cover image Pure Colour

Pure Colour

Sheila Heti. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-0-374-60394-6

Heti (How Should a Person Be?) delivers an underwhelming fable, a sort of Generation X Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Here, God has created three kinds of people: bird, fish, and bear. Birds are ambitious, fish are socially minded, and bears love with focus and intensity. Mira, the main character, is a bird, born to a bear father, with whom she has an emotionally incestuous relationship. Annie, a fellow student at the American Academy of American Critics whom Mira has a crush on, is a fish. Heti romanticizes the characters’ time in school, which apparently took place shortly before the advent of smartphones: “They just didn’t consider the fact that one day they would be walking around with phones in the future, out of which people who had far more charisma than they did would let flow an endless stream of images and words.” Mira is prone to overblown mysticism; after her father dies, she imagines she “felt his spirit ejaculate into her, like it was the entire universe coming into her body.” Stricken by grief, she hopes for relief from Annie, though their contrasting animal natures complicate the relationship. Just what the point of it all is remains something of a mystery. Even Heti’s fans will be flummoxed. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Feb.)