Sunday, 18 June 2017

Bluets by Maggie Nelson    {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“We love to contemplate blue, not because it advances to us but because it draws us after it,” wrote Goethe. Maggie Nelson’s book, comprised of 240 short numbered, mostly beautifully written passages, describes her life-long affinity for and attraction to (what she calls ‘love’ for) the colour blue in all its literal and figurative senses, along with describing a period of mourning after the end of an intense relationship (also called ‘love’). She is, she says, not interested in learning “what has been real and what has been false, but what has been bitter, and what has been sweet.” To this end, and with the assistance of a range of co-opted “blue correspondents” reporting from art, literature and history, she intimates a field of nuanced responses to the colour blue, even though subjective colour response is almost impossible to communicate. Indeed, blue’s attraction is almost its absence of meaning, or its relief from meaning. “Blue has no mind. It is not wise, nor does it promise wisdom. It is beautiful, and despite what the poets and philosophers and theologians have said, I think beauty neither obscures truth nor reveals it. It leads neither towards justice nor away from it.” More than colour, blue is also merely colour, altering the cast of whatever it is seen upon. Although she attempts to draw correlations between the two (“I have found myself wondering if seeing a particularly astonishing shade of blue, for example, or letting a particularly potent person inside you, could alter you irrevocably, just to have seen or felt it. In which case, how does one know when, or how, to refuse? How to recover?”), there is an apparently unbridgeable gap in Nelson’s life, at least in the period treated in this book, between, on the one side, her intellectual passions and, on the other, her physical passions, between, as she would term it, thinking and fucking. Each side yearns towards the other, but encounters only the seductively nullifying colour of the void between them: blue.

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