Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.34 of 5 stars 4.34  ·  rating details  ·  1,648 ratings  ·  209 reviews
Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color . . .

A lyrical, philosophical, and often explicit exploration of personal suffering and the limitations of vision and love, as refracted through the color blue. With Bluets, Maggie Nelson has entered the pantheon of brilliant lyric essayists.

Maggie Nelson is the author of numerous books of poetry and...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Wave Books (first published 2009)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Bluets, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Bluets

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
It’s kind of cliche to say that you don’t choose the people you love. But I’ve been thinking about this recently, maybe because Maggie Nelson starts off the book with this point, that she didn’t choose to fall in love with blue (yes the color). The book continually repeats cliches like this without shame, but then takes it in a slightly odd direction (like being in love with a color) that ends up (because of its strangeness and forthrightness) being oddly effective in terms of getting us to reev...more
A numbered meditation on longing, love, obsession, connection at once spiritual, associative, interpersonal, and physical. Superficially about a color. Wondered what she would've written about "Blue Is the Warmest Color," but then again she's given up on the cinema. The sort of sensibility that prefers "cinema" to film or movie or, certainly, flick. Sexually explicit at regular intervals to keep you on your toes among the obligatory Goethe and Wittgenstein quotation. Acknowledges and dismisses G...more
Laura Jean
There are some books you need to read because they are on a list, or have been deemed exceptional, or have been sitting lonely on your shelf.

Then there are books you need to read because you NEED them, because you need what they say, how they are, what they do to you.

My friend Julie Kantor handed this book to me last night. She said, "You need to read this." I said okay.

I read it this morning; it is only 95 pages.

I wish I could explain why this book was what I needed. It is not that I don't...more
JSA Lowe
If we could marry books, I'd already be known as Mrs. Bluets.
Oct 15, 2012 Elizabeth rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Mark + Sara, Mike
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Heather
Shelves: kindle, poetry
I started Bluets on the train the other week, or at least that's how I remember it. Where was I going that taking the train was the best option? I don't know, but that's when I tend to reach for the Kindle, as at home I have the luxury of carrying a book from room to room, leaving it in this stack or the other, picking up again and taking it into the bath, setting it down for the night after reading under the covers in my cool room.

But Bluets was on the Kindle, and so it was read in passing, a f...more
Belle-lettrist in the best sense, Bluets moves lightly from philosophy to etymology to erotics to autobiography without landing for long on any one, with blue as connecting thread but also armature for an elegant, decidedly Old World prose studded with “perhapses” and “nonethelesses” and “it must be admitteds” that talks to the reader in an artfully intimate second-person address. The book’s energy, for me, comes from the push-pull between emotional exposure and literary exercise, the simultaneo...more
Jim Coughenour
[Warning: this review contains blue language.]

Not long ago I re-read William Gass's 1976 classic On Being Blue. Typically, I remembered almost nothing of the book I read when it first appeared, except what a handsome little book it was, one of the first David R. Godine/Nonpareil Books I'd ever seen. Gass actually doesn't have much to say about the color blue. He's more interested in the word, the metaphor, particularly in its sexual aspect. (Naturally, it being 1976 and his blue being exclusivel...more
Rose Gowen

"Suppose I were to begin by saying I had fallen in love with a color. Suppose I were to speak this as though it were a confession; suppose I shredded my napkin as we spoke. It began slowly. An appreciation, an affinity. Then, one day, it became more serious."

These are the first few sentences in the book; the rest follows in the same vein. Either one finds this sort of thing lovely and poetic, or else one finds it incredibly dippy.
Mainly lovely, partly unsettling. When I got down from the train last night, the sky was exactly the color of the cover of this book.
1. Despite the tremendous lack of a fuck im inclined to give about the dual ostensible objects of this meditation? exposition? prose-poem? logical treatise?--the literal color blue and heartbreak--i found in its propositions a rendering of a received/perceived world that is, in profound and pleasurable ways, simpatico. I mean this in form as well as function, process and product.

