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4.23  ·  Rating details ·  22,003 ratings  ·  2,236 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.
Paperback, 98 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Wave Books
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Average rating 4.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  22,003 ratings  ·  2,236 reviews

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Amalia Gkavea
”If a colour could deliver hope, does it follow that it could also bring despair?”

Blue, blå, blauw, bleu, blau, κυανό, azzurro, azul, sinij, modra, blár….. a colour that carries powerful imagery, thoughts and memories…

Maggie Nelson is a writer I’ve always wanted to know more about and a beautiful review by my good friend Hannah convinced me that the time had finally come. It was a deeply poignant, haunting, almost transcendental reading experience.

In this book, we have the writer’s musings o
Jul 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
A lyrical essay made up of loosely connected prose-poems, Bluets examines love and loss through the lens of the color blue. For much of the book, Nelson reminisces about her relationship with a former partner, as she cares for a friend recently rendered quadriplegic. All the while, she considers what a wide range of cultural icons have had to say about melancholy, grief, and, of course, the titular color. Goethe, Stein, Emerson, Leonard Cohen, and Lucinda Williams are but a few of the many refer ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the third book by Maggie Nelson I have read and my favourite so far. I admire her craft very much and thought this book near perfect. It is a collection of short thoughts, brief paragraphs that pack a punch, all losely structured around the colour blue.

Maggie Nelson, as always, unapologetically places herself in the center of her art; I adore that. This is an introspective book centered around the loss of a partner and grief and depression and the injury of a close friend and, yes, the c
Terry Everett
I'm very moved by this book and shall reread it from time to time. ...more
Lee Klein
Aug 17, 2014 rated it liked it
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
JSA Lowe
Sep 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
If we could marry books, I'd already be known as Mrs. Bluets. ...more
Ben Loory
Dec 21, 2011 rated it liked it
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"... ...more
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Justin Evans
Jul 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, essays
This book terrifies me, because it's so nicely written and interestingly formed and also so completely vapid. My fear comes from my absolute certainty that over the next 20 years I'm going to have to put up with dozens of books just like this, insofar as they'll be all 'experimental' (i.e., about fucking) and 'experimental' (i.e., self-obsessed), and 'experimental' (i.e., full of literary existentialism), and 'experimental' (i.e., quasi-educated), but not at all 'experimental' (i.e., interesting ...more
megan freeburn
this morning i saw a beautiful sunrise like lava bursting through rock and my friend sent me a picture of some blood at a crime scene on a london pavement she nearly stepped in and i read 'bluets'. none of these are connected but of course they're all related, much like the propositions in the book. one on its own is a tree, a star, but together they all make up a vast landscape that encompasses every possible facet of the human experience. reading 'bluets' was like breaking into a swimming pool ...more
Julie Ehlers
Jun 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Bluets is like no other book I’ve read—it’s comprised of a number of extremely short essays, some so short they may actually qualify as poems instead. The book purports to be a meditation on the color blue, but after reading for a while you understand what it’s really about—or perhaps what it’s also about, besides the blue. Bluets is brief enough that multiple readings are feasible, and lovely enough that they’re also desirable.
Anna Gabur
Aug 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
It is not often that I come across a book I absolutely loathe - a book that makes me shake with impotent rage at its complete intellectual and aesthetic uselessness. Well, this is one of them - a book that glorifies depression and lack of social adaptability, a book whose author is apparently so in love with herself that she considers any and every piece of delirious bogus her mind produces worth publishing. Here's a quote: "I am writing all this down in blue ink, so as to remember that all word ...more
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve been meaning to read Maggie Nelson for a while now, and thanks to this gift from a dear friend I finally did. Nelson’s writings, by reputation, defy categorization: that’s certainly true here, the easiest label to give it being “creative nonfiction." Her numbered ‘entries’ are not poems and don’t add up to equal a story, though there are stories within. Her musings and meditations become mini-essays. Taken altogether, it is controlled, precise writing.

Her inspirations are not only her obses
Eric Anderson
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've wanted to read more of Nelson's books since I first encountered her breakout 'The Argonauts' a few years ago. Her approach to contemplating certain ideas and their personal impact is so striking and thought-provoking. I picked up this book (first published ten years ago) because she gave a fascinating talk at the Southbank Centre in London. 'Bluets' considers her powerful attraction to the colour blue, its manifestations in ordinary objects and art as well as its symbolism in paintings, son ...more
Dave Schaafsma
Sep 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, non-fiction
I like Bluets a lot. The book is a collection of lyrical essays that I think could also be called prose poems, but they are a range of things: inquiry into other color works, mundane observations, about blue things, peppered with sex memories. Blue is about blue, the color, and the various emotional states we associate it with, but it is also about grief, the loss of a relationship, an analogical way of expressing that obsession and that amputated passion.

As a meditation about blue, she also so
Sentimental Surrealist
I think it's safe to say the most famous study of color-as-reflection-of-individual-as-reflection-of-society-as-reflection-of-color study was Gass' On Being Blue, which Nelson cites here and