Bluets - Maggie Nelson

“Bluets” is best described using an anecdote by Nelson herself that is mentioned in the book, about how she visited a museum in order to finally experience Yves Klein’s blue canvases, only to then find them overwhelmingly saturated. The same can be said about “Bluets”, and it all begins with the fact that ‘mentioned’ is the most accurate way of describing how such anecdotes and other curiosities exist within its pages.


For such a short book I found myself taking too many pauses, usually not being able to take more than a couple pages at a time. This was both the success and the downfall of Nelson, who I thought was able to create this very startling saturation that made it difficult to indulge in for too long. Yet it didn’t leave me with many coherent impressions, and the impressions it did leave were picked up over the course of digging through a lot of quoting and jumping back in forth from some more formal essay-like writing to the personal, diary like entries, many of which enjoyed returning to the topic of fucking.


Structure – that is the one thing I would’ve liked more of in this book. I wonder if the formatting of the book, the use of numbered chunks/fragments was due to the fact that these fragments were individually written on pieces of paper. They certainly read like it. There were undeniably wonderful quotes throughout, and personal observations that I felt myself connecting with very easily. But it was somewhat of a chore, to pinpoint these moments out and attempt to hunt them down and capture them in my mind. I expected something more along the lines of Solnit’s “The Field Guide to Getting Lost”, which I absolutely adored and which also covers the idea of blue, yet in another, more specific way.


“Bluets” is like a busy and slightly melodramatic child that goes from being happy to being sad either very slowly or at such a breakneck speed that you barely have time to blink. For some this will be wonderful, especially for those readers who prefer a much rawer combination of personal and formal writing. I would’ve preferred some more flow to it, to slip into the writing. But Nelson didn’t quite make me share her love of blue, leaving me on the surface where I could only look down into the undeniably beautiful, blue depths and sigh.