2. Theres something particularly affecting and 'true-when-there-is-no-more-truth' about the (failed) oracula...more
Kathleen F
Maggie Nelson's Bluets is one, long, braided personal essay written using the thematic link of the color blue. (So stay away, ye readers who are intimidated by experimental forms of what is now termed "creative nonfiction.") Nelson weaves her meditation on the color, its symbolism, its importance, with her own break-up from her lover and her friend's serious car accident (and resulting quadroplegia.) It is hearbreaking, and interesting, and off-putting, and different, and incredibly well-written...more
Ben Loory
a lot of elegant writing on a sentence level, a lot of interesting observations, a lot of great quotes from famous writers and philosophers, and some neat facts about the color blue... but man, just so unrelentingly sad, maddeningly reticent (for a memoir), and HUMORLESS... like being trapped in a sad box for 90 pages... just you and the color blue and the word "fucking"...
James Tierney
Composed of 240 fragments around the permutations of blue, Nelson's lyrical, bare consideration of depression, sex, music, cornflowers, doubt, colour and more is personal and vast.
This is a brilliant little book that does its best to defy classification. Part of it is memoir, looking back on an ended relationship while living in the emotional aftermath of it. What's interesting is how this is explored in tandem with a philosophical investigation of the color blue, and it is this exploration that dominates the 240 numbered section of the book. More specifically, it is about Maggie Nelson's love of the color, and how that love informs her understanding of other forms of lov...more
A writing professor once told me that a good experimental-form book teaches you how to read it. From the first sentence, I see that I'm reading a work with an experimental form: each paragraph/memory/fact is sequentially numbered throughout the entire book, so that it reads like a list, or numbered stanzas in a poem, or perhaps a series of axioms in a mathematical proof. The numbering seems to insist that the logical part of my brain should march in and sort it all out but the content keeps trip...more
My favorite color is blue.

From a recommendation from a friend, I found a copy of Bluets and in the process found my favorite new bookstore in Tucson. So, a win all around.

Maggie Nelson has organized Bluets into a series of propositions, she calls them, and each one varies from a few lines to significantly longer (though never more than about a page). Each one focuses on the color blue in some way, shape, or form. The physical, like Newton, to the emotional, like depression, play together in a wa...more
Sigrun Hodne

unbelievable beautiful, totally strange -
I'm not sure what to call it; poetry, essays, fragments, self-biography, factual prose, nature science, philosophy.
If you (like me) find delight in hybridity, poetic language & ways of writing you haven't seen before, you should read this!

APRIL 2013
I'm working on an essay on this book, or actually two essays; I will be writing the first in English, the second in Norwegian....more
Anna Tatelman
Her prose writing is beautiful, don't get me wrong . . . I just couldn't get into this book. All of her thoughts were so disjointed and vague, and every time the story would actually begin to progress in a direction -- every time a semblance of a plot would appear, in other words -- she would go on another tangent that had nothing to do with anything. That said, if you're looking for a book with pretty language and some good quotes, give this one a look. Just be prepared to be quite bored with t...more
Eight out of five stars, honest. I think this one's book-twin is Marilyn Hacker's Love Death and the Changing of the Seasons.

Edited to add: I am now responsible for SEVEN copies of this book being sold (I bought 1 for myself and 4 for friends, then 2 friends bought their own on my recommendation.) Not to oversell or anythin'.
I could have read this quickly...but why would I? Instead, I took it in slowly. Carried it around with me. Held it on my tongue. Turned phrases around. Looked up etymologies.

I physically shelved this book next to Autobiography of Red. This seems apt, and I am pleased.

Will probably read this again soon, but perhaps in a single sitting. I wonder how it will taste then.
Jared Della Rocca
A really wonderful bit of poetry.

There was a book I read a number of years ago called "The Missing Piece" (no, not that one.) It was about a world where solving jigsaw puzzles was a major sporting event. It got really detailed into the act of doing jigsaw puzzles and the different strategies people used to solve them. I imagine many of these strategies are real, and there are probably small circles and groups where people get deeply into jigsaw puzzles in this manner.

