Maggie Nelson’s “Bluets”

Maggie Nelson

“Bluets” is an essay written in short bursts, meditations in miniature on the color blue and all its Western connotations, on depression, on sex, on tranquility and recovery. Nelson delves into Goethe and Wittgenstein, both of whom wrote extensively on the color and the ideas behind it. She also dives into the world of visual art, looking at the medieval, impressionism, and the postmodern.

Nelson’s “bluets” vary from a few words to a few paragraphs, building beautifully on each other in a way that reminded me of the essays of Kundera -there is a much more interesting sense of understanding to be arrived at by the intricate latticework of “blueness” than by any isolated examination of the constituent parts. There is an interesting juxtaposition between philosophy’s inability to comment with effect on this kind of blueness (evidenced by Wittgenstein’s failure) and her own perceived limitations, set into relief by the breadth of the combined whole of blueness as an idea.

I feel as though my writing and talking about this book make it out to be a far more abstract thing than it actually is, but “Bluets” is deeply personal, narrative even, often taking the form of an address to an unknown (to us) lost lover, or as a journal entry about a friend, recently quadriplegic. “Bluets” is a constructed recreation of a mind at work, a mind rotating a very wide but specific idea and contextualizing its experiences within it.

Recommendation: Read it. It’s short, it’s an easy read, and it’s fascinating.


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