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The Color of Night

Ble abuse of her drift into a cult that committed the most shocking crime of the '60s of her life since then as a feral and wary outsider caught in a swirl of events at once personal political mythic Wondering around the desert at night with a rifle being possessed by pagan gods ritual sex murder ya’ know feel good summer time stuff I knew this book was up my alley The Color of Night is actually a sophisticated and literate What If story What if two Manson girls got away unnoticed and lived on divergent paths until 911 One segued back into normalcy While the other yeah that whole in the desert with a gun deal The psychic wound of 911 tosses our gun toting hermit back into the mental world she inhabited during her time with the Summer of “Love” Debased cultus Something's wrong here in a lot of ways So then she seeks her long forgotten other half This has best ending of any novel I have read since Drop CityThough not pitch perfect the book does link the collective scars of the Manson murders and 911 as turning points in popular consciousness With eual dollops of sex horror ancient deities and Americana The Color of Night is everything I hoped Neil Gaiman's post comics fiction would have become instead of the children's stories which have made him famous Devil's Dream just got bumped to the top of my to read list

Read & Download ã PDF, DOC, TXT or eBook µ Madison Smartt Bell

Mae a blackjack dealer in a Las Vegas casino spends her free time wandering the desert with a rifle or sitting in her trailer obsessively watching replays of an old lover escaping the wreckage of 911 In Bell's early acks he states that his muses are daemons and that this story is proof He writes that this is the most vicious and appalling story ever to pass through my hand so inevitably some people will hate it I did not hate it despite being a reader who avoids graphic writing I will never read American Psycho When I saw that it was centered around a character named Mae who toted around a gun in the Southwestern desert I had to read it But had no idea what I was in for incest Manson cult life murder 911 all wrapped up like a daemonic serpent For the most part it works brilliantly I'd give the prose a 5 The powerful voice and commanding poetic prose keep you moving forward I just took a few marks off for some plot turns that were not believable to me I think Bell embellished in areas he didn't need to Still this will probably go down as one of the best books I'll have read in 2011 It will for sure spark some interesting conversations

