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What Color Is Night? Grant Snider’s Illustrated Invitation to Discover the Subtle Beauty of Darkness

A spare serenade to the spectrum of wonder between black and white.

What Color Is Night? Grant Snider’s Illustrated Invitation to Discover the Subtle Beauty of Darkness

“Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty,” the Japanese novelist Junichiro Tanizaki wrote in his gorgeous 1933 love letter to darkness. More than a century before him, Goethe observed in his theory of color and emotion that “color itself is a degree of darkness.” Darkness, we could say, is the sum total of all the colors and all the emotions — a totality of consummate beauty awaiting those willing to look.

That is the sentiment radiating from the spare, singsong pages of What Color Is Night? (public library) by beloved cartoonist Grant Snider.

Half a century after the great graphic artist Edward Gorey invited children to contemplate why we have night, Snider invites them to learn how to have night, dispelling the specter of nocturnal fright, and replacing it with an exuberant hunt for beauty and delight.

He shepherds the reader to discover that night is not a mere mosaic of black and white but a vivid tessellation of “colors unseen” — subtle hues beckoning eye and heart alike — the silver of starshine, the warm brown of the moths flickering under the streetlamp, the neon green of the raccoon’s flash-lit eyes, the spectrum-crowning miracle of moonbow.

Complement What Color Is Night? with the great nature writer Henry Beston on how the beauty of night serenades the human spirit and Little Prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on night as an existential clarifying force, then revisit Belgian artist and author Anne Herbauts’s synesthetic masterpiece What Color Is The Wind?, inspired by a blind child.

Published December 10, 2019




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