Bright Air Black
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Bright Air Black

3.67 (337 ratings by Goodreads)
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"A writer to read and reread."--The Economist Following the success of Aquarium which was a New York Times Editor's Choice and garnered numerous rave reviews, David Vann transports us to 13th century B.C. to give a nuanced and electric portrait of the life of one of ancient mythology's most fascinating and notorious women, Medea.

In brilliant poetic prose Bright Air Black brings us aboard the ship Argo for its epic return journey across the Black Sea from Persia's Colchis--where Medea flees her home and father with Jason, the Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece. Vann's reimagining of this ancient tale offers a thrilling, realist alternative to the long held notions of Medea as monster or sorceress. We witness with dramatic urgency Medea's humanity, her Bronze Age roots and position in Greek society, her love affair with Jason, and her tragic demise.

Atmospheric and spellbinding, Bright Air Black is an indispensable, fresh and provocative take on one of our earliest texts and the most intimate and corporal version of Medea's story ever told.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 124 x 208 x 25mm | 318g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0802125808
  • 9780802125804
  • 242,668

Review quote

Praise for Bright Air Black

"In Bright Air Black, Vann captures all of the fascinating dark and magical elements of classic Greek mythology that have made it endure across time and cultures, but challenges us to empathize with Medea, to see her humanity despite the actions that will label her as a monster."--Zyzzyva

"Vann writes in an elliptical, often impressionistic style . . . creating an unfamiliarity that effectively suggests distance, as if the language of this far-off world is not yet fully formed. It's an effect that is countered by the dialogue, which is jarringly contemporary . . . Perhaps the point is to remind us how little separates us from these characters 25 centuries old, but the modern idiom sits oddly with the careful, mesmeric poetry of the narrative. Where Vann succeeds is in creating a Medea who, at the climax of her tragedy, feels convincing and sympathetic. Far from a monster who sacrifices her sons for spite, he shows her as a fierce woman who, faced with losing everything, will not surrender control when it matters most . . . Bright Air Black is a compelling study of human nature stripped to its most elemental, and a vivid addition to the many interpretations of this character, whose complexity shows no sign of losing its allure." --Guardian (UK) "Sympathy for Medea builds as Vann shows us the world she inhabits . . . His Medea is a victim and a survivor. The time and the place may be very different from his previous novels, but Bright Air Black shares the same central structure of a searing family drama set against a backdrop of untamed nature . . . At the heart of this ambitious, dazzling, disturbing and memorable novel lies the uneasy juxtaposing of the wild and the civilised, and the complex, shifting relationship between the two." --Financial Times (UK)

"While Vann takes few risks with the myth itself, his genius lies in his ability to blow away all the elegance and toga-clad politeness that have grown like a crust around our idea of ancient Greece and to reveal the bare bones of the Archaic period in all their bloody, reeking nastiness. There is no magic. There are no gods." --Times (UK)

"Vann gives us a fresh slant on an early myth, an up-close and in-depth character study. From the outset, his drama unfolds in prose that is both atmospheric and electrifying . . . [A] stunning depiction of one of mythology's most complex characters . . . Its dark energy shocks us and shakes us, yet it is impossible to pull away." --The Australian

"Incorporating both mesmerizing sentences and concentrated fragments . . . Sensual and violent, often simultaneously, Vann's novel evokes the primal force of women's power." --Booklist

"Vann peels back the layers of myth to depict the ruthless realities of Bronze Age existence. Medea is depicted as a protofeminist antiheroine who must rely on her wits to survive in a world of hostile and brutish men who will betray her . . . Insightful and poetic, dark and atmospheric." --Library Journal
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About David Vann

Published in 20 languages, David Vann's internationally-bestselling books have won 15 prizes, including best foreign novel in France and Spain, and appeared on 75 Best Books of the Year lists in a dozen countries. A former Guggenheim fellow, he is currently a Professor at the University of Warwick in England and Honorary Professor at the University of Franche-Comt in France.
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Rating details

337 ratings
3.67 out of 5 stars
5 28% (94)
4 35% (117)
3 20% (68)
2 11% (38)
1 6% (20)
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