Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Color of Night

Madison Smartt Bell has a new novel coming out in April, The Color of Night, which is a remarkable meditation on the nature of violence and suffering. Not that the book is quietly meditative; on the contrary, it's a fever dream, full of bloodlust and death. The protagonist is a woman -- a profoundly damaged, frightening woman. The novel is beautifully written, brilliant and disturbing. I've read my galley copy twice and can't wait to see what kind of reception it gets. I did a Q&A with Bell about the book, which you can read here, and you'll find a lengthy excerpt here.

Orpheus has a sort of recurring bit part in the novel, hence the painting above and today's choice of poem, one of my favorites by Mark Strand. (Do go and read the whole thing.)

... it came
As things come that will perish, to be seen or heard
Awhile, like the coating of frost or the movement
Of wind, and then no more; it came in the middle of sleep
Like a door to the infinite, and, circled by flame,
Came again at the moment of waking, and, sometimes,
Remote and small, it came as a vision with trees
By a weaving stream, brushing the bank
With their violet shade, with somebody’s limbs
Scattered among the matted, mildewed leaves nearby,
With his severed head rolling under the waves,
Breaking the shifting columns of light into a swirl
Of slivers and flecks; it came in a language
Untouched by pity, in lines, lavish and dark,
Where death is reborn and sent into the world as a gift...

From "Orpheus Alone" by Mark Strand. The complete poem is here.

Death of Orpheus, Emil Levy, 1866

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