Unreal Nature

May 20, 2017

All Golden-yellow

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… Shining light and shallowness. Gold here. Grief there.

This is from The Primary Colors: Three Essays by Alexander Theroux (1994):

… [Yellow] is the color of cowardice, third prize, the caution flag on auto speedways, adipose tissue, scones and honey, the nimbus of saints, school buses, urine, New Mexico license plates, illness, the cheeks of penguins, the sixth dog’s livery in greyhound racing, highway signs, Pennzoil, and the oddly lit hair before adulthood of all Australian aborigines. Easter is yellow. So is spring, and much of the beauty of autumn. It is redolent of old horn, dead coins, southernwood, and the generous sun.

[line break added] It is the color of butter, arsenic, sponges, candlelight, starving lawns, translucent amber, and cathode transmission-emiters in electric chassis wiring. It represents wisdom, illumination, intuition, power and glory, the hue of confessors, divinity, magnanimity, ripening grain, eternity, and the gates of heaven. In Egypt it is the color of happiness and prosperity.

… Yellow is vagueness and luminous, both. “The eternal silence of the great white desert. Cloudy columns of snow drift advancing from the south, pale yellow wraiths, heralding the coming storm, blotting out one by one the sharp cut lines of the land,” wrote Captain Robert Falcon Scott, just before freezing to death in Antarctica.

… have you ever noticed that most of the nitwittish creatures in Dr. Seuss books are also a distinct yellow, like the Sneetches; the Great Birthday Bird; the Drum-tummied Snumm from the country called Frumm; the scraggle-foot Mulligatawny from McGrew’s Zoo; as well as the It-Kutch, the Preep, the Obsk, and the Proo, the Nerkle, the Nerd, and the Seersucker, too, to say nothing of all the birds and animals and people in the Sleep Book, including the Offts, Snorter McPhail and his band, the Bumble-Tub Club, Jo and Mo Redd-Zoff, the Collapsible Frink, the stilt-walkers, not to mention the Lorax’s flaring and commodious mustache! Is it because it is such a comic color? Innocent yet mad? Lighthearted but oddly unsettling?

… The infant sired by the devil in the novel Rosemary’s Baby has yellow eyes as its most distinctive feature. “His eyes were golden-yellow, all golden-yellow, with neither whites nor irises; all golden-yellow with vertical black-slit pupils. She looked at him. He looked at her, golden-yellowly, and then at the swaying upside-down Crucifix. She looked at them watching her and knife-in-hand screamed at them, ‘What have you done to his eyes?’ ”

… Yellow, though a typically earthy color, never acquires much depth in spite of its brightness and waving unavoidability. When cooled by blue, it assumes, as I have pointed out, a sickly, unappetizing tone. If one were to compare it to certain human states of mind, it might be said to represent not the depressive but rather the manic aspect of madness. The madman attacks people and disperses his force in all directions, aimlessly, desperately, until it completely dwindles and is gone.

… So few colors give the viewers such a feeling of ambivalence or leave in one such powerful, viscerally enforced connotations and contradictions. Desire and renunciation. Dreams and decadence. Shining light and shallowness. Gold here. Grief there. An intimate mirroring in its emblematic significance of glory in one instance and, in yet another, painful, disturbing estrangement. An opposing duality seems mysteriously constant.

My previous post from Theroux’s book is here.

-Julie

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