Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Color of Night Review

Madison Smartt Bell was one of my professors in college. He served as mentor, literary hero, voice of brutal honesty to me while I learned to be a better writer, and is still someone, to this day, that I find both fascinating and intimidating. Interestingly, these attributes translated amazingly well onto the pages of his newest novel The Color of Night.

The book opens as Mae, our narrator, leaves her job at a casino outside Las Vegas and heads into the desert to her trailer-park home. Once there she witnesses the atrocities of September 11 unfold on her television, riveted as we all were that day but somehow lacking the horror most of us felt, and sees a familiar face in the images of rubble and chaos. Seeing Laurel, a long-lost friend, prompt Mae's rememberences of their time together with the People and their egnimatic leader D, a very thinly veiled cover for Charles Manson, as well as a growing obsession with watching, and rewatching the destruction of the towers.

The years separating two iconic and tragic moments in American history-- the Manson murders and the September 11 attacks-- seemingly disappear in this visceral, brutal, and somehow beautiful novel. Mae's tale is violent, tragic, and disturbing, but Mae is ever in control and never the victim in the eyes of the reader. I devoured her story hungrily and yearned for more.

Bell's prose is typically intense and lyrical, periodically interrupted by moments of abrupt simplicity that will shake you. Other reviewers refer to Bells' penchant for "erotic nihilism" and they are, in fact, spot on. The book refuses to deny the connections between suffering and pleasure, between violence and arousal, and in its honesty creates an uncomfortable but fascinating experience.

One of the things that amazes me most about this book is that, though it is actually a short novel at 224 pages, but Bell has created the feeling of an epic nonetheless. Perhaps I call it epic because the feeling I had as I reads its final words, a haunted, maudlin, icky and yet inspired feeling, has yet to fully leave me.

I could go on and on and gush over this book for many more paragraphs, and would still not do it justice. Bell has, again, earned his place among names like Toni Morrison, John Irving, Margatet Atwood, and Don Dellilo as a legend in today's fiction world. I am honored to have worked with him, and honor that reading this only further soldified.

Ultimately, the best praise I can offer is a promise that this novel will be discussed in literary circles for decades to come, and you need to read it! You won't be sorry.

1 comment:

  1. I am regular follower of your blog and I really like your post. Color of Night seems a good story with very well written characters. I really love the way you narrate story. I am surely going to buy it then I share my thought with you.