Bright Air Blackby David Vann
Set in the Mediterranean and Black Sea 3,250 years ago, Bright Air Black is David Vann’s exhilarating version of Medea as a slayer of kings who wants a world not ruled by men.
Following the success of Aquarium, which was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and garnered numerous rave reviews, David Vann transports us to the thirteenth century BC 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, realistic 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.
“Incorporating both mesmerizing sentences and concentrated fragments . . . Sensual and violent, often simultaneously, Vann’s novel evokes the primal force of women’s power.” –Booklist
All these men belong, all act as one, the rowers, the men who stand before her working the rudders, the men holding thick lines that guide the sail, even those who have stopped to eat or drink and sit low on the deck. They’ve fallen into a wordless routine, their minds blank, their hearts used only to pump blood. And meanwhile her world has ended, she kneels in her brother’s remains, and her father is out there still.
Jason, she calls. She can’t wait for him to notice.
He pauses, the other faces rolling away from him and returning and heaving away again. He lowers the handle of his oar to the deck and comes aft to kneel beneath the rudder posts. His hair in curls. His nose fine and straight, lips full, but his beauty is in the soft curve of his cheeks, the smooth fall away from that nose, an open plain beneath each eye. She pulls him close with both hands and presses her lips to this soft place, feels the blink of his lashes, feels his thick hair in her hands.
He doesn’t move, his breath caught, and she smiles, presses her lips to the other cheek. You are mine, she says in a tongue he won’t understand. By the old stars above and the new stars below, I will rule your heart. You are the land I conquer.