Part bonkers cosmology and part contemporary parable ... A creation myth viewed through the keyhole-size aperture of a single life ... 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 ... The book’s plot is loose but sturdy: Like a fishing net, it stretches to hold more than initially seemed possible ... It is unsatisfying to summarize all these things: They happen with less color and less vitality in the retelling than they do on the page, where they are buoyed by a dazzling assortment of questions, curiosities and wild propositions that betray the author’s agile and untamed mind ... Pure Colour reaches farther and grabs at more diffuse, abstract material, rendering its world in a comparatively lower resolution ... But in doing so it brings into view a certain organic and ecstatic wholeness: bright splashes of feeling and folly, of grief and loss ... This book embraces the blissful and melancholy inevitability of being the type of person you are, and of allowing life to shape you in ways you can’t control or predict ... The category of the 'big book' in literature can often seem monolithic: a fetish object telegraphing excellence, a genre represented often literally by door-stopper page counts, and by names so famous they hardly need to be mentioned again here. But there are certain books that possess a different strain of vastness, elliptical and elusive, the way the coiled interior of a conch seems to contain the roar of the sea. In these works, you sense the subtle expansiveness of an individual life ... Though Pure Colour is a slim volume, approximately the thickness of a nice slice of sourdough bread, it holds within it a taste of something that defies classification.
There are aspects of “Pure Colour” that seem merely whimsical or dippy, but the long passages that flow from the death scene, and the fables invented to encompass and poeticize it, are by far the best writing Ms. Heti has ever done and alone make this book well worth reading. These chapters are forthright, attentive, unembarrassed, radiant with wonder, serious yet feather-light—and, to me, courageous in their willingness to plunge so wholeheartedly into the unknowable ... the fantastical quality of Pure Colour has given her 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.
What comfort...to enter the bizarrely relevant universe of Sheila Heti’s new novel ... The story moves relatively seamlessly through...abstractions and into the everyday of living ... 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 ... If Annie is not quite fully formed, this feels a part of the project ... She does not ever feel like a real person, but then neither do lots of people we interact with fleetingly. Neither, for that matter, do those we worship or use as catalysts, especially if we are the kind who identify as bird ... Pure Colour is as much about making art as it is about living. It’s about the contradictions and complexities inherent in trying to do both at the same time ... It lingers and repeats itself instead of constantly bounding forward. It seems we’ve hit a point when the two highest compliments you can give a novel are that you read it in a single sitting and it hits all its beats, but this book achieves neither of those things. Instead, it made me reconsider what the particular container of the novel might hold inside of it: It dawdled and meandered ... If this book is a continued examination of Heti’s long-held obsessions...it is also a more mature take on those questions, more settled and retrospective. There’s more grief and earnestness, less sex. It feels both as thrillingly inventive as she’s ever been and also defiantly and satisfyingly middle-aged ... That is Heti’s genius: how fully she is able to show us that the tragedy of the world is all those minor losses gathering force. A single woman and her single loss, formally re-cast and sanctified within art, is also about all of us, mourning the whole world at the same time.
In Pure Colour, [Heti] follows her fascination with the sacred into domains so surreal that we have to abandon any notion that she’s merely some sort of postmodern diarist. We have to pay Heti the courtesy of taking her question literally. She really wants to know: How should a person be? ... 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. Yet neither grief nor theology can suppress Heti’s oddball wit and affection for wildly inappropriate sexual metaphors, for which a reader should be grateful ... Mira is an always interesting but haunting character ... Part of Heti’s charm is her knack for coming from as far out of left field as possible, and here she has amped up her unpredictability ... This is a gloriously implausible book. Maybe Pure Colour is best labeled a cosmological farce; if so, that’s a discomfiting genre. The God of this novel is everywhere and in everything, but he is less concerned with human happiness than one might have hoped.
