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It is 13th century B.C. and aboard the ship Argo, Medea, Jason and the Argonauts make their return journey across the Black Sea from Persia’s Colchis, in possession of the Golden Fleece.
David Vann, in brilliant poetic prose, gives us a nuanced and electric portrait of one of Greek mythology’s most fascinating and notorious figures, Medea; an ancient tale reimagined through the eyes of the woman often cast as sorceress and monster.
Atmospheric and spellbinding, Bright Air Black is an indispensable and provocative take on one of our earliest texts and the most intimate and corporal version of Medea’s story ever told.
Sydney Review of Books
‘Vann’s prose is as pure as a gulp of water from an Alaskan stream.'
‘[Vann] is the real thing—a mature, risk-taking and fantastically adept fiction writer who dares go to the darkest places, explore their most appalling corners.'
‘One of the most exciting writers at work today.'
‘One of the most darkly talented and unsettling writers working today.’
‘Vann is a brave writer, daring to write about and depict things that most other authors would baulk at, but that’s what makes him so good—that unflinching eye for the darkness you could potentially find in any of us, given the wrong chain of events.’
‘David Vann has been one of the most thrilling discoveries of the past decade or so.’
‘David Vann’s work has a spare, parable-like quality…[he] writes with deft control and a gift for prose propelled as effortlessly as a school of fish.’
‘David Vann is surely one of the most powerful writers working today.’
‘Vann’s provocative prose is filled with a sense of wonder and beauty, even when the lives he describes are tragic.’
‘Aquarium feels like a soft thing lined with blood: a small, resolutely inward-looking book, full or ornate sentences with a darkness that frequently makes you want to squint and flinch as you turn the pages.’
‘The story is a familiar one, but David Vann breathes new life into the tale, taking the reader deep into Medea’s psyche. Atmospheric and poetic.’
‘Sensual and violent, often simultaneously, Vann’s novel evokes the primal force of women’s power.’
‘Wonderfully evocative and enjoyable…A great addition to the oeuvre of Greek mythological retellings.’
‘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…Medea’s story is one of the bleakest of all the Greek tragedies. Vann sums it up succinctly: “Unnatural, all that is human.” But the tale is also one of great power and intensity. Bright Air Black possesses the same potency. Its dark energy shocks us and shakes, yet it is impossible to pull away.’
‘Van’s retelling promises to get to the heart of Medea’s character. Vann is an author often highly praised for the quality of his prose, and Bright Air Black will hopefully see that trend continue. This is definitely one for readers with a love of Greek mythology, but also those that just enjoy great writing.’
‘Bright Air Black is like a virus. It has infected me. I dream the world of this book, I feel it under my skin and in my blood. If you have not read David Vann’s books then race out and do it now. I doubt he has written a faltering word. If you are a brave reader, unafraid of the dark places in your own soul, start your journey here with Bright Air Black.’
‘What Vann does quite remarkably is to give you new emotional perspectives…A remarkable writing style, it’s lyrical, like a great drumbeat going through the book.’
‘Vann’s treatment of Medea has all the gore and poetry of McCarthy’s Blood Meridian…While the finale is well known, there are enough surprises in Vann’s revision to maintain interest, and the story of Medea continues to resonate, as its longevity suggests, in our contemporary moment.’
‘Dark, visceral, lyrical, sinister, sad: David Vann’s hypnotic reimagining of Greek mythology’s famously fiendish Medea is masterful—the expressive style is bizarre but brilliant. This is a book for lovers of poetry, Greek mythology, or for anyone who likes their prose offbeat, magical, or unclassifiable.’
‘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, who’s complexity shows no sign of losing its allure.’
‘Vann is one of the most thrilling writers to emerge in the past decade. For me his autobiographical novella Legend of a Suicide and successors such as Goat Mountain are the peaks of Vann’s work so far, but Bright Air Black is right up there with them.’
‘Vann’s prose conveys with striking immediacy a world where the real and the phantasmagorical, the human and the divine, are intricately entwined…His evocation of a barbaric world lingers long in the reader’s imagination.’
‘Van’s choppy sentences are full of urgency and action, and the blood-soaked narrative never lacks momentum. Despite Medea’s many acts of barbarity, Vann succeeds in creating a degree of sympathy for a women defiant to the end.’ Big Issue
‘I was hooked from the arresting first page, swept along by the shimmering language and visceral images, and I found myself thinking anew about this ancient tragedy long after I finished the book…A powerful and rewarding read.’
‘Bright Air Black is a poetic fever dream, beautiful and unflinchingly primal. A vivid and forceful retelling of Medea’s famous story.’
‘Robin Dalton’s book is an excellent way to while away a summer’s afternoon in her company.’
‘Vann’s writing is poetic in style and the Medea of Bright Air Black is wild, powerful and primitive, echoing the earlier cinematic vision of Pier Paolo Pasolini.’
‘For those who feel Game of Thrones isn’t savage enough, this may be the adventure for you.’
‘Vann makes reading a gladiator sport…Rage boils on every page with all the intensity of Medea’s cauldron. He writes in short jagged prose, which echoes the brutality of the content, the harshness and shortness of life, yet his poetic language is simultaneously incandescent.’
‘Vann is an agile writer, almost aggressively adventurous with fiction as a form. Ambitious, and challenging, this novel is just what you would expect from him.’