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Radiant Days

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  236 ratings  ·  71 reviews
It is 1978. Merle is in her first year at the Corcoran School of Art, catapulted from her impoverished Appalachian upbringing into a sophisticated, dissipated art scene.

It is also 1870. The teenage poet Arthur Rimbaud is on the verge of breaking through to the images and voice that will make his name.

The meshed power of words and art thins the boundaries between the presen
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 12th 2012 by Viking Juvenile (first published April 1st 2012)
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May 10, 2012 Sienna rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
Despite my well-documented love for Elizabeth Hand, it took quite a while to warm up to this — something about the disparate worlds of Merle and Arthur, separated by a century and an ocean, and the knowledge that a clever timeslip would bring them together. Still, they're compelling: creators, fighters, sullen and strong-jawed and willfully unwilling to do anything but what suits them. I missed the (drunken) boat on Rimbaud's poetry in the sense that I think he's best met at an age of passionate ...more
Radiant Days by Elizabeth Hand
A Review by Richard Cambridge
1 July 2012

Where do paintings come from? How do poems get made?

Elizabeth Hand’s excavation of the creative process in two precocious teenage artists, painter Merle Tappitt of 1970s Washington, D.C., and poet Arthur Rimbaud of 1870s Charleville, France whose work is one of the cornerstones for 20th century art, music, and literature, is a deeply layered and beautifully crafted novel.

Billed as YA fantasy, it is also hi
M Griffin
Radiant Days begins in 1978 following Merle Tappitt, fled from an abusive redneck childhood for the only slightly greater comfort of art school. She explores her own artistic impulses and means, and makes a few friends among fellow students, as well as one female teacher who takes a special personal interest. Stimulated by the nascent scenes of punk rock music and graffiti art, Merle herself takes up graffiti, inspired by the work of "SAMO" (a real-world tag which belonged to Jean-Michel Basquia ...more
This one started out slow, and it was difficult to get into. In the end, though, it was worth the wait. There's a touch of magic to bring it all together, but the rest of the world is normal. The characters are incredible. Basically, the book woke up an artistic part of me I had kind of forgotten about. It's beautiful.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lea (YA Book Queen)
Alternating between Mere's 1st person narrative in the late 1970's and Arthur's 3rd person narrative of the 1870, RADIANT DAYS brings two very unique artists together for brief amounts of time. Time itself is an interesting concept in this story, as each character slides into the other's world with a little help from Ted (who is awesome). Hand's story serves as more than just a glimpse into these characters lives - the deeper and thoughtful aspects make this story worthwhile. But, it almost seem ...more
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H. Anne Stoj
Normally I adore what Elizabeth Hand writes, so I was a little sad that I didn't like this more than I did. It wasn't bad, but it felt like it should've been longer somehow. It did make me think of Mortal Love, which I liked a good deal, but it was kind of lesser version of it. Perhaps because it's really more YA something didn't work for me in it. I'm not sure. The idea was cool, the writing beautiful, it just didn't have the deep connection I like from her other work.
I posted on Illyria not too long ago, but had to add a little bit more from Elizabeth Hand's newest, Radiant Days. Her language is a joy to read, tantalizing senses, imagination and that romanticism that stirs inside us when we read Shakespeare. Each word accompanies the others on the page in a dance that takes several reads to fully appreciate. Here are just a few of those moments:

"As if someone else, something else, moved there unseen"

"In love as in theatre, I had never had any magic"

"True, I
Ooo! Another time traveling novel. That's how you can be in 1870 and 1978 in one novel.

Radiant days stars Arthur Rimbaud, who is actually a real person and a poet. His character is based on the real guy, if you didn't know. Anyway, Radiant Days is a pretty good book, with remarkable words and phrases. I like its little lessons even though it's not very obvious.