Madison Smartt Bell µ 0 Read

What she sees in those images is different from what the rest of us would see She revels in the pure anarchy thrills at the destruction These images recall memories of a childhood marked by unthinka In lieu of reviewing this book I think I’ll simply repost this exchange about it à la Siskel and Ebert that I’ve lifted from a literary message board elsewhere on the Internet It’s far thorough than anything I might attempt on my own COMMENTATOR #1 The Color of Night shares the name of a Bruce Willis movie which is telling since the book proved to be pulp dressed up in fancy pants language and heavy handed symbolism taken from Greek mythology Two of the characters are referred to as “D” and “O” and though anyone can easily guess without additional clues that D stands for Dionysus and O for Orpheus the author drives home the point with a sledgehammer at one point for instance having the Orpheus character being told not to look back as he lures away with song his lady love — who’s called Eerie not Eurydice I have nothing against pulp per se but this book pretends to be something It’s trying to be literary and I suppose it succeeds but its embellishments in that way are at odds with its salacious subject matter which can almost be reduced to a high concept pitch as such things are called or anyway used to be called in Hollywood What if two of the Manson killers had eluded capture and were reunited after 911? Like dude that’s blowing my mindCOMMENTATOR #2 I respectfully disagree about The Color of Night The writing is breathtakingly good the mythological elements well utilized no one does that any and the link between Manson and 911 not obvious at least not to me Also the D and O while fairly obvious to you and me is met with extreme bafflement by most of humanity as I know firsthand from teaching the book to a class of bewildered undergraduates earlier this semester COMMENTATOR #1 I’m not sure what you mean when you say that the writing is breathtakingly good Is it grammatically sound well paced rich in metaphor and so on? Sure okay I’ll give it that — but I wouldn’t expect anything less from an author who’s been writing as long as Madison Smartt Bell Good writing is a skill the natural result of practice and it drives me crazy as I know it does you when I read sloppy work by someone with enough practice to know better but once it’s been established that the work isn’t sloppy that it’s well crafted something else is needed and that something means the difference between craft and — here comes the dreaded word — art It would have helped considerably in the instance of The Color of Night if the language had been a better match for the subject Poetic license and all that sure but if this book were music it could only be sung by the likes of Beverly Sills — and yet it’s set at the acme of what Casey Kasem used to call the Rock Era About the mythological aspect of the book I was reminded of Oliver Stone stating in an interview around the time his Doors movie was released that he associated Jim Morrison with Dionysus or some such I mean that comparison has only been made several million times — and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration — just as the sixties in general have been characterized as “Dionysian” several million times but this book seems to think that’s an original thought Which reminded me of something else a review I once read of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections in which the critic spoke of Franzen’s plot device of The Old Chair That Mom Wants To Throw Out But Dad Won’t Let Her a device that as the critic accurately remarked has been used in countless sitcoms only Franzen is such a snob one who’s apparently never watched a sitcom or if he did he instantly banished it from his superior mind he doesn’t realize what a cliche it is Also having someone tell O in this book not to look back or connecting D with wine was like Franzen announcing in The Corrections that St Jude is the patron saint of lost causes Maybe without such an announcement most of humanity would be baffled but is Franzen writing for most of humanity? That’s not what his style indicates Nor is that indicated with Bell's style here The style is ornate — perhaps dictated by the “daemons” who write his stories for him as he tells us they do in the preface Apparently his daemons are into stories of the ripped from the headlines sort which is fine but it’s a little ridiculous to me at least to cite supernatural inspiration when the sources are common knowledge — and “common” is an understatement Any kid on YouTube could put together a Manson 911 mashup Of course to the best of my knowledge no kid has but it’s far from impossible and were it to happen I doubt that any claim would be made for responsible “daemons” I thought the molestation part of the book was effective — the most felt — and there were details here and there I liked — the way the protagonist referred to her mother for instance — but the rest was unconvincing and I mean that in the poetic sense in addition to the book’s inadeuacy as the potboiler it really is but can’t admit to being COMMENTATOR #2 My attention span is so short my time so limited my reading life so daunting the stacks on my desk and nightstand and bookshelves so tall that my resistance to reading anything even something I “like” and “enjoy” for reasons artistic literary and fun is impossibly high It’s hard for me to finish anything I get bored easily I’m like a heroin addict who needs concentrated goodness to replicate the last high Every once in awhile I read a book that blows me away to the point that a I finish it b I ignore my family to do so c I think about it for weeks and longer afterward and d I want to read it again immediately My response might be part emotional part appreciative I don’t know but The Color of Night passed the test It’s not for all tastes — most people I expect will not like it or may even hate it as you seem to; from what I know of sales that seems to be the case But wow did it connect with me Is it because I was in New York on 911? That my knowledge of the Manson stuff isn’t in depth so the inaccuracies don’t stick in my teeth? I can’t say But I read it loved it read it again recently for class and had the same responseCOMMENTATOR #1 I’ve asked myself if I hated The Color of Night but that would be too strong a word though I’m sure I gave that impression There were definitely times when I hated it as I was reading but when I came to the end I had to concede that there was merit in the writing despite the many misgivings I’ve mentioned and I’m sure it’s a book I’ll continue to think about and possibly — who knows? — something may turn in my head one day so that I’ll see it in a different light Don’t we all reappraise?

  • Paperback
  • 224
  • The Color of Night
  • Madison Smartt Bell
  • English
  • 02 August 2018
  • 9780307741882

About the Author: Madison Smartt Bell

Madison Smartt Bell is a critically acclaimed writer of than a dozen novels and story collections as well as numerous essays and reviews for publications such as Harper’s and the New York Times Book Review His books have been finalists for both the National Book Award and the PENFaulkner Award among other honors Bell has also taught at distinguished creative writing programs including th.