I mention the book because M...more
Unless you're into poetry or something, there's no urgent need to read this book. But what you do need to do right away is google-image search "satin bowerbird bower," and maybe also give Joni Mitchell's record Blue another attentive listen.
Precisely rendered, section to section. Beautifully and playfully perverse when you least expect it to be. Look close and see the skillful weave of ideas. Step back and see the whole cloth of thought process. Damn this is good.
In short lyrical paragraphs blurring the boundary between essay and poem, Nelson inhabits a color, using it as a landscape of inquiry. The result is both fascinatingly informative and deeply moving.
Jacob Wren

"But I am not interested in longing to live in a world in which I already live." - Maggie Nelson, Bluets

Expectation equals disappointment. I know, I know. I should not have had expectations. What work would not break under such weight? Aside from anything written by Karl Ove Mouthguard? I was excited by the cover, whose cosmic blue seemed lifted from my sparkly blue bedroom walls. I was excited by the form, which upon scanning in the basement of the bookstore in Princeton, NJ reminded me of The Gay Science. I was excited!

I console myself with the fact that Maggie Nelson, PhD, was thirty when she s...more
Kasey Jueds
I read this just after finishing The Red Parts, and loved it equally much. In some ways--certainly formally--Bluets is very different, though it deals beautifully with some of the same themes--lost love and heartbreak in particular. I had a hard time choosing shelves for this book, since it's almost impossible to classify. Sort of poetry, sort of memoir, sort of neither and both. It's numbered paragraphs, really, that both do and don't link to and play off each other. Ostensibly, Bluets is about...more
I agree with a lot of the previous reviews of this book and the descriptions of its form are more than apt. I read this based on David Shield's enthusiasm for it expressed in various interviews and in his book, Reality Hunger. I'm kind of surprised at how big a deal people make about its form. To me, the texts it most represents are, of course, Anne Carson's Eros the Bittersweet (or Autobiography of Red) and Dubravka Ugresic's The Museum of Unconditional Surrender--i.e., numbered diary-like entr...more
natalie chin
would describe this book as ‘written by a person who feels too much/for people who feel too much’ (even if we have learnt to be silent about it)

my favourite part:
199. for to wish to forget how much you loved someone—and then, to actually forget—can feel, at times, like the slaughter of a beautiful bird who chose, by nothing short of grace, to make a habitat of your heart. i have heard that this pain can be converted, as it were, by accepting ‘the fundamental impermanence of all things.’ this acc...more
Kerri Anne Stebbins
I'm hereby employing Nelson's favorite method of storytelling within Bluets, and the only method wherein she (or various poets or philosophers or Joni Mitchell, as it were) actually says anything substantial: I'm quoting. In this case, Wendell Berry (from "A Remarkable Man"), who makes me feel so much less alone amongst the ever-growing barrage of abstruse tongues who prefer talking in circles as opposed to ever concretely saying anything.

"This gobbledygook of 'universe' is representative of a...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Coeur de Lion
  • Plainwater: Essays and Poetry
  • Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures
  • The Body: An Essay
  • The Trees the Trees
  • Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric
  • The Book of Frank
  • Heroines
  • I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl: Poems
  • Love, an Index
  • The Language of Inquiry
  • My Poets
  • Versed
  • Scary, No Scary
  • Awe
  • Angle of Yaw
Maggie Nelson is most recently the author of three books of nonfiction: Bluets (Wave Books, 2009); Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions (University of Iowa Press, 2007), and The Red Parts: A Memoir (Free Press, 2007). The Art of Cruelty, a work of art criticism, is forthcoming from WW Norton. Nelson is also the author of several books of poetry, including Something Bright, Then...more
More about Maggie Nelson...
The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning Jane: A Murder The Red Parts: A Memoir Something Bright, Then Holes The Latest Winter

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“Mostly I have felt myself becoming a servant of sadness. I am still looking for the beauty in that.” 29 likes
“I want you to know, if you ever read this, there was a time when I would rather have had you by my side than any one of these words; I would rather have had you by my side than all the blue in the world.

But now you are talking as if love were a consolation. Simone Weil warned otherwise. 'Love is not consolation,' she wrote. 'It is light.'

All right then, let me try to rephrase. When I was alive, I aimed to be a student not of longing but of light.”
More quotes…