Unreal Nature

May 27, 2017

Red Laughs

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… It refuses to be pacified.

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

… Love is red. So is death, its counterpart It is the color of fire and flame. A bride’s gown in China is red. So is the button on a mandarin’s cap.

… Vermillion is a light cadmium red. Adrianople red, also known as Turkey red, is a bright, intense color made from the madder plant. Fire-engine red is unsubdued, like the translucent red-plastic Fresnel lenses of automotive lights. Dog food, which is presently being extruded and puffed and dyed in multicolors, is a sort of hideous matt liver-red. There is the deep red of Red Sea labels on old opera 78 r.p.m. records. Fox-red tenné in the language of chivalry shows a somewhat burnt tone. And garnet red with its low brilliance and medium saturation is a sort of “pigeon blood” or “Spanish wine.” Cranberry red has a saucy sharpness to it, with a hint of yellow.

… I would love to have seen the great ancient temple dedicated to Bast, protector of cats, mistress of love and of matters feminine, and glimpsed the strange red cat coffins, fashioned of red obsidian, on that island in the Nile, in Lower Egypt, north of Bilbeis, where the city of Bubastis once lay and the remains of which can still be seen. I wonder if Jesus as a boy ever played with cats there.

… A factory-candy red can be found in the shockingly bright, wildly artificial maraschino cherry, probably the most singularly garish red food on earth, thanks to Red Dye No. 3.

… There are even red laughs. David Plante, writing of artist Francis Bacon and his group, spoke of Isabel Rawsthorne, a friend whom Bacon often painted, “laughing a wide, wet red laugh.”

… years ago when the first telegraph lines were strung across rural China, they became a source of alarm — their purpose unfathomable, their appearance forbidding — not only for the piteous moans heard as the wind blew through them but because as the wires rusted, the rainwater dripping from them acquired a gruesome tinge of red and convinced the terrified peasants that dead spirits were being tortured by these alien contraptions.

… It is never diluted by reflection. It refuses to be pacified. It commands. Demands, even. It seems almost exclusively and energetically masculine, bold, and objective, until one considers the deep and abiding feminine implications in virtually every measure and morph of the color.

… Blandness or temperance may even serve to provoke it, to taunt it. As Wallace Stevens observes in his masterpiece, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction,

The lion roars at the enraging desert,
Reddens the sands with his red-colored noise,
Defies red emptiness to evolve his match …

My most recent previous post from Theroux’s book is here.

-Julie

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