Friday, January 27, 2017

Maggie Nelson, Bluets

Do not, however, make the mistake of thinking that all desire is yearning. “We love to contemplate blue, not because it advances to us, but because it draws us after it,” wrote Goethe, and perhaps he is right. But I am not interested in longing to live in a world in which I already live. I don’t want to yearn for blue things, and God forbid for any “blueness.” Above all, I want to stop missing you.

I know I’m a bit late to the game, but I was finally able to open Los Angeles poet and writer Maggie Nelson’s lyric essay, Bluets (Wave Books, 2009) while in Vancouver, and managed to read the book in a single sitting. Composed in two hundred and forty short numbered prose sections, Nelson’s Bluets is an essay around desire, thinking and the colour blue. Invoking Goethe, translation, Mallarmé, sexual fantasy and Warhol, Bluets moves with an incredible ease, blending literary theory, art history, philosophy and pop culture with a sharp and straightforward line. Hers is a scalpel, getting directly to the heart of the matter. Into the blue.

Given the book is already nearly a decade old, I would suspect it has long been discussed in reviews far meatier and lengthier, so I shall leave it at this: I know I need to read more Maggie Nelson.

I’ve read that children pretty much prefer red hands-down over all other colors; the shift into liking cooler tones—such as blue—happens as they grow older. Nowadays half the adults in the Western world say that blue is their favorite color. In their international survey of the “Most Wanted Painting,” the Russian émigré team Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid discovered that country after country—from China to Finland to Germany to the United States to Russia to Kenya to Turkey—most wanted a blue landscape, with slight variances (a ballerina here, a moose there, and so on). The only exception was Holland, which, for inscrutable reasons, wanted a murky, rainbow-hued abstraction.

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