Pure Colour: A Novel (Hardcover)
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March 2022 Indie Next List
“Defying the novel, Sheila Heti proves her wisdom and imagination. The story begins innocently and then wonderfully morphs, ruminating on loss, companionship, religion, and the physical form. This book continues to echo in my brain.”
— James Harrod, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC
This weird and wonderful novel is told by Mira as she grieves for her father and falls in love with her friend, Annie. Set in a “first draft” of Creation, people are descended from birds, fish, bears, and Mira spends an extended period of time as a leaf on a tree. Elliptical as myth, it explores relational depths through ecological and theological lenses, scattering tiny truths within its wise vignettes along the way.— Ben
Pure Colour is a galaxy of a novel: explosive, celestially bright, huge, and streaked with beauty. It is a contemporary bible, an atlas of feeling, and an absurdly funny guide to the great (and terrible) things about being alive. Sheila Heti is a philosopher of modern experience, and she has reimagined what a book can hold.
Here we are, just living in the first draft of Creation, which was made by some great artist, who is now getting ready to tear it apart.
In this first draft of the world, a woman named Mira leaves home to study. There, she meets Annie, whose tremendous power opens Mira’s chest like a portal—to what, she doesn’t know. When Mira is older, her beloved father dies, and his spirit passes into her. Together, they become a leaf on a tree. But photosynthesis gets boring, and being alive is a problem that cannot be solved, even by a leaf. Eventually, Mira must remember the human world she’s left behind, including Annie, and choose whether or not to return.
“An explicitly mystical book about the creation of art and the creation of the universe, about the death of a father and the death of ego, about the uses and abuses of doubt . . . So new . . . This book, so full of argument, feels weightless. I note this with wonder. . . Heti’s books aim to be vessels for the transformation of reader and writer.”
—Parul Sehgal, The New Yorker
“[Heti’s] novels are quests for the holy inside the profane . . . Pure Colour is unabashedly metaphysical and completely outlandish. At the same time, this is a book of mourning, specifically for a father. Heti’s tone is more somber and searching than it has ever been, as she turns over and over fundamental questions of life and death, creation and extinction, with her trademark penchant for paradox.”
—Judith Shulevitz, The Atlantic
“Just like that, there’s magic. Like Iris Murdoch’s novels, Heti’s are philosophically intense, although Heti’s work is pared down where Murdoch’s was Rabelaisian. Heti owns a sharp axe. In Pure Colour the wood chips that fall are as interesting as the sculpture that gets made.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times Book Review
“Part bonkers cosmology and part contemporary parable . . . Different modalities of love, and all the inexact, invigorating and frustrating ways in which they combine, drive the pathos of the book as well as its most phenomenal moments of exultation, moments where meaning crackles and flares . . . Buoyed by a dazzling assortment of questions, curiosities and wild propositions that betray the author’s agile and untamed mind . . . [Pure Colour] brings into view a certain organic and ecstatic wholeness: bright splashes of feeling and folly, of grief and loss ."
—Alexandra Kleeman, The New York Times Book Review
“The most timely, urgent book of 2022 . . . Plot is not the reason we keep reading Heti’s novels. Although to say so also shortchanges their artistry. All of them have shape, accrue meaning and momentum over time . . .Genius.”
—Lynn Steger Strong, Los Angeles Times
“Forthright, attentive, unembarrassed, radiant with wonder, serious yet feather-light . . . Courageous in [its] willingness to plunge so wholeheartedly into the unknowable . . . The fantastical quality of Pure Colour has given [Heti] the unfettered freedom to create, in the knowledge that every creation can only be provisional, a flawed first draft. Uncertainty is the paradoxical binding agent of Ms. Heti’s myth-making and this lovely book.”
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“Everything in Pure Colour, the new novel by Sheila Heti, vibrates with instability, with the shimmering frisson of one teetering on the edge . . . Creation, time, the nature of God: these perennial mysteries are not simply broached in Pure Colour but seized upon with vigor . . . Heti skips and leaps and tumbles, with both the joy of possibility and the brutality of the actual . . . Heti’s most rigorously interior novel . . . illuminate[s] the unified stuff of reality that both undergirds life and suffuses it.”
—Jack Hanson, The Baffler
“Pure Colour doesn’t solely dwell in the chilly empyrean. It has a narrative—which is to say, it has human characters, a human (or humanish) plot, a specific location in history . . . But Heti places all of this human drama alongside the deep time of cosmogony and a world of idiosyncratic myths and wild transformations.”
—Anthony Domestico, The Boston Globe
“Brazenly strange . . . Heti’s metaphorical range keeps you on your toes . . . An impressive spectrum of meaning and feeling, both abstract and tangible, solemn as well as silly, hitting notes that recall Ovid, Kafka and, oddly, the climax of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. The wacky metaphysics generate a what-if? comedy that gains voltage from Heti’s refusal to milk it for allegory . . . One-of-a-kind, curious in two senses . . . Nothing less than vital.”
—Anthony Cummins, The Guardian
“Remarkable . . . It is its strangeness that makes Pure Colour stick out, that lends it its emotional edge . . . Pure Colour reaffirms—in both form and content—the possibility of art as a personal, contaminated experience, one which interfaces with where you are (both physically and in life); one which has the possibility to change your thinking in subtler, non-argumentative ways, not toward an articulable view of the world but towards some new understanding of its nuance and complexity, or just back toward the knowledge that other people exist and are people too.”
—Madeleine Gregory, Atmos
“This page-turning novel is strikingly original, and equally explosive, as it follows a woman named Mira who lives her life in a fantastical world, grappling with the amazing and awful things that define being alive.”
—Town & Country (Best Books of February)