Sheila Heti and The Fight for Art

On the fourth page of Pure Colour, the fourth and most recent novel by the Canadian writer Sheila Heti, it is proposed that there are three kinds of beings on the face of the earth. They are each a different kind of “critic,” tasked with helping God to improve upon His “first draft” of the universe. There are birds who “consider the world as if from a distance” and are interested in beauty above all. There are fish who “critique from the middle” and are consumed by the “condition of the many.” And there are bears who “do not have a pragmatic way of thinking” and are “deeply consumed with their own.” The three main characters in the novel track with the three types: Mira, the art critic and main character, is a bird; Mira’s father, whose death takes up the middle part of the novel, is a bear; and

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