- Series: New York Review Books (Paperback)
- Paperback: 112 pages
- Publisher: NYRB Classics; Reprint edition (March 11, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1590177185
- ISBN-13: 978-1590177181
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.3 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #361,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry (New York Review Books (Paperback)) Paperback – March 11, 2014
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In this, one of the strangest books about writing and language you're likely ever to read, fiction writer and philosophy professor Gass spins off into an improvisational inquiry into the nature of words and consciousness, using as his departure point the concept of the color blue--the idea of blue, the state of blue, the uses of blue...the bluenesses of blue. It's kind of hard to sum up, and if it sounds weird, it is--but it's also wonderful. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
"'Blue' is poetically reconfigured as a shifting state to which the beholder perpetually attunes." —New Statesman
"[On Being Blue] is a talismanic, self-contained kind of book that seems more giving, more delicious each time one returns." —Brian Dillon, The Guardian
"The mark of a good essay is its ability to span worlds — illuminate complex ideas with a careful, personal touch. In On Being Blue there is life and death, pleasure, sadness, sex, personhood, theology — worlds of words." —Jaun Vidal, NPR
“A book no person who loves writing and the sound writing makes should be without.” —The New Republic
“Gass is a philosopher-voluptuary, someone who romances language with a roué’s cunning, and isn’t afraid to play with words and ideas for sheer sport." —Diane Ackerman
“On Being Blue is a luminous work, a tour de force on blue, that word (and color) reverberant with what is called experience. On Being Blue celebrates both language and that which it represents and carefully draws our attention to that difficult middle ground on which the writer finds himself in lifelong struggle to join the two without sullying or smearing the clarities of either.” —Gilbert Sorrentino
“This is a tour de force...a virtuoso performance of great imaginative force.” —Los Angeles Times
“An enchanting book.” —John Bayley, The New York Times Book Review
“A blue-black, slightly brackish beauty of a book, a philosophical essay written, for the most part, with the lilt of a Renaissance epithalamium.” —Larry McMurtry, The Washington Post Book World
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_On Being Blue_ is a light, ethereal piece of beauty with the density of elemental lead. The price of admission is low, but you can take away so much. Don't limit yourself and open your arms and mind.
He held an endowed chair at Washington University in St. Louis while I was a graduate student there. I was once his teaching assistant. Quite an experience. That was also on the order of 33 years ago. We were both younger then.
He had already written "On Being Blue", but it was too expensive for a poor graduate student to justify buying.
Gass knows that being a Philosopher requires both a working brain and a working language that translates his thoughts into thoughts that the reader can share. The process sometimes works, and the process sometimes does not work. That is as much attributable to the reader as to the writer, and it is not a "bad" thing to not get what a writer intends - as long as you think about something that is somehow related to the words the writer used to express the thoughts he or she thought they were expressing with those words.
It's a hit or miss proposition, sometimes.
You have to read Gass experientially, in a way. It's not like reading Stephen King, or Tom Clancy or Joan Didion. But then, Gass is not King, Clancy or Didion. C'est la vie. You will walk away from the book with an enriched mind, not to mention vocabulary, if you give it half a chance. If you give it a whole chance, you'll even enjoy it.
[page 3, 4] "Blue pencils, blue noses, blue movies, laws, blue legs and stockings, the language of birds, bees, and flowers as sung by longshoremen, that lead-like look the skin has when affected by cold, contusion, sickness, fear; the rotten rum or gin they call blue ruin and the blue devils of its delirium; Russian cats and oysters, a withheld or imprisoned breath, the blue they say that diamonds have, deep holes in the ocean and the blazers which English athletes earn that gentlemen may wear; afflictions of the spirit -- dumps, mopes, Mondays -- all that's dismal -- lowdown gloomy music, Nova Scotians, cyanosis, hair rinse, bluing, bleach; the rare blue dahlia like that blue moon shrewd things happen only once in, or the call for trumps in whist (but who remembers whist or what the death of unplayed games is like?), and correspondingly the flag, Blue Peter, which is our signal for getting under way; a swift pitch, Confederate money, the shaded slopes of clouds and mountains, and so the constantly increasing absentness of Heaven (ins Blaue hinein, the Germans say), consequently the color of everything that's empty: blue bottles, bank accounts, and compliments, for instance, or, when the sky's turned turtle, the blue-green bleat of ocean (both the same), and, when in Hell, its neatly landscaped rows of concrete huts and gas-blue flames; social registers, examination booklets, blue bloods, balls, and bonnets, beards, coats, collars, chips, and cheese . . . the pedantic, indecent and censorious . . . watered twilight, sour sea: through a scrambling of accidents, blue has become their color, just as it's stood for fidelity."
All one magnificent sentence. Spreading over two pages of the small paperback book with the deep blue cover. What a gas! What a Gass! A laic litany to blue. An autobiography of blue. Blue memories. Blue books. Blue pamphlets and the blue memories they contain. Don't be Blue: The remainder of my review can be found in DIGESTWORLD ISSUE#091 by Bobby Matherne
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