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Old November 29th, 2010, 04:04 PM   #1
Yaser Al Saghrjie
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: damascus
Posts: 2
Default A Tale of Two Books

Like many men over forty - especially those whose work requires a lot of attention to colors - I am going partially color-blind. To make up for this aging problem, I decided to read as much of the available literature that has been written about dyes and colors as my time permits.

One trip to some book stores and I came back with titles that included Koekboya by Harald Bohmer, Indigo by Jenny Balfour-Paul, Color a Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay, Comprehensive History of Madder Red by Robert Chenciner, A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield, The Root of Wild Madder by Brian Murphy and others. I must admit that in spite of my infatuation with colors as a visual language, reading the written language about those same colors that have consumed my sight is overall a very boring trip through dry life-less scientific colorless desert.

Two books, however, broke this norm; namely the last two mentioned above. I thought so from the minute the guy in the bookshop told me apologetically that they are not "professional readings about dyes". In A Perfect Red, Amy makes the history of cochineal an interesting thriller that hardly feels like reading about the insect or the dye that is obtained from it, instead of that the book makes it a humanitarian study of the toil of the dyers, the lavish luxury of the upper classes, discovering new lands and their treasures, greed, curiosity, different ways of life, different legal systems, adventures, competition and so on and so forth. The book ends and you still want it to last longer. One gets to learn about the dye, the insect that produces it, those who introduced it to us, etc., but unconsciously. The book is by no means a technical one that tells the chemical structure of the colors particles nor how mordant work. Very few of us want to learn about that anyway.

In The Root of Wild Madder, Brian fascinated me with his childish na´ve pursuit of "understanding the oriental carpet". He managed to keep the torch of curiosity kindled inside him for years and managed to be above the material values he was raised with. He managed to find the very subtle line that ties rugs to poetry. Neither the sufferings of the Afghan war nor the thugs in the bazaar of Isfahan nor the rug that he overpaid for stopped him from his love to learn more; quite the opposite, he turned those to motives to keep his interest alive. One doesn't feel that the book is teaching anything: neither about a dye nor anything else. One only gets the feeling that one is in the presence of a child breathlessly sharing an experience.

I strongly recommend reading the two books especially by those who give more weight to human experience than they do to "scientific facts", like myself.
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