Color of Night review

Madison Smartt Bell's new book Discuss this article

color42811_1
© ITP Images
Madison Smartt Bell

2/5
Vintage

Five years after September 11, a number of novels began appearing on bookshelves directly addressing the tragedy. And depending on how you felt about them, they struck you as either fascinating aftermath time capsules or drippy, unripened emotional outbursts.

Ten years removed from the tragedy, Bell – best known for his sociopolitical novel trilogy about Haiti – gives us The Color of Night, a 9/11 novel in which the towers collapse in distant, pixellated rubble, as seen on TV from Las Vegas. Protagonist Mae is a blackjack dealer living in a trailer park in the desert who, while watching the attack on TV, spots her former friend Laurel, ‘kneeling on the sidewalk, her head thrown back, her hands stretched out with the fingers crooked, as weapons or in praise.’ She tapes footage of the wreckage and watches Laurel over and over.

As she reveals to us through a fastidiously lunatic monologue, Mae was a devotee of Charles Manson in the ’60s. And Mae’s own history as a victim of abuse soon comes out. Mae’s separation from the tragedy is mirrored in her psychic remove; she sees the ‘mortals’ leaping from the towers as little more than ‘gnatlike specks’. In this way, the novel separates itself from that early crop of September 11 novels. Gone is the mawkish emotion. Mae’s psychic and physical distance from the tragedy leaves her as little more than an avatar for suffering, or some sort of golem created by the media’s fascination with emotional pain. As an intellectual exercise it’s interesting, but as a novel it forces the reader to ape Mae’s apathy.

By Jonathan Messinger
Time Out Dubai,

Add your review/feedback

Subscribe to Daily Dubai newsletter

Prove you're not a robot:

Submit

Time Out
Abu Dhabi

Ten things to do this weekend
Your essential Abu Dhabi to-do list

Time Out
Bahrain

Bahrain Grand Prix pictures
Our photographer was trackside throughout the big weekend

Time Out
Doha

Best restaurants in Doha
Our pick of the best places to eat in Qatar

The Knowledge

5 things to do today in Dubai
Apr 20

Try English at The Ivy or do yoga at The Beach

5 things to do tomorrow in Dubai
Apr 20

Get a free massage or buy sustainable fashion

5 things to do today in Dubai
Apr 19

Do a family par 3 golf challenge or have colour therapy at Spadunya

Newsletters

Sign up now