10 thoughts on “The Color of Night

  1. says:

    In case you were wondering the colour of night is DARK Just like this book Dark is a weak word for this novel though this novel that flashes between two of the most heinous times in recent history 911 and the drug fuelled antics of the Manson FamilyThis book admits the author in his short preface is vicious and appalling and thus some people will hate it Yup Some people will It's a powerful unrelenting nightmare of the vilest sort Madison Smartt Bell summoned the ghostly veil of mythology to help his story along in its depravity with cult leader D not only a stand in for Charlie Manson but also for Dionysus O for Orpheus the mythical singer who was massacred by Maenads followers of Dionysus while he sang The Color of Night follows Mae a blackjack dealer who lives in a trailer park and who enjoys walking through the desert in the wee hours after her work shift with the snakes and rabbits and coyotes sometimes carrying her gun sometimes not After seeing her former lover in 911 footage Mae is drawn back into remembering their time together in that dangerous cult and before that the disturbing relationship she had with her brotherSo yes it's vicious and appalling without a doubt There's violence incest murder rape I did say that mythology is woven throughout this modern day tale But it's also gorgeous the poetic prose an onyx monolith glittering in moonlight Its construction weaving past present dreams drug fugues this is something only a master writer can accomplish I admire its total commitment to this study of the underworld both mythic and all too real This unflinchingly noir fiendishly erotic bloodbathThe only author I have read who dares to dig such artful depths and who also explores mythology while doing so is David Vann particularly his Bright Air Black but also Goat Mountain Both of these authors have in their turn reminded me of why I read and write

  2. says:

    In Bell's early acks he states that his muses are daemons and that this story is proof He writes that this is the most vicious and appalling story ever to pass through my hand so inevitably some people will hate it I did not hate it despite being a reader who avoids graphic writing I will never read American Psycho When I saw that it was centered around a character named Mae who toted around a gun in the Southwestern desert I had to read it But had no idea what I was in for incest Manson cult life murder 911 all wrapped up like a daemonic serpent For the most part it works brilliantly I'd give the prose a 5 The powerful voice and commanding poetic prose keep you moving forward I just took a few marks off for some plot turns that were not believable to me I think Bell embellished in areas he didn't need to Still this will probably go down as one of the best books I'll have read in 2011 It will for sure spark some interesting conversations

  3. says:

    Based on the other reviews here I kept plugging away at this book waiting for the story to get better but it bored me nearly to death I disliked the main character Mae so strongly that I wanted to read about her abuse but just kept feeling disappointed as every bad thing that happened to her was glossed over so we could get to the next scene of her walking in the desert doing nothing The parallel story about Mae's lost love was as thin as bible paper and just as easy to see through The Greek myth conceptual metaphor was poorly realized read Donna Tartt's The Secret History to see how that's really done and tying it to Manson and his band of empty headed hippies is laughably cliched Other reviews mention that they were put off by the extreme violence in the book Perhaps I'm jaded but the violence was as flat and lacking conseuence as Mae's strolls in the desert Everything I like about nihilistic po mo literature is missing here The author bills this as his best work so it's a pretty sure thing I'll never pick up something by him again

  4. says:

