BLUETS by Maggie Nelson




14. I have enjoyed telling people that I am writing a book

about blue without actually doing it. Mosty what happens

in such cases is that people give you stories or leads

or gifts, and then you can play with these things instead

of with words. Over the past decade I have been given

blue inks, paintings, postcards, dyes, bracelets, rocks,

precious stones, watercolors, pigments, paperweights,

goblets, and candies. I have been introduced to a man

who had one of his front teeth replaced with lapis lazuli,

solely because he loved the stone, and to another who

worships blue so devoudy that he refuses to eat blue food

and grows only blue and white flowers in his garden,

which surrounds the blue ex-cathedral in which he lives.

I have met a man who is the primary grower of organic indigo

in the world, and another who sings Joni Mitchell’s

Blue in heartbreaking drag, and another with the face of a

derelict whose eyes literally leaked blue, and I called this

one the prince of blue, which was, in fact, his name.


15. I think of these people as my blue correspondents,

whose job it is to send me blue reports from the field.


23. Goethe wrote Theory of Colours in a period of his life

described by one critic as “a long interval, marked by

nothing of distinguished note.” Goethe himself describes

the period as one in which “a quiet, collected state

of mind was out of the question.” Goethe is not alone in

turning to color at a particularly fraught moment. Think

of filmmaker Derek Jarman, who wrote his book Chroma

as he was going blind and dying of AIDS, a death he also

forecast on film as disappearing into a “blue screen.” Or

of Wittgenstein, who wrote his Remarks on Colour during

the last eighteen months of his life, while dying of

stomach cancer. He knew he was dying; he could have

chosen to work on any philosophical problem under the

sun. He chose to write about color. About color and pain.

Much of this writing is urgent, opaque, and uncharacteristically

boring. “That which I am writing about so tediously,

may be obvious to someone whose mind is less

decrepit,” he wrote.