Radiant Days


A 20th-century teen artist and 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud transcend time and place in this luminous paean to the transformative power of art. In September 1977, 18-year-old Merle leaves rural Virginia to attend the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. Her drawings catch the eye of drawing instructor Clea, who initiates a romantic relationship with Merle. Overwhelmed by the sophisticated urban art scene, Merle drifts out of school. When Clea drops her, a homeless Merle desperately spray-paints her signature sun-eye graffiti across the city until she encounters a mercurial tramp who mystically connects her with the visionary Rimbaud, in the bloom of his artistic powers at age 16. Incredulous over their stunning time travel, Merle and Rimbaud recognize they are kindred spirits who live to create. Hand deftly alternates between Merle’s first-person, past-tense story and a third-person account of Rimbaud during the Franco-Prussian War of 1871-72, laced with excerpts from his poems and letters. Suffused with powerful images of light, this intensely lyrical portrait of two androgynous young artists who magically traverse a century to briefly escape their equally disturbing worlds expands the themes of artistic isolation and passion Hand first introduced in Illyria. An impressive blend of biography and magical realism.


As she did so brilliantly with Shakespearean plays and complex family dynamics in Illyria, Hand now turns to art and poetry in a whirlwind look at the lives of two starving artists separated by time.
— Bookslut.com
Real enchantment is always sought by our sad, starved world and rarely found. Elizabeth Hand’s work possesses it in every word.
— Francesca Lia Block
[Hand’s] descriptions of art and poetry as they are being made are breathtaking... and her troubled, beautifully drawn characters make the heart ache.
— Publisher's Weekly (starred review)

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