    In lieu of reviewing this book I think I’ll simply repost this exchange about it à la Siskel and Ebert that I’ve lifted from a literary message board elsewhere on the Internet It’s far thorough than anything I might attempt on my own COMMENTATOR #1 The Color of Night shares the name of a Bruce Willis movie which is telling since the book proved to be pulp dressed up in fancy pants language and heavy handed symbolism taken from Greek mythology Two of the characters are referred to as “D” and “O” and though anyone can easily guess without additional clues that D stands for Dionysus and O for Orpheus the author drives home the point with a sledgehammer at one point for instance having the Orpheus character being told not to look back as he lures away with song his lady love — who’s called Eerie not Eurydice I have nothing against pulp per se but this book pretends to be something It’s trying to be literary and I suppose it succeeds but its embellishments in that way are at odds with its salacious subject matter which can almost be reduced to a high concept pitch as such things are called or anyway used to be called in Hollywood What if two of the Manson killers had eluded capture and were reunited after 911? Like dude that’s blowing my mindCOMMENTATOR #2 I respectfully disagree about The Color of Night The writing is breathtakingly good the mythological elements well utilized no one does that any and the link between Manson and 911 not obvious at least not to me Also the D and O while fairly obvious to you and me is met with extreme bafflement by most of humanity as I know firsthand from teaching the book to a class of bewildered undergraduates earlier this semester COMMENTATOR #1 I’m not sure what you mean when you say that the writing is breathtakingly good Is it grammatically sound well paced rich in metaphor and so on? Sure okay I’ll give it that — but I wouldn’t expect anything less from an author who’s been writing as long as Madison Smartt Bell Good writing is a skill the natural result of practice and it drives me crazy as I know it does you when I read sloppy work by someone with enough practice to know better but once it’s been established that the work isn’t sloppy that it’s well crafted something else is needed and that something means the difference between craft and — here comes the dreaded word — art It would have helped considerably in the instance of The Color of Night if the language had been a better match for the subject Poetic license and all that sure but if this book were music it could only be sung by the likes of Beverly Sills — and yet it’s set at the acme of what Casey Kasem used to call the Rock Era About the mythological aspect of the book I was reminded of Oliver Stone stating in an interview around the time his Doors movie was released that he associated Jim Morrison with Dionysus or some such I mean that comparison has only been made several million times — and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration — just as the sixties in general have been characterized as “Dionysian” several million times but this book seems to think that’s an original thought Which reminded me of something else a review I once read of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections in which the critic spoke of Franzen’s plot device of The Old Chair That Mom Wants To Throw Out But Dad Won’t Let Her a device that as the critic accurately remarked has been used in countless sitcoms only Franzen is such a snob one who’s apparently never watched a sitcom or if he did he instantly banished it from his superior mind he doesn’t realize what a cliche it is Also having someone tell O in this book not to look back or connecting D with wine was like Franzen announcing in The Corrections that St Jude is the patron saint of lost causes Maybe without such an announcement most of humanity would be baffled but is Franzen writing for most of humanity? That’s not what his style indicates Nor is that indicated with Bell's style here The style is ornate — perhaps dictated by the “daemons” who write his stories for him as he tells us they do in the preface Apparently his daemons are into stories of the ripped from the headlines sort which is fine but it’s a little ridiculous to me at least to cite supernatural inspiration when the sources are common knowledge — and “common” is an understatement Any kid on YouTube could put together a Manson 911 mashup Of course to the best of my knowledge no kid has but it’s far from impossible and were it to happen I doubt that any claim would be made for responsible “daemons” I thought the molestation part of the book was effective — the most felt — and there were details here and there I liked — the way the protagonist referred to her mother for instance — but the rest was unconvincing and I mean that in the poetic sense in addition to the book’s inadeuacy as the potboiler it really is but can’t admit to being COMMENTATOR #2 My attention span is so short my time so limited my reading life so daunting the stacks on my desk and nightstand and bookshelves so tall that my resistance to reading anything even something I “like” and “enjoy” for reasons artistic literary and fun is impossibly high It’s hard for me to finish anything I get bored easily I’m like a heroin addict who needs concentrated goodness to replicate the last high Every once in awhile I read a book that blows me away to the point that a I finish it b I ignore my family to do so c I think about it for weeks and longer afterward and d I want to read it again immediately My response might be part emotional part appreciative I don’t know but The Color of Night passed the test It’s not for all tastes — most people I expect will not like it or may even hate it as you seem to; from what I know of sales that seems to be the case But wow did it connect with me Is it because I was in New York on 911? That my knowledge of the Manson stuff isn’t in depth so the inaccuracies don’t stick in my teeth? I can’t say But I read it loved it read it again recently for class and had the same responseCOMMENTATOR #1 I’ve asked myself if I hated The Color of Night but that would be too strong a word though I’m sure I gave that impression There were definitely times when I hated it as I was reading but when I came to the end I had to concede that there was merit in the writing despite the many misgivings I’ve mentioned and I’m sure it’s a book I’ll continue to think about and possibly — who knows? — something may turn in my head one day so that I’ll see it in a different light Don’t we all reappraise?

