on October 3, 2010
Nelson's book is rife with deep honesty, sensible confession, dark(-ish) humor, and enough sadness to tear viscera asunder. Nelson confesses she wanted to compose a book that would be a complete, comprehensive encyclopedic index of blue. What the reader gets is a book about compassion, mourning, hope, happiness, sex, and, as one might expect, one blue coat. What the reader gets is Bluets - nothing like any other book out there. Beautifully written, compelling, believable, deeply felt.
on September 17, 2011
This is a brilliant little book that does its best to defy classification. Part of it is memoir, looking back on an ended relationship while living in the emotional aftermath of it. What's interesting is how this is explored in tandem with a philosophical investigation of the color blue, and it is this exploration that dominates the 240 numbered section of the book. More specifically, it is about Maggie Nelson's love of the color, and how that love informs her understanding of other forms of love. I'm realizing as I write this that the book may be beyond my explanation. I think I'll let it speak for itself in a few select quotes, ending my own thoughts here by saying that you should read Bluets, probably twice.
"It is, perhaps, my way of making my life feel "in progress" rather than a sleeve of ash falling off a lit cigarette."
"And it must also be admitted that hitting the wall or wandering off in the wrong direction or tearing off the blindfold is as much a part of the game as is pinning the tail on the donkey."
"And if 'saturation' means that one simply could not absorb or contain one single drop more, why does 'saturation' not bring with it a connotation of satisfaction, either in concept, or in experience?"
"But a bouquet is no homage to the bush."
"Imagine someone saying, "our fundamental situation is joyful." Now imagine believing it."
on April 28, 2014
I am the target audience for this book. A girl in art school in her 20s who likes girl bands and talking about feelings. I've never read anything else by Maggie Nelson but she hits the right tones for me. I would want to sit at her table in the cafeteria or skip school to smoke cigarettes with her. Bluets is not specifically about anything except a love letter to the color blue. Mostly about the constant ping ponging of depression, finding yourself up against it and remembering when you were in it.
Here's excerpt that prompted me to buy this book, "Of course, you could also just take off the blindfold and say, 'I think this game is stupid, and I'm not playing it anymore'. And it must also be admitted that hitting the wall or wandering off in the wrong direction or tearing off the blindfold is as much a part of the game as is pinning the tail on the donkey". I read that in 2011 and I was sold. It became my bath book, my beach book, my bus book. It's like reading someone's grocery list; it's easy and short and if you like sitting in a pool of sorrow once and a while Nelson's right there with you, until you choose to get out of it.
I also brought this book to jury duty. I went though security and put it in the plastic tub which smelled like pee and went through the metal detector- Stepped out to the wood paneled hallway, which seemed to be making fun of itself it was so ugly- sat in a large room with people pretending to be way too important to be there. My name was called, I went with my group to the court room. It's like the first day of school where no one talks to each other. The judge comes out and starts speaking another language. (We should all really know more about the law). It was a DUI case. And so I read Bluets in between excuses to get out of jury duty. The law student with the Berkeley shirt said "I hate cops", the frazzled grey haired woman "unemployed and sick". I looked down to Bluets, "I have been trying, for some times now, to find dignity in my loneliness. I have been finding this hard to do". Up again to the anthropology major, "Serving on a jury would be an honor". I remember really not wanting my name to be called, and it wasn't. This book got me through jury duty, and also a more self-indulgent time.
on November 29, 2015
I love this book. It is nonfiction, and comprises a series of small, numbered writings. They're more similar to Nietzsche's aphorisms in size--that is, they can be a sentence or two, or fill a few pages--but they are affirming, profound, and provocative. What are they about? Ostensibly, the colour blue. The entire book comprises reflections on the colour blue--its symbolism, its place in the spectrum of light, its manifestations as moods and states of being, its place in literature and music.
The writing is brilliant. Maggie Nelson, whose most recent book, THE ARGONAUTS, is a tour de force, has such a fantastic style. Her writing evoked feelings in me as her writing placed a series of sensory experiences in my mind, each of which was evoked by what she was writing about.
