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.
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.