Anyone who picks up Red Doc> expecting another Autobiography of Red is going to be disappointed--but disappointed in a good way. One of the joys of reading a new Anne Carson book is savoring its groundbreaking originality, and Red Doc> is no exception. Written mainly in narrow columns of sporadically punctuated verse, it continues the tragicomic, mythology-inspired romance of Geryon and Herakles, now named "G" and "Sad But Great." Like Autobiography of Red, the plot of Red Doc> is fairly episodic, driven by elliptical waves of language rather than dramatic incident, but the overall tone has changed. Emotion has been largely traded for thought, immersion for detachment, realism for absurdism, mythology for modernity. Whereas Autobiography of Red was a heartbreaking portrait of the artist as a young red man with wings, Red Doc> is an equally painful (yet surprisingly funny) snapshot of the disillusioned artist as a not-so-young man, who has come to prefer Proust to philosophy, comfort to adventure, irony to grief.
Carson's epigraph from Samuel Beckett ("Try again. Fail again. Fail better.") not only foreshadows the central characters' hopeless attempt to rekindle their relationship, but also sets the stage for the world of the novel as a whole. The barren landscapes, the absurd interactions, the surreal characters--everything seems to have wandered out of a Beckett play. However, Carson blends her unique imagination with Beckett's so seamlessly that his influence is never overpowering, always complementary. Not many writers could confront such a heavyweight precursor so effectively--let alone so directly--which reminds us again why she is considered one of North America's most powerfully original contemporary writers.
Chris Gilmore is currently pursuing a Masters in English and Creative Writing at the University of Toronto. He writes fiction, plays and screenplays.
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Dr. Aaron Schneider completed a PhD. in Canadian Literature at Western University where he currently teaches courses in public speaking, political rhetoric and Canadian Literature. He is excited about bringing together his interests in World and Canadian Literature. He is the co-founder and co-editor of The Rusty Toque and Western's online student journal Occasus.