Narrator: Sheila Heti
”Most fiction writers are driven to find their own ‘voice,’ but I am more interested in the voices of others.”
– Sheila Heti
God is finishing his first draft of the world. He takes one step back and evaluates his creation. It’s magnificent, at least aesthetically, but not entirely perfect. He creates birds, fish, and bears:
”People born from the bird egg are interested in beauty, order, harmony and meaning. They look at nature from on high, in an abstract way, and consider the world as if from a distance. These people are like birds soaring—flighty, fragile and strong.”
”People born from a fish egg appear in a flotation of jelly, and this jelly contains hundreds of thousands of eggs, where the most important thing is not any individual egg, but the condition of the many. […] For fish, it’s the collective conditions that count.”
”A person born from a bear egg is like a child holding on to their very best doll. Bears do not have a pragmatic way of thinking, in which their favorites can be sacrificed for some higher end. They are deeply consumed with their own.”
Fast forward to modern, but not postmodern times (there are no smart-phones or social media), and a lamp shop where young Mira works. It only sells Tiffany lamps and Mira’s task is to turn them off when the shop close. Thus begins Sheila Heti’s original and mesmerizing and existential tale Pure Colour, read by the author herself.
Mira, a bird person, maybe a little fish and bear too, applies to and gets admission to a prestigious school for critics, American School of American Critics, and there she falls head over heels for Annie, whom Mira believes to be a fish person, beautiful and self-confident. Mira gets the sensation that a large vagina opens in her chest when she meets Annie.
The main characters are Mira, Annie and Mira’s father, a typical bear person, who passes away but is encapsulated in a leaf of a tree. Mira chooses to keep her father company in the leaf, leaving Annie behind, at least for a while. Pure Colour is not particularly long, but it covers a vast amount of subjects: religion, the meaning of life, the meaninglessness of life, criticism, love, friendship and family, just to mention a few.
Heti’s reading is very sensitive and rhythmically pleasing. Heti’s narration is serious, but the weirdness of the story is often hilarious. The book is read as if the text was a fairy tale, for philosophically minded listeners. The tone is somewhat similar to the tone of stories by Italian author Italo Calvino (1923-1985) Both he and Heti can make you believe almost anything, they can make you want to believe anything.