I’ve read tons of horror novellas before, but David Morrell’s Orange is for Anguish, Blue for Insanity is probably the most unforgettable I have come across.
Ignorance was prevalent more than a decade ago. A kid of 13, I picked up Prime Evil from my dad’s bookshelf not knowing what to expect. I didn’t even know who Douglas E. Winter was, or understood what ‘anthology’ really meant. Believe me, when you’re a teen, anything that has the word ‘evil’ on it is deemed cool.
That was the turning point of my life. Each story written inside the anthology struck me quite bluntly; and I knew from then on that I was to be a forever fan of Stephen King, Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, Clive Barker, M. John Morrison, and yeah, David Morrell.
Morrell, in all his intelligence, is the same man responsible for Rambo. Yep, you know, Stallone. He came to prominence when he wrote First Blood in 1972. 10 years later, it debuted into cinemas and the world has since known John Rambo, Vietnam War kick-ass veteran.
I couldn’t just put into singularity that the same man wrote Orange is for Anguish, Blue for Insanity. The novella has a certain obscurity to it that would stick inside your brain; sometimes neglected but not completely forgotten.
A young artist becomes fixated to a 19th century impressionist named Van Dorn, who, despite being a genius in his time, was bypassed and unrecognized. Van Dorn’s frustration eventually shakes his sanity and by gouging his eyes, he met death.
The artist, in an attempt to comprehend Van Dorn’s genius and insanity, tried to relive the impressionist’s life; immersed in his paintings, stayed at the same inn, ate at the same diner, and visited the exact location of the infamous painting that drove him mad.
In the end, his obsession caused him his own sanity; for those who try to uncover the secret of Van Dorn is doomed to a gruesome end.
David Morrell rendered a vivid imagery of the characters, the paintings, and the locations. The fusion of anguish and insanity throughout the whole story permeates rather prominently, it’s frightening.
Irises, 1889 – oil on canvas
Jean Paul Getty Museum, Malibu
Here’s an example of an Impressionist painting (also my favorite) by Vincent van Gogh. He painted this canvas when he was living at the mental asylum of Saint-Rémy.
Notice the red flowers at the top of the painting resonate the red floor, while the white flower on the left echoes the pale blue one at the right.