The Primary Colors by Alexander Theroux

Our daughter says I never give a book a good review–wrong!  Here’s
one I’m wild about . . .

This book was recommended by a good friend—she has referred to it
many times over the years and so this year I requested it for Christmas.

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Alexander Theroux is the brother of the novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux.  (If you have never read his, Paul’s, Riding the Iron Rooster you must run right out and get it now.)

Well, Alexander is just as wonderful as his brother and in this book he is exploring “the primary colors”—-blue, yellow and red.  The book has three essays—only—blue, then yellow, then red.

I have finished the essay on blue and almost when I began reading, I didn’t
know my heart would take the joy of reading it.   It was just too beautiful–I
found I wasn’t breathing.  


He references the blue in David Hockney’s ‘Aqua Velva Mediterranean’.
                    (I haven’t been able to find an example.)
Alexander Dumas wrote his novels on blue paper (his poetry on yellow paper,
his nonfiction on rose.)
Blue is the only color we can feel.
Edward Hopper used pure cobalt in his ‘Blackhead, Monhegan.’
Raphael’s 1510 ‘Alba Madonna’ was painted with ground lapis lazuli.
An inhabitant of Nova Scotia is called a “blue nose.”    (like the ferry?)
In Tibet blue is south.
Massachusetts means “the blue mountains.”

The man doesn’t stop–pages and pages of researched startling, wondrous
facts about blue from ancient history to everyday songs.

After I finished reading the blue essay I had some fun trying to think of blue
things I know of that I don’t believe were mentioned.

He couldn’t have known that back in high school the song Blue Tango used to
strike fear in my heart when the band director announced we’d practice that
next.  Blue Tango had a trilling echoing part reserved just for a flute solo——
—me!

And with music, no one could possibly forget ‘Am I Blue?’ (you’d be, too–
take these tears from my eyes telling you.)

There is a moving sequence in J.L. Carr’s A Month in the Country that I
reviewed recently when the artisan hired to restore an old painting discovers
a wonderful ancient blue.

There was the Blue Plate Special at diners in the 1930s.  A heavy blue china
plate was served with indentations into three parts—the meat, the potatoes,
and the vegetables—all at a nifty inexpensive price.  Another time I’ll show
you my blue plates from my Aunt Kathryn’s hotel/restaurant–yes, in three
sections.  We grew up with those—“Let’s use the ‘blue plates'” we’d announce
when setting the table . . .

There is the blue altar at the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.  When I
saw it I was transcended to the memory of the small holy cards we had when
we were little–a guardian angel–blue skies, etc.  Same quality blue.

And the blue of the Evening in Paris bottles?

And best of all the blue of Lake George in upstate New York.

Will let all this blue soak in for a few days and then begin to read the essay on yellow.

Four button review:

porcelain mistletoe buttons with rhinestone trim at the border ©booksandbuttons

porcelain mistletoe buttons with rhinestone trim at the border ©booksandbuttons

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4 Responses to The Primary Colors by Alexander Theroux

  1. Stefanie says:

    This sounds really lovely. I think I’m going to have to look for it at the library sometime!

  2. Mary Jo says:

    I plan to look for it too!

    • booksandbuttons says:

      Hi Mary Jo—you wouldn’t think a book about a series of phrases
      about color would be a cliffhanger, but I was just swept away!
      thanks for writing.

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