  5. says:

    Latter Day BacchaeLas Vegas September 11 2001 Mae is a fifty something blackjack dealer in a minor Las Vegas casino It was a sort of fifth rate hell and I a minor demon posted to it A succubus too indifferent to suck Watching coverage of the flight from Ground Zero she catches sight of her former lover Laurel kneeling on the sidewalk her head thrown back her hands stretched out with the fingers crooked as weapons or in praise Blood was running from the corners of her mouth like in the old days though not for the same reason After work Mae slips through a hole she has cut in the chain link fence of her trailer park and goes into the moonlit desert where the tracks of ATVs cross the serpentine marks of sidewinders in the sand—Cormac McCarthy country with Bell matching the master image for image Back in her trailer she compiles the 911 news footage into a two hour tape that she watches again and again reveling in it The planes bit chunks from the sides of the towers and the gorgeous sheets of orange flame roared up and the mortals flung away from the glittering windows like soap flakes swirling in a snow globe and the tower shuddered buckled blossomed and came showering downAll these moments come from the first dozen pages of Madison Smartt Bell's magnificent tour de force and it never lets up There are enough hints there to propel a novel three times the length but this one is compact and lethal as a bullet Mae clearly is a woman with a past and we gradually discover what it is even as she works to close the circle of her personal hell in the present Her obsession with violence is the legacy of traumatic incestuous abuse worse in that she seems to have embraced rather than resisted it Fleeing to California as a teenager balling for bread as she puts it she get pulled into the orbit of a charismatic leader known only as D— and the late sixties drug commune that forms around him with strong echoes of the Manson Family Although all the women share D— Laurel becomes her special friend and blood sister though they have been separated now for over three decades leading their marginal lives under clandestine identitiesThat succubus pun crude vulgarity with classical overtones is a clue to another layer to Bell's book that raises it from sordid to mythic For D— also stands for Dionysus the ancient Greek god of unbridled passion Another character O— a rock star with a beach house in Malibu is of course Orpheus the great singer who reclaimed Eurydice from the underworld Art and violence are linked In the less well known ending to the Orpheus myth take a few minutes with Google he gets torn apart by the intoxicated followers of Dionysus the Bacchae None of these parallels are crassly obvious but the euation of excess is eerily exact For example an ecstatic description of an acid trip that turns into a Bacchic orgy of tangled limbs and writhing serpents But Bell does not need chemicals to effect his alchemy; he can do it by language alone even including passages in Classical Greek This is brilliant writing a roller coaster of a ride with a tense pace that never lets upYes there are scenes of drugs sex mutilation and murder in this book that would normally turn my stomach but Bell's ability to knife juggle the violence of the American underbelly with the Bacchic celebration of unbridled passion and to keep both blades scintillating in the air at the same time made for such an exhilarating experience that I was fascinated throughout It was even worth the nightmares when I went to bed

  6. says:

