“Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color.” 

Maggie Nelson

I don’t think so many friends have recommended me the same book which such vehemence in any other occasion. Before reading Bluets I was already hyped and I had never read anything by Maggie Nelson and I thought the book was, for that is what friends had told me, a poetry collection… I was surprised to find it isn’t.

The first thing I liked about this book was its format, because I was not expecting a book that resists being labelled one genre or another. The book is almost like a list and its items, which Nelson called “propositions” are numbered, there are 240 of them. I love the fact that it is a non-classifiable book: is it poetry? yes, but it’s also prose, and it’s a list and kind of a draft and a diary and a collection of mini essays.

These propositions reflect on various things: love and loss, heartbreak and grief, sex, desire and pleasure. Also, there are personal references to Maggie Nelson’s academic life, friendships, relationships and past. There is not a chronologic or thematic order but everything revolves around the colour blue. The book is a love-letter to the colour blue, a homage to her obsession with it. In that way it is also a reflection on colour-perception and I also loved the inquisitive nature of Nelson’s propositions (it’s the academic in her) because she quotes Wittgenstein and Goethe in various parts.

Monk by the Sea, Caspar David Friedrich

Bluets reminded me a lot of Rebecca Solnit’s style and themes in A Field Guide to Getting Lost, because the bridge between the particular and the general, the objective and the abstract is the personal experience. I felt this book a lot and I just love how Maggie Nelson really let herself go and put feelings into the page without wanting to intellectualise them so much, especially when describing heartbreak and grief. I loved the essay-ish style fo the book as well because the includes quotes by many other authors and discusses them, not in a “let me explain” kind of way but in a “I am trying to make sense of all of this” way.

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One response to “Grief and Desire: Maggie Nelson’s Bluets”

  1. My Favourite Books of 2022 – flowers in the library Avatar

    […] Bluets by Maggie NelsonCan I just say how refreshing it is to hear someone talk about grief as an aesthetic experience rather than just a step towards healing? One thing I can guarantee about Bluets is that it is bleak and depressing, but it is also beautiful in its embrace of pain. Maggie Nelson writes about her obsession with the colour blue and all things blue in some hybrid between a list, a long poem and academic prose. In her study of the colour, she writes too of many others who have attempted to explain their obsessions with colour and light, she explores the relations between blue and sadness and her own personal experiences with heartbreak and loss.  […]


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