The plot gets really annoying quickly. This time, it's good that the POVs are from different perspective. Like Arthur's is told
This book is poetic and haunting. The time travel is cool. I appreciate Hand's descriptions of Merle's art and DC and NY in the 70s. Maybe I'll read some Rimbaud now.
I enjoyed this book for its quality of writing mostly. I felt that Merle was a little difficult for me to connect with, though I felt like the reader got to know her more than Rimbaud, who got a lot less page time. The 1970s was portrayed much more strongly that the 1870s France... I think Ted was my favorite part. I thought the idea of the plot was very interesting, though it all could have used a little more time for character exploration, I think. The time travel wasn't overdone nor was it th ...more

4.5. Hallucinatory.

"She's got everything she needs, she's an artist, she don't look back."
Apr 29, 2015 Ella rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: ya
Vanitas by Philippe Champaign

This painting is orderly. It portrays a universe obeying laws of gravity, proportion, and perspective. Recognizable symbols articulate the ideas of the beauty and transience of life.

Merle and Arthur, our leads, despise this sort of art. What they create is instead visceral, bright, and hallucinatory; their worlds are heavily warped by emotion. All that matters is that they are there, in the moment, creating.

The Dance by Andre Derain

“[Poetry] was a form of incantation
K. Bird
This was billed as a follow up to her novel, Illyria, but really the two books share only an obsession with artistry and passion.

This one wasn't as enjoyable for me as the Illyria. Possibly because I felt detached somewhat from the two main characters as we followed both their stories in separate time streams; not a problem with Illyria because we stayed in one POV.

Merle and Arthur are both consumed by their artistic visions, sometimes to a degree that negatively impacts their living arrangement
“You can’t look back, Little Fly.”

Are the words Ted the Tramp says repeatedly to our teenage protagonist Merle in Elizabeth Hand’s latest book, a foray into YA lit called Radiant Days.
In it, college wash-out Merle reels through the various happenstances anyone who went to art school would be familiar with, whether they graduated or not.
The lucky thing for Merle is, not only does she have various sign-posts to help her on her odyssey in the personages of Clea her older teacher/lover, and Ted, an
This short, YA-ish* novel was quite lovely. It's about Merle, a young artist living in DC in 1978, and Arthur Rimbaud, young poet in France in 1870. Merle flunks out of art school and hits rock bottom one night, ending up homeless and robbed of her sketchbooks and supplies. She is befriended by Ted, a homeless musician who is something of a local legend, and Merle's interactions with him seem to be the catalyst for a kind of rift in time that allows her to meet Arthur. These experiences help Mer ...more
Although this book contains many powerful passages and picked up speed once I reached the first half, it started off quite slowly for me, possibly because it was hard for me to like Merle, one of the book's main characters. She's in her first year of art school in Washington, DC, living life on the edge, barely surviving, and eventually drawn into an affair with her teacher. I wanted to see her honing her craft and learning art techniques amid all the painting at home and the tagging on the city ...more
Maureen Neville
I received this book from a friend for a recent birthday. She told me it was YA fiction and I often like YA fiction (have been surprised at the quality of writing in this genre in recent years) so I was appreciative and curious.
This book is a hard one to classify however it does seem to fall in the "fantasy" realm while at the same time much of what is portrayed is in a realistic manner (in other words the fantasy element of it does not form the entire basis of the narrative -- it is more of a d
This is an intersecting dual time novel. In 1978, Merle is attending art school in New York, an experience far different than her rural upbringing. In the 1870’s, the poet Arthur Rimbaud is on the cusp of his poetic powers. Merle does not fit in with her fellow students, but strikes up a relationship with one of her teachers. She becomes intrigued by graffiti art and the underground grittiness of New York and begins to place her own tag of “Radiant Days” around the city. On the other side of the ...more
Jenn Estepp
3 1/2, perhaps. Sort of a time slip, sort of a paean to art and the "artistic vision," I ended up liking this a bit more than I expected. There are definite things to appreciate here - I feel like Hand's portrayal of the 70s-era art scene in NY/DC was particularly strong and could've happily read more about it. Plus, I'd be a terrible Replacements fan if I didn't appreciate some of the more infamous bits of their mythos popping up here, along with (disguised, though it is) of Bob Stinson as a we ...more
Pairing magic realism with historical fiction, this lyrical and multi-layered title conveys the passion that drives artists to make things that last. A homeless guitarist who fishes by the light of the moon gives a 1970s graffiti artist a key that allows her to spend one night with her kindred spirit, Arthur Rimbaud, the 1870s teenage poet whose work continues to inspire musicians and other creative souls.