    The Color of Night is a beautiful haunting and disturbing story which I found fascinating I see it as a character study about a girl's transformation from victim to predator Madison Smartt Bell charts Mae's evolution through flashbacks that describe her sexual abuse at the hands of her brother with excruciating psychological verity Mae says of Terrell He never forced He persuaded thereby making her complicit in her own abuse Mae's brother is the trigger that unleashes the animal inside her along with the voices and the lure of painLater D leader of The Family will pick up where Terrell left off honing Mae's predatory instincts while using her as a tool to serve his own needs D orchestrates the invasion of arousal willing or no turning Mae's body against her and against others as wellThe miracle in all of this is that despite the devastation inflicted upon her body and mind Mae is still able to fiercely and tenderly love At turns both jealous and protective she ruthlessly avenges her lover even as she actively participates in her destruction And so not only is this a novel of violence and brutality it is a love story as well Bell's language is gorgeous and darkly erotic He weaves luscious myth throughout the narrative that deepens and enriches the story Bell writes about our blackest nightmares in a beautiful seductive and detached manner just as Mae is seductive and detached herself The reader is pulled in mesmerized and repulsed by the violence yet unable to look away Bell seduces the reader just as Terrell and D have seduced MaeAlthough The Color of Night is a violent novel there is a point to the violence The novel illustrates how we as humans transmit our pain from one person to another keeping it alive feeding it as it expands and spreads throughout the world Mae expresses this when referring to one of her victims It stays with me her dying look how finally how absolutely she accepted Ate the suffering passed on to her through me If only we could eat our own pain contain it within ourselves instead of passing it on to others then perhaps the damage could be somewhat contained

  7. says:

    a dark dream no make that a surreal nightmare protagonist mae works in a vegas casino roams the desert at night with a shotgun and eats beef jerky for breakfast so of course I was all over this rife with graphic scenes of incest murder drug fueled orgies and rape the writing was nonetheless gorgeous poetic a study in noir I was especially interested in how it was crafted weaving past and present incorporating acid trips fantasies and flashbacks of a range of horrors from 911 to the manson murders NOT a book for pussies spare us your shock and horror and simply don't read it not that I'm all that much of a badass but I loved it

  8. says:

    There is no way to compare this one to other books of its ilk books told from the point of view of people whose masochistic and sadistic tendencies co mingle to a horrifying whole It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion Perhaps a bad analogy as the book opens with the main character watching the destruction of the Twin Towers and happening upon a clip of an old friend running from the site Her old friend's pose in the brief shot reminds our main character of their communal past I use communal literally As the story continues varying between past and present as our main character heads to the desert near the RV in which she suats we come to understand of her past She was subject to her psychopathic brother's whims and then fascinated by a manipulative cult leader who desires his followers to kill Our main character describes her violent actions in mythological terms speaking of a bacchanalia an orgy of blood The shortness of the novel and the brevity of the author's sentences make both the look of scenery and your knowledge of the workings of the characters extraordinary Stylistically the book is a dream but it rather chaotically describes a nightmare The book's plot needs cohesiveness fewer coyotes in the desert and strangely direct descriptions of violence I think I have become immune to the suggestion of it and I hate that about myselfWorth reading though if you have the stomach for the disturbing plot

  9. says:

    Wondering around the desert at night with a rifle being possessed by pagan gods ritual sex murder ya’ know feel good summer time stuff I knew this book was up my alley The Color of Night is actually a sophisticated and literate What If story What if two Manson girls got away unnoticed and lived on divergent paths until 911 One segued back into normalcy While the other yeah that whole in the desert with a gun deal The psychic wound of 911 tosses our gun toting hermit back into the mental world she inhabited during her time with the Summer of “Love” Debased cultus Something's wrong here in a lot of ways So then she seeks her long forgotten other half This has best ending of any novel I have read since Drop CityThough not pitch perfect the book does link the collective scars of the Manson murders and 911 as turning points in popular consciousness With eual dollops of sex horror ancient deities and Americana The Color of Night is everything I hoped Neil Gaiman's post comics fiction would have become instead of the children's stories which have made him famous Devil's Dream just got bumped to the top of my to read list

  10. says:

    One of those inexcusable books poorly written and even poorly conceived and the author clearly feels he is being so IN YOUR FACE Deserves zero stars Three hours of my life I will never ever get back

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