The Primary Colors: Three Essays

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"The Primary Colors" is Alexander Theroux's collection of essays on the three primary colors: blue, yellow, and red. A fascinating cultural history, these splendid essays extend to the artistic, literary, linguistic, botanical, cinematic, aesthetic, religious, scientific, culinary, and emotional dimensions of each color. Humorous, highly readable, and anecdotal, the book is virtually encyclopedic in aim. There is poetry here; there is also song, fable, opinion, literary criticism, gossip, history, and fascinating fact—a fund of curiosa, gleanings ...
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Overview

"The Primary Colors" is Alexander Theroux's collection of essays on the three primary colors: blue, yellow, and red. A fascinating cultural history, these splendid essays extend to the artistic, literary, linguistic, botanical, cinematic, aesthetic, religious, scientific, culinary, and emotional dimensions of each color. Humorous, highly readable, and anecdotal, the book is virtually encyclopedic in aim. There is poetry here; there is also song, fable, opinion, literary criticism, gossip, history, and fascinating fact—a fund of curiosa, gleanings of a witty and penetrating mind. Swift is here, so is the lexicographic Dr. Johnson. The widest of readers, Theroux is raconteur, art historian, and pop culturalist, all at the same time. His book is a virtuoso performance of a kind that offers nothing less than a liberal education. This is a work for artist and art historian, designer and graphic artist, student and teacher, but, best of all, it remains a complete feast for the general reader.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Red cars statistically are given more tickets than any other color car on the road. Beer in the 1840s was ``a pint of yell'' (so named for its yellowish color). Blue glass is used to ward off evil in Armenia. Hitler had blue eyes. Novelist Theroux's ( Darconville's Cat ) dazzling, free-form meditation explores the three primary colors through their myriad associations in art, history, music, poetry, fiction, movies, anthropology, linguistics, myth, religion, science, food, sports and everyday life. He plumbs the emotional, symbolic and spiritual resonances of each color, with examples ranging from Chekhov to Philip Larkin, from Botticelli to Kandinsky, amplified by 12 pages of color art reproductions. Though this inquiry sometimes exasperates in its random outpouring of facts, Theroux's stylistic tour de force is not only great fun but also opens one's eyes and mind to new ways of seeing. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Entrancing, challenging, maddening, and finally unsatisfying, Theroux's three essays take the primary colors and look at them from every angle, including cultural, historical, psychological, and linguistic. Thus, his evocation of blue moves from melancholy, movies, and Roman royalty to raw meat, thin milk, and hardened steel, to the whelks of Phoenicia and the "blue-black sky in Vincent van Gogh's 1980 Crows Flying over a Cornfield." And that's just a meager sampling of the first three pages. The result is a fascinating laundry list of the way blue, yellow, and red manifest themselves in daily life, but readers will soon wonder what it all means. Are we to conclude from melancholy, meat, and Van Gogh's sky that blue should always put us in a raw mood? Then how do we acknowledge that in Tibetan Buddhism wisdom is associated with blue? Not to mention Mary's robes and baby boys. Theroux gives a cursory overview of the development of pigment in art, but it is too scattershot to satisfy curious art students. The aim here is wondrously ambitious, but Theroux doesn't quite pull it off.-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805047011
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/28/1996
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 4.33 (w) x 7.44 (h) x 0.81 (d)

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