The first sentence of Heti’s new novel, Pure Colour, indicates that she’s again interested in aesthetics, that we’re again going to be thinking about the cohering of chaos into order ... 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 ... Heti places all of this human drama alongside the deep time of cosmogony and a world of idiosyncratic myths and wild transformations ... The plot and world are humanish rather than human, and it’s hard not to make all this sound proudly strange, even twee ... So why does it work, and work in a way entirely different from what Heti has done before? ... It’s thrilling to see Heti turn her skeptical eye on her own previous skepticism, considering beauty not as a source of embarrassment but as something to be venerated ... So much depends upon distance, and Heti has found the right amount in Pure Colour.
Brazenly strange ... The stuff of a normal, if momentous, rite-of-passage tale, you might think, except that these events unspool retrospectively from the vantage point of an imminent apocalypse as God contemplates a 'second draft' of creation, and that’s just for starters ... Getting the measure of all this is like trying to weigh a gas. Initially the narration seems whimsical and fey, caught between cosmic musing in a lofty first-person plural and the fable-like timbre of Mira’s story, although Heti’s metaphorical range keeps you on your toes, to say the least ... I was losing faith that Heti had any kind of purpose in sight by the time the leaf business came along to put a welcome rocket up all the meandering drollery, allowing the novel to work an impressive spectrum of meaning and feeling, both abstract and tangible, solemn as well as silly ... Amid the weirdness, it’s also very funny ... While Heti’s binary-mania isn’t always persuasive, this one-of-a-kind novel, curious in two senses, still feels nothing less than vital, even if only because, in tackling the bond between the living and the dead, she now has the mother of all either/ors on her hands.
Pure Colour has been written as if to foreclose literal-minded misapprehension. It is 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. And it is written in a register that is so involute and so new for this writer that it demands bespoke criteria. As it happens, the subject of criticism runs through the book, as its hot, live wire. In Pure Colour, as absurd as it may seem (no false modesty here), criticism is summoned as a force that might save or destroy the world ... Mira’s father, a bear, dies and, in Heti’s unsettling description, the universe 'ejaculates' his spirit into her. The two are drawn into a leaf, where they live and bicker affectionately for a time ... The leaf becomes a beautiful metaphor for grief in its trembling state of suspension between earth and sky ... All of it is sketched swiftly, faintly. This book, so full of argument, feels weightless. I note this with wonder, not censure. The characters seem constructed out of cobwebs. The plot is scarcely more than its synopsis, as if to prevent the metaphysical questions from being brushed away again. This weightlessness, this style that feels like the story—how has this been achieved, and to what end? ... Pure Colour, in turn, dispenses with fiction’s staples, including physical description, characterization, revealing dialogue, appreciable stakes, even basic sensory information. Heti is so parsimonious with details that the few she provides prickle and linger ... That austerity is a function of the challenge she sets herself—to tell a story about humans that is not scaled to them.
Everything in Pure Colour, the new novel by Sheila Heti, vibrates with instability, with the shimmering frisson of one teetering on the edge ... An air of uncertainty ...pervade[s] its pages. Formally fragmented, it is almost gleefully inconsistent in tense, point of view, and even style—the prose is now lush, now cynical, now lyrical, now essayistic. Themes do not so much resonate from section to section as whisper and flit; ideas and sensations connect but often only just ... Creation, time, the nature of God: these perennial mysteries are not simply broached in Pure Colour but seized upon with vigor ... [The] opening staves are biblical in tone, tapping into an old, even ancient irony that distinguishes them from the purely oracular. Still, there is something unnervingly declarative here ... Characters are few and mostly gestured-toward, events rendered evocatively but incompletely, questions raised and, at first glance, left unanswered. Still, there is a strange compulsion to the course of things ... Pure Colour is Heti’s most rigorously interior novel precisely because she has let go of so clearly defined an I and instead explored how it is contact with others that makes oneself recognizable, even possible. And, fittingly for a novel of undercurrents, of silent and swift propulsions, it is through these multiplications that Heti manages to hint at, even, at times, to illuminate, the unified stuff of reality that both undergirds life and suffuses it.