Original translations of Rimbaud's poetry appear throughout and a bibliography of resource
This book really is beautiful in a lot of ways but something about it didn't quite come together for me. I can't really put my finger on what else I wanted though... in many ways it was done about as well as it could have been and I'm not sure why I finished it feeling mildly unsatisfied. I love Rimbaud and really like the way he's done here but I couldn't seem to feel much emotion regarding the other main character, Merle. The book's themes about art and the connections between artists are real ...more
Elizabeth Hand is a writer of tremendous power. Both her fantasy and straight fiction works are the product of her unique, almost mystical ability to create and sustain strange and singular characters and enviroments. Radiant Days is no exception and I believe, her best fantasy. Although this is marketed as a YA book, it is hard for me to imagine it attracting a wide audience as the plot concerns characters involved in the the punk art/music world of the early 70's overlapping the world of the s ...more
While this functions as a compelling story - the intertwining lives of a 1970s artist and the poet Rimbaud (circa 1870) with some fantastical elements thrown in - the real delight is the way Hand layers everything together in a sort of ode to different art forms. There's graffiti and art history, half-destroyed Paris, poetry, music, and a handful of Classical allusions that wrap up the whole package nicely.

The only distancing element, for me, was that I didn't particularly like Merle or Arthur
I'm gonna go read some Rimbaud now. And finally watch that Leonardo DiCaprio movie.

This hit all the right buttons for me. Not only was there some timey-wimey stuff (not specifically time travel, but I don't really know how to describe it), but it painted a picture of late 1970s DC that really warmed my heart. The writing crafted a portrait of two people I probably would have wanted to punch in the face without it, and I built relationships with them instead.

My only hang-up with this one is the f
Catherine Siemann
I invariably enjoy Elizabeth Hand's writing, and thanks to the speed of the Kindle, had this bought on the day of its release and finished by the next morning. Hand's two protagonists, nineteenth century poet Arthur Rimbaud and 1970s artist Merle, are both well-drawn, interesting and creative and very much showing the strengths and weaknesses of their age. I'm not sure the time travel narrative, that allows the two to interact, quite works for me, but that didn't keep me from turning the pages q ...more
I didn't like the story, but it was interesting enough to keep me listening until the end. There was not much to like about any of the characters and the story didn't make much sense to me. Definitely not a feel good book in any way.
Francesca Forrest
I really loved the liminal connecting character, Ted, and how he worked in the story. He was marvelous, really marvelous. I loved Merle's interactions with Arthur, and I was amused, rather than annoyed, by how long it took her to accept the reality that he had stepped out of the past. Merle's rationalizations seemed completely realistic. Merle herself I liked, too, but Arthur .... ehhh. He was at his most appealing interacting with Merle--talking about Plato's theory of a third sex, and reading ...more
Jeremiah Genest
Radiant Days, the new novel by Elizabeth Hand is, as most of her books, centered on finding oneself as an artist, and thus an adult. The two protagonists, one in 1977 and the other Arthur Rimbaud (and I love it when Rimbaud is used in fanatsy), live a very intense few days in what feels, above all, like a journey into the Orphic mysteries. I was rather surprised to see this marketed as a young adult, because frankly its not much different from so many of her other books, maybe not as dark as Gen ...more
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A New York Times notable and multiple award– winning author, Elizabeth Hand has written seven novels, including the cult classic Waking the Moon, and short-story collections. She is a longtime contributor to numerous publications, including the Washington Post Book World and the Village Voice Literary Supplement. She and her two children divide their time between the coast of Maine and North Londo ...more
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“[Poetry] was a form of incantation, a means of welding the world inside his head to the one that surrounded him, words the fiery chain that bound it all together.” 6 likes
“I nodded, unsure if Ted sounded admiring or angry. 'I waded in but I couldn't find him. I mean, is it possible - the water wasn't deep enough for him to drown. It doesn't make any sense.'

'My band made four brilliant albums and never had a single goddamn hit. We were supposed to be the American Rolling Stones, and we couldn't get more than five minutes of airplay. Does that make sense?' Ted stubbed out his cigarette.”
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