The Stranger, by Albert Camus, follows the life of a young Frenchman, Meursault, starting the day of, or the day after, his mother’s death. Opening with, “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.” Camus frames Meursault’s detachment from reality, from time, and from normal human expression, as a very evident and weighing aspect of his life, and his perception of the world. As he struggles to meet the expectations of others as to how he should react to an event such as the death of your own mother, Meursault continues to coast through his life, and allows the world to come to him as he sits in the passenger seat of his own existence. With this inability to acknowledge meaning in life when there is none, Meursault is outcasted by most. The few that like him see this lack of emotion and reluctance to strive for more as something admirable. Although it seems to be more for their gain than any true connection to him. This lack of ambition and desire allows him to be malleable, and to fit into their lives how they need him to. Meursault’s behavior and character lead him to show an honest side of himself, which turns on him in the end, forcing him to search for the meaning of his life.
Although never claiming to be an existentialist himself, many of Camus’ views of the world align with such beliefs, specifically in life having no inherent meaning. In The Stranger, following what he termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd”, Camus uses Meursault as a vehicle to navigate the realm of meaning within human existence, and how non-traditional views of the world can be so terrifying to the general public, with some being punishable under law (or under a guillotine). With this, Camus offers a perspective on what life means to most, how this has shaped global communal views, and how dangerous it is to be a stranger.
By Gabe Garcia-Leeds, student work study assistant
In Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson reconstructs an ancient Greek myth, Herakles’ murder of a winged red monster, into a vivid, dreamlike journey through youth, love, and the unease of existence. Surreal, tragic, and disarmingly intimate, Carson invites us into a world full of poetry and color, turbulent and brimming with volcanic energy.
The original myth goes as follows: Greek hero Herakles, envious of the monster Geryon’s red cattle, travels to an island and slaughters Geryon and his small red dog. Carson refigures this myth into a deeply personal coming-of-age story, exploring trauma, depression, and the troubles of love. Geryon’s world is ripe with a very visceral darkness, alternating between moments of bitterness and profound beauty.
This novel is composed entirely in poetic verse. Operating outside the confines of conventional literary style, Carson allows her writing to transcend language. Like a labor of mad alchemy, she transmutes words into something electric. In Autobiography of Red, Carson displays a masterful ability to coax images and emotions from mere words on a page. In Geryon’s world, one wakes up to “a soiled white Saturday morning in Lima,” surrounded by the “intolerable red assault of grass.” Autobiography of Red is a fascinating read not only because of the timeless story it tells, but also for its inventive poetic structure and the unique, singular voice of Anne Carson.
By Corinne Kite-Dean, student work study assistant
Laura Jane Grace is invariably a part of the conversation when talking about transgender musicians, and this autobiography takes the reader through her personal struggles as she was fronting the ever-evolving punk group “Against Me!”, fighting the system, dealing with addiction, adapting to success, and raising a family, all while losing friends, bandmates, and suffering with intense gender dysphoria for her entire life.
The book outlines all of Laura’s life that she can remember, from her childhood living on Army bases all the way up to her beginning her gender transition at 30 years old. As a teenager, she was repeatedly assaulted by police and beat up at school, fueling her anarchist politics and laying the groundwork for an angry rebellion in the form of music. Through her music career as an adult, she was manipulated by the elites that viewed her as nothing but a dollar sign. It seems as though from the beginning, the world was against her, and she just took the beatings and came out a successful inspiration to trans people and musicians alike. For trans musicians like myself, she’s an absolute goddess.
Somehow, though it’s recounting some terrible experiences, the book doesn’t feel like it’s all doom and gloom: it treads the line of being both upsetting enough to keep you interested and funny and hopeful enough to keep you entertained. Even if you didn’t grow up listening to Against Me! like I did, I think this book is sure to resonate with something in all of us, fan or not, trans or not, musician or not.