for her new book, Anne Carson wrote: “Recently I began to wonder what happened to them in later life. Red Doc> continues their adventures in a very different style and with changed names. To live past the end of your myth is a perilous thing.”
Carson made a surprising move releasing a sequel to 1998’s Autobiography of Red, a novel in verse about a boy with wings named Geryon and his love affair with Herakles.
Though sequels are better known in blockbuster films, the constellation of literature has its share of sequels, if not always in predictable forms.
Grace Paley uses her character Faith in multiple books as does Junot Diaz with his narrator, Yunior. Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time, a twelve-novel cycle, delivers an interesting take on the sequel—a word whose etymological roots entail sequence, a body of followers, consequence, descendants.
What a formulaic generic choice a sequel could seem for Carson, who considers herself an instructor and translator of Ancient Greek first, and a literary wunderkind (my word) second.
But doesn’t translating ancient works often involve a form of sequencing? There was nothing ancient about the Herakles (Hercules) myths when first recounted. To translate requires fidelity to the original language and intent, while sometimes taking license to contemporize and update the story.
In Red Doc>, Geryon is no longer a boy. He still likes photographs. He is still homosexual. He still has wings.
G, as he’s now called, is a military veteran. And whereas Geryon traveled to South America, G drives northward into an icy expanse with a fellow vet named Sad, a reconfigured Herakles.
Their car breaks down and they find themselves at the mouth of a cave. G’s wings are itching something fierce. “Stiffened/wing muscles pull hard/against their roots and/move into a lift,” Carson writes of her protagonist.
May 13th, 2013 / 11:00 am