This is a work of philosopy, of aesthetic theory, of cultural criticism, a meditation on what it means to be alive and human, all creatively told by writing about the colour blue. At first glance, it may sound like another form of navel gazing, but that would be a misreading of what's going on. This is a book about the human condition, one that Nelson writes about with style and aplomb.
on March 4, 2015
I really loved this book. It's a very quick read. Often it reads more as poetry than as a novel or short story. It's a very emotional journey, especially for anyone who knows what it is to have a broken heart. It's also life affirming and gives weight to the aesthetic and emotional value of the color blue. And in doing so it gives that weight to all of life and it's beauty and fragility. Just a lovely read.
on December 10, 2012
Maggie Nelson's break-out book Bluets utilizes memoir, philosophy, quotation, analysis, scientific exposition, query, meditation, and much much more, each of which is employed in stylistic miniature. Subjects in the book include an ex-lover and a friend who's been paralyzed, but the majority of the text features her analyzing what she's reading, often deferring to others' comments (including Leonard Cohen, Joseph Cornell, and Joan Mitchell) on blue. She's not the only artist so smitten by a color. Nelson combines spiritual inquiry with erotic obsession, searches for beauty, and gets hung up on memories. As she crisscrosses sorrow and wonder, doubt and desire, her tone darkens.
The book is a philosophical and personal exploration of what the color blue has done to Nelson. Despite the exhaustion, Bluets wears its hybrid/fragmented dress well, showing its seams and much enthralled by its wanderlust, an aesthetic runway that constantly leads Nelson to find new ideas, images, and expressions.
The text is fragmentary but not disconnected, certainly not a series of discrete contextless meditations or aphorisms in the style of Marcus Aurelius. Nelson lists insights, hers and others', to convey her learning and her vexation. She discovers links between many blues and their associations. As a result, the boards and nails she uses to build the edifice are readily apparent.
It's also admirable for Nelson to have taken on "blue" considering the work William Gass already achieved in his magnificent meditation "On Being Blue." That Nelson's Bluets holds its own is proof of the value of this incredible book.
on January 29, 2016
Most amazing nonfiction read I've had in a very long time. Interweaves a love for blue, a lost love, and a terrible disabling car accident of a friend. All in 200 plus numbered paragraphs. I carry this book around with me. Open it up just to read a random paragraph. It's a book you could (and I will) read over and over again.
on April 29, 2016
The mark this book has left on me is perhaps as deep as the hues Nelson describes; she is a master at both telling her own truths outright and connecting with her readers. Maggie Nelson's "Bluets" is a refreshing work that delves into the web of what it means to lose someone, lose yourself and discover yourself in new ways. What Nelson's work brings to the conversation of love & loss is the dissonance between a desire for intimacy and for independence. We see her struggling with this throughout, yet we can always feel a deliberate, calculating sense of purpose. She calls on Emerson, Joni Mitchell, Lucinda Williams, Leonardo da Vinci, among other artists and writers, as reference points for her audience. Her honesty soothes as she lets us know up front that she has always been obsessed with the color blue, and seeing the world through, in and of it. Nelson also takes several digs into the ground of what it means to be a female, particularly in the sense that "men get blue, but women get the deepest blue" as it relates to depression. Nelson is innovative and poetic, but we never lack a sense of authenticity as we swim down with her. She also reminds us, more than once, to observe the other colors as we can't talk about blue without referencing yellow and red, too. It is an interesting lens through which to explore purpose, femininity, love, and depression. Like everything else in life, blue comes to represent contradictory and plentiful emotions and themes throughout the work. I cannot scrap her description of color off of my skin and I guarantee this work will change the way you see blue, if not all colors, forever.
on September 19, 2013
I admire so many aspects to this book and all of its beautiful power. Maggie Nelson's metaphors and imagery are clearer than the subjects could ever be themselves-- those all encompassing abstractions, love, loss, hope, color. I think that towards the end of the book, the text becomes a little too weighed down with quotes. The spark dimmed a little in the end. Still, Bluets is a magnificent book, and I enjoyed reading it. I highlighted many passages to read over again.
on May 6, 2016
Is it possible for something to be objectively beautiful - a person, or a concept, or a color? What's the difference between having sex and making love? If God doesn't exist, then what does that mean for religion and for humanity? Am I a different person than my past self or my future self? There is no limit to the difficult questions Maggie Nelson will raise in Bluets. But nowhere in her book of consecutive snippets does she ever really try to answer the sometimes confusing and sometimes controversial questions she asks her readers to consider. In fact, she accepts the inevitable fact that she will never know the answers to these questions. Nelson knows from her own experience and the experience of others that resisting this and trying too hard to answer what is unanswerable causes humans to feel overwhelmed and lonely, but after reading her book, we feel comforted and welcomed to fall in love with the blue unknown that exists in life. I recommend this book because it has the power, the scope, and the honesty to be able to reach anyone; Nelson takes us along with her and the rest of people on this journey together.