30 Day Book Challenge: Day 13!

Day 13, unlucky for some perhaps,  brings with it a terribly arbitrary category:

A book with a colour in the title.

And, yes, I am anglicising the spelling of colour. And in my head, I am thinking “correcting” when I wrote “angliscising”!

Okay, well let’s generate a list and celebrate the joys of modern technology: most of my reading is done in electronic form and therefore I have the wonderful search capability! So this shouldn’t take a moment!

  • The Black Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black, which is a pen name of John Banville, a Phillip Marlowe (yes, that Phillip Marlowe, hard-boiled detective born of Raymond Chandler’s imagination in 1939) novel;
  • Black Water Lillies by Michel Bussi;
  • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan – which is starting to crop up regularly in these lists and I really must get round to reviewing!
  • The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy;
  • The Black Book of Secrets by F. E. Higgins
  • The Woman in Black, Susan Hill;
  • Blackout, Mira Grant – part of the Feed Trilogy which I have tender memories of despite the zombie apocalypse setting: I read them waiting for my daughter to be born. Strange the connections we make!
  • Black Swan Green by David Mitchell, which was a sublime recreation of what I have to describe as a historical period when I was growing up, as seen through the eyes of a young man of about my age;
  • Black Dogs by Ian McEwan
  • Black and Blue and Black Book in the DI Rebus series by Ian Rankin,
  • The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins
  • Lethal White, Robert Galbraith 
  • White Book by Han Kang, author of the absorbing and strange Vegetarian;
  • Snow White Must Die, Nele Neuhaus – and any story involving Ms White;
  • The gorgeous White Teeth by Zadie Smith;
  • The less successful Bram Stoker novel, Lair of the White Worm;
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg which, I must confess I have not read but only seen the film;
  • The Green Road by Anne Enright, a Man Booker, Costa and Bailey’s Women’s Prize nominee;

Crikey, there are a lot of them and we’ve only touched on three colours! And I fear that it may open up the “Are black and white colours?” debate.

And what about The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami?

Having reached the colour green, I am going to stop. Because I did adore Black Swan Green and I’m tempted to select it, but I’m going to head back in time to an anonymous poem of the fourteenth century: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – especially the edition edited by J. R. R. Tolkien, him of the Lord of the Rings.

So let’s consider the plot(s).

  • a challenging quest is thrust upon someone who doesn’t fully understand what he is getting involved in: Gawain accepts the Green Knight’s challenge; Frodo accepts the ring and the quest to Mount Doom.
  • the hero’s quest ultimately succeeds despite the hero’s own failure: Gawain does return to the Green Knight and satisfies his promise, despite having succumbed to his own fear and accepted a protective girdle from his host’s wife; the ring is destroyed but only after Frodo succumbs to temptation and has it bitten off by Gollum.
  • the hero returns home and is, ironically, celebrated: Gawain’s girdle of shame becomes the garter of the Knights of the Garter. It’s been a while since I read Lord of the Rings, but I have a feeling that something comparable occurs…?

There is so much to love in Gawain. The high romance. The visceral humour as they knights of Arthur kick the Green Knight’s head around after Gawain severs it; and the visceral horror and the Knight, headlessly, stands and seeks his head again.

 Let hit doun lyȝtly lyȝt on þe naked,
Þat þe scharp of þe schalk schyndered þe bones,
& schrank þurȝ þe schyire grece, & scade hit in twynne,
Þat þe bit of þe broun stel bot on þe grounde.
Þe fayre hede fro þe halce hit [felle] to þe erþe,
Þat fele hit foyned wyth her fete, þere hit forth roled;
Þe blod brayd fro þe body, þat blykked on þe grene;
& nawþer faltered ne fel þe freke neuer þe helder,
Bot styþly he start forth vpon styf schonkes,
& ru[n]yschly he raȝt out, þere as renkkeȝ stoden,
Laȝt to his lufly hed, & lyft hit vp sone;
& syþen boȝeȝ to his blonk, þe brydel he cachcheȝ,
Steppeȝ in to stel bawe & strydeȝ alofte,

& his hede by þe here in his honde haldeȝ;
& as sadly þe segge hym in his sadel sette,
As non vnhap had hym ayled, þaȝ hedleȝ he we[re],
in stedde

The mythical fairytale elvish impish game concept, from both the Green Knight and Bertilak – and Bertilak’s wife – and Morgan Le Fey. An impishness which never quite becomes malevolence, which sparks memories of (or is remembered in) Puck and The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair. And Gawain’s own balance between the antiquated ideals of the good and obedient chivalric knight, submitting to divine will and fate; and a more modern sense of free will in his choice to subvert what he believes to be destiny.

And oh the rollicking rhythm of the alliterations! And as something of a language geek – would you have guessed that? – I also love those thorns and yoghs, although they are murder on a modern keyboard!

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