That Heti invokes the Book of Genesis on the first page of Pure Colour, then, feels fitting, if ambitious. With each book, her scope seems to widen, and Pure Colour ushers the reader further from roman à clef or autobiography and closer to a kind of speculative philosophy or myth ... Mira’s focus oscillates between considering the details of her own life and broader questions about art and existence, giving the book a meditative and at times almost spiritual quality. In many respects, summarizing Pure Colour by describing its plot, which is quite scant in conventional terms, misses the point ... I’ve found a growing appreciation for Mira’s resistance to what a recent New Yorker article called 'main character energy' and for Heti’s own anti-novelist stance. The more the story—if we can even call it that—develops, the more Pure Colour becomes a tale about grieving during the Anthropocene. The writing’s alternately rough and delicate slowness reads like a modern benediction ... The book’s metaphorical threads are glimmering and attractive, but the wide spaces left between some of its ideas create opportunities for snags ... Some of the nuances of Heti’s ideas, however, are lost or diminished due to a hazy internal structure ... Heti is a question asker, and Pure Colour is rich in queries that link the personal with the universal ... The most moving parts of Pure Colour arrive when Mira seeks emotional and aesthetic truths in spaces between the profound and the everyday, inviting readers...to witness the depth of the protagonist’s (and the author’s) mental perambulations.
This mercurial fabulism marks a departure for Heti, whose previous experiments have blurred the line between fiction and nonfiction but left metaphysical boundaries intact. The impulse to invent a new folklore seems inextricable from the endings that hang over the novel’s unfolding action—which include not only human mortality but also the loss of pre-digital society and, most pressingly, climate catastrophe ... With its strange fables of finitude, Pure Colour remakes narrative vehicles of cultural continuity into pearls of wisdom for the end of the world ... in Pure Colour, the problem of why to make art at the end of the world solves itself. Rather than mourning the absence of a future audience, Heti finds in our strange time a gift of material that may never be surpassed.
Would it be déclassé to say this funny and moving novel, about a grieving daughter clinging to beauty to dull or even transcend the pain of loss, is both precious and practical, that it could help you? Maybe so, but—who cares? ... Every scene unfolds like a dream sequence. The tone is somber and meditative, appropriate for a book about death, but punctuated by Heti’s wry sense of humor so that it never becomes a dreary read. Quite the opposite ... Pure Colour is an almost incoherent novel, a story unfolding in a world at times illuminated only by Christmas lights. Its strangeness might tire readers used to Heti’s more grounded and linear fiction. The reward is that you could actually emerge feeling better ... Heti’s insistence on keeping utility and care at the forefront of her work—her defense of art as a therapeutic—is perhaps more radical than it gets credit for. It is okay to come to books feeling vulnerable, directionless, and in need of help, she says. Everyone is already doing that. They’re just doing it in secret.
Sheila Heti’s new novel, Pure Colour, is about a young woman who turns into a leaf. 'Unrequited love’s a bore,' Billie Holiday sang. So, it turns out, is photosynthesis ... Her transformation is disorienting, to us if not her. One moment the reader is consuming shot after shot of Heti’s strong, familiar brand of espresso. The next we’re sipping as if out of Meret Oppenheim’s fur-lined teacup at MoMA ... Heti has long been a devastating writer about sexual magnetism, her prose as sensitive as the tip of a conductor’s baton ... Where is Heti going with this? It’s complicated. Pure Colour runs its readers along a borderline of substance and hallucination. You sense her doing several things at once ... She is niftily confounding expectations ... Does the novel work? Not entirely, not for this reader. Pure Colour is awfully earnest at times. It’s static as well; very little, beyond the big, Gregor Samsa-like reveal, happens ... And yet, she has a way of turning metaphysics to her advantage ... Heti is interested in charisma and beauty, the utter unfairness of them ... She can compact political and class antagonisms into small fists of meaning ... Pure Colour is not helplessly, organically, healingly funny, as were some of Heti’s earlier novels. But there are moments.
... stunning, elegiac ...It is difficult to pin down Pure Colour, which reflects upon love, grief, art, air, what Anne Carson calls the 'major things.' The novel is divided into nine parts, each section an outward sweep that boomerangs back to a shared center. Heti writes theologically, existentially, and weirdly; the prose creeps like ivy. There are commas that feel like a punch, tiny staccato breaks which cleave a sentence into sharp relief. The prose can meander and repeat in an E. E. Cummings sort of way ... Heti writes beautifully about the gaping cavern that emerges in the face of such grief; she articulates much that is unnamable. Her text is so acute and specific even as it describes the sensations that we have all been devastated by.
There is much more to this novel than daddy issues, including: art criticism, the narcissism of large differences, the end of the world, and Manet ... The new book marks a welcome return to an earlier, more improvisational sensibility of Heti’s, one more concerned with princesses and giants than the warts-and-all realities of birthing artworks and babies ... Pure Colour changes tack and narration often, and there can be a deus ex machina feel to the weightiest scenes ... For a novel that seems at the outset to run on clashing worldviews, there’s a lot of accretive world-building ... [An] oddly baroque book ... [Mira] 'hadn’t meant to kiss Annie on the back of the neck, so sensually, the first time they were alone together, outside.' The commas here, the appendments, the unmistakable oops—this is headlong syntax, and lovely. Typically, Heti’s plain language—feverish punctuation or not—matches the documentary aspect of her work, but here it has found its truest calling: shepherding secondhand embarrassment ... Heti lingers on the clarifying properties of loss as the novel’s pace slows ... Pure Colour requires trust in what is preordained without demanding hard answers.
The reader really does notice when Sheila Heti’s narrator says that something has been ejaculated into her 'by the universe' and that something, which is now 'spreading all the way through her, the way cum feels', is the spirit of her much-loved, just‑dead father. But each to her own – you have to admire the leap ... I was pulled into Pure Colour...by a description of life before the internet that held a nostalgia I needed to name ... Mira goes home to her ailing father, and when he dies, the book becomes fully strange ... One day Mira returns to a tree they both liked and she enters a leaf. She then stays in the leaf for another 40 pages or so – which is a long time in a book, but perhaps a short time to be in a leaf ... Pure Colour is the apocalypse written as trance, a sleepwalker’s song about the end of all things. And although the book is full of regret for all that will be lost, there is solace in the idea that we will, mostly, die together ... If I were not a reviewer but a friend, I would press this book into your hand, and say, 'It’s a bit mad, but I think you will like it.' Then I might change the subject for a while, because the truth is that Pure Colour will not be for everyone. It spends a lot of time in a leaf. It is relentlessly abstract. And it’s not actually mad, it is a mystical text with its own (not entirely rigorous, but who cares about that) system or cosmology. The mysticism runs close to poetry ... This is a novel that is happy to compass contradictions. It is a system, not an opinion. It is a philosophical tale ... There is also Heti’s lovely prose to enjoy, her beautifully sustained tone, the way she is, as a writer, earnest, funny and sweet. Pure Colour is an original, a book that says something new for our difficult times. It’s a bit mad, but I think you will like it.
In her new novel Pure Colour, Heti continues to pose existential questions but returns to the form of the fable, albeit with a surreal twist ... The book is loosely plotted, with long philosophical digressions. But then Heti has never shown much interest in conventional literary devices ... Heti’s narrative voice employs a simple syntax. At its best, the result is beautiful: the repetitions and resonances in her alphabetised diary have a poetic effect. Her prose can be clunky ... She also has a penchant for provocation ... Prurience aside, the deliberately primitive quality of the book hovers perilously close to kitsch ... Heti is not, alas, the Virgil to guide us out of the dark wood ... Despite having recently lost my own father, the book’s meditations on grief left me cold. The closing lines suggest a framing device: the birds, fish and bears were a bedtime story the narrator’s father told her as a child. If only our adult anxieties were as easily allayed as in fairy tales.
... in a sense Heti has become less of a novelist with each book, until with Pure Colour she emerges as almost a mystic ... Artists who have given everything to their vocation often reach a crisis in middle age, when they confront the limits of their achievement and the approach of mortality. For Heti, Pure Colour seems to be the product of such a crisis, and the book is as much about the death of a certain idea of the artist as it is about the death of Mira’s father ... Pure Colour confirms that, in our time, Sheila Heti is one of the most useful writers of all.
In Sheila Heti’s new novel, Pure Colour, the writing is warm, deft, and strange, but the characters are thin and the plot is too ... The language is fable-like, as our time is transformed into mythic time ... With a parent’s dying (not to mention the world’s ending), the book might be called 'how should a person grieve.' Mira’s father dies, and that loss is everything to her, to the book—and to me. I suspect to Heti as well. Her father died as she was writing, and the chapters dedicated to Mira’s mourning are Heti’s most profound ... The storyline is episodic and abrupt ... She meets the enigmatic Annie ... However central to the story Annie is, she feels like a device, brought in at key moments to advance Mira’s character or an idea in the novel ... [Mira's] relationship with her father is chromatically rich ... With his death, she finally grasps this pure color of his promise, the rich hues of our deepest moments in life ... Heti has said that she prefers sparse writing with few descriptions, so that readers can picture themselves in scenes. The richness of the grieving, though, is in its specificity, no matter how minimal the writing. These passages stand in sharp contrast to the rest of the book ... In realist fiction, characters get to deflect their emotions onto the objects around them, making it clear how they feel without an author telling us directly ... But Heti rejects such techniques, and Mira gets no space to disagree ... Pure Colour’s true search is for the meaning of art in an age of grief, personal and global.
Pure Colour stretches fictional form...abandoning novelistic plot and characterisation in favour of scenarios and notions, often surreal, into which the reader must inject meaning ... What follows is a swirling, not always rigorous but occasionally tongue-in-cheek inquiry into the human condition ... There are strengths, of course. A portrait of isolation and misunderstandings emerges as Mira looks back on her love affair with Annie, and longs for her. Heti is also brilliant at nailing down universal cultural experiences ... Although Pure Colour takes aim at boring, uptight critics, the temptation to read it with a red pen, frowning at its intellectual vagaries, is really quite strong. The publisher calls it 'a contemporary bible'. If this is the case, then I’m afraid we’re all doomed.
A cross-pollination of a parable, an allegory and a novel ... Upon [a] rather precarious conceptual tripod, Heti built Pure Colour. Its abstracted trajectory, spanning the individual, the societal and the eternal, reaches for the canon occupied by Rachel Cusk and Milan Kundera ... Pure Colour pairs whimsy with desperation through the story of Mira ... Both direct and digressive, Heti overlays ethical arguments on the narrative of Mira’s life, which is less interesting than the aims of this book. That’s partly the point ... Here the plot is an excuse for characters to remain in dialogue with themselves, conversations which are intimate, oppositional and overlapping ... At its best, Pure Colour recalls The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Both books provide the barest frame of a story upon which hang lengthy philosophical interjections that illuminate the dynamic between people living through difficult eras ... Heti shines when dealing with bumbling, lustful hope, that mystical ignition of the body, mind and spirit in the throes of sexual or romantic encounter ... At its worst, reading Pure Colour is like scrolling through an Instagram spiritualist’s wall. When attempting to explain love (and later, death), Heti slips from her biblical register into a kind of animism ... Heti is positing that the dead are petri dishes for divine judgment of those who remain. Fine, but it was at this point that my distanced reading of Pure Colour deepened into an active dislike. Too befuddled to interrogate the basic premise of her belief systems, Mira accepts despair as part and parcel of her privilege ... Despite my admiration for the ambition which compels Heti’s entire oeuvre, Pure Colour lagged behind its premise.
Heti paints a setting of living in the 'first draft' of the world. We enter the novel in the 'moment of God standing back,' between this first draft and whatever will come next in the second. My first instinct was to call it a mess—but this actually makes sense, because Heti is attempting to portray to readers a first draft of creation, which is also a mess. The author is capturing the feel of a world that is also filled with idiocy and miracles, at once ... Heti has an understated way of describing philosophical principles, conveying them in simple language. A good deal of this book seems like it is not only dealing with the collective unconscious, but giving us experiential states of it, making the reader feel it ... I was particularly intrigued with where colour both appears in this novel and is markedly absent. Up to this point in Pure Colour, it seems as if colour is being used to denote human experiences in this first draft of creation ... Ultimately, Pure Colour is a surrealist and sweet exploration of grief that attempts to answer the question, 'What is the right distance from which to love?' ... This book feels like a container holding the ideas that we should value the hard-won nature of consciousness itself and our unique habitation on Earth.
The novel’s little action conveys the solipsism of modern friendship, the intangibility of romance, the pretensions of the mind and twisted filial love. Thought exercises take over plot ... Digressions in setting and tone structure the journey’s nine parts. These shifts lend the work a quality of a ruminative diary entry that rambles with little direction ... While representative of Heti’s candor, they represent her quest into the ephemeral roots of meaning ... What pulls Heti’s writing together is observation for bodies and binaries ... The blunt grace of these sentences capture the essence of Heti’s novel as a light into the cliffhangers into the void.
... naïvete is key to both novels: it saves Heti's self-examination from seeming self-obsessed. But autofiction has lost its innocence ... Her tough-to-classify new novel, Pure Colour, forsakes both autobiography and detail, though it retains her commitments to philosophy and to the spirit of innocence ... In practice, however, Pure Colour can feel less like a real novel than like a bedtime story for adults: it mixes real and surreal elements, often veering into creation myth or Socratic-style dialogue. It is, frankly, difficult to say how successful the result is: Pure Colour is simultaneously wise and silly, moving and inscrutable. It is also indisputably working hard to be new. Reading it is refreshing, even when it fails to satisfy ... Mira's confusion and unhappiness give Pure Colour its depth ... In fact, Pure Colour works better when it's weird than when it isn't. Heti is very good at getting readers to share Mira's sad, baffled wonder ... Pure Colour aims to refresh readers' perceptions of the world as we see it: to turn what seems set and complete into an 'anarchic, scrappy"' first draft. Its creation passages mainly fail to do so, but its Mira passages succeed.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pure Colour feels much more concerned with raising these questions than with answering them, as Heti’s work is known for its deep philosophical bent. Pure Colour sets up an existential conversation ... This subversion of the typical response to a dying world is due, in no small part, to both Heti’s skill as a writer, and to the fundamental ideas of Judaism with which Heti seems to infuse her writing ... just as the reader becomes comfortable in the framework of the story—following Mira through life, ruminating on art and endings from the perspective of a participant in the world—Heti disrupts it ... ultimately, the feeling one leaves Pure Colour with is not a feeling of dread for the end to come, but of a gentle, almost melancholic optimism for what might come after the end ... from the perspective of an outside reader, the guidance Pure Colour has given to me is this: continue the cycles, and take comfort in them.
There is a lot of risk-taking. Some of it pays off: there are some arresting instances of defamiliarization, when Heti neatly reminds us of the utter strangeness of being in the world ... But the balance of success to failure in this novel tips unequivocally towards the failures ... In How Should a Person Be?, Heti is reaching earnestly after truths about art, taking care to undercut that earnestness with comedy. Pure Colour explores the idea that souls live on in the world after death, either through art or through the people who loved them. But Heti’s mode in it is obtuse, sentimental, and too wilfully weird without being funny. The leavening humour of the earlier book is mostly absent from Pure Colour, and it is a fatal subtraction ... I understood that this was a metaphor for all-consuming grief, but I could not follow Mira into the leaf. It was all just too implacably precious, too indulgent, too deliberately odd ... Other lows include moments of pointless provocation ... This time, the high-wire act has ended in real failure, not a failure of the interesting, useable kind. Though I am usually wrong about these things, here is a prediction: the critical response will not be kind, and the great heap of all these stinking reviews will form a fertile manure for Sheila Heti, in which will germinate the original seeds of her next, much better, book.
The talking leaf is one of many oddities that you can either roll with or not ... The loveliest and most affecting parts of the book are where Mira reflects on the deep connections she has to her father and to books, which she turns to as he is dying.
A philosophical novel that tackles questions including the mystery of creation and the demands of art and life after death might sound ponderous, but in Pure Colour, Canadian writer Sheila Heti approaches these weighty topics with an inquisitive yet playful touch that invites her readers to reflect on them with new eyes ... The surrealistic frame of a story...elevates its ideas over a conventional plot ... Heti is more interested in posing questions than in providing definitive answers, and her style is fragmentary and at times elliptical. For all its musings on theology, cosmology and art...Pure Colour is at heart a story about love and the precious quality of our human connections. It's a challenging novel that beckons brave readers to follow it along its winding trail.
... the pleasure of Heti’s jokes is that they are scattered at random ... The lack of human detail makes Annie more of a concept than a person, but the blank quality of Heti’s prose is compelling in the same way that a prairie or a snowbank is compelling. Its lack of sharp edges comes with a sense of reassurance, that a child would be safe here, and that she is never going to say anything that will hurt you.
... none of these wispy little half-gestures in the direction of some kind of plot or character form more than a small part of the lumpy, runny spilled-soup mess that is Pure Colour. The bulk of this wretched exercise in pure unstructured egotism is given over to two things - first, to cod-philosophical ponderings that are so banal and juvenile that encountering the first one on Page 2 and realizing you’ve got 200 more pages of such drivel to go might very well prompt a bout of Nietzschean existential despair ... and second, chunks of prose that reads like it was written by a grade school child who’s freshly sustained a traumatic head injury, a stop-and-stare level of appalling prose that legitimately should have embarrassed FSG to publish ... The cover of Pure Colour calls it a novel, but this isn’t true. There is no story here, no characters, no plot, no action, no dialogue, no ideological coherence, no dramatic arc or payoff, no progression, no chapters, no forethought, and no revision. Rather, this is a book-length collection COVID-19 quarantine jottings, most no longer than a paragraph, half-heartedly stitched together with threads of pure cynicism by an author and publisher who are hoping the bamboozled will ask no questions. Those bamboozled will doubtless be helped by the book-chattering class, which praises garbage like Pure Colour because the awful alternative would be the read Anthony Trollope. So, let the think-pieces begin.
... a jumbled mess ... A novel that seemingly tries to be subversive for the sake of it, Sheila Heti’s Pure Colour is a philosophical fable without a philosophy, a glossy and depthless rumination on mysticism, a narrative that has cast aside the shackles of realist literary convention but also engagement. It’s one of the worst books I’ve read in some time, and though hyperbolic, there’s plenty more overwrought statements to be found in the novel ... gradually gestures towards an ill-defined cosmology that could generously be read as performatively rerevising itself as it unfolds, or ungenerously as a kind of late-night rant in a bar. If mystical experience in essence is beyond language, then perhaps Heti’s style is trying to point to this abstraction, but what comes across is more a jumble of mysticism-lite ... shuts out any connection to the reader – can this really be merited as a conceptual breakthrough? Writing that imparts knowledge formulates what it knows by letting its problems drift into our somatic registers of experience, through the sensorial and affective. Heti does not do this: we finish empty and unmoved – or in this case, unenlightened.
Any attempt to summarize Heti’s luminous new novel will inevitably leave it sounding faded and flat ... As in her earlier works, Heti’s focus is not only on the world of her own story, but on the very possibilities of the novel as a form. Again and again, she stretches those possibilities until they grow as taut as a wire ... At the same time that she is contending with large, abstract questions, Heti is a master of the tiniest, most granular detail. Her prose can be both sweeping and particular. On one page, Mira and her father think of time as a billion-year expanse; on another, she and Annie buy a box of chocolates. The book is as exquisitely crafted as those sweets must have been ... Heti’s latest is that rarest of novels—as alien as a moon rock and every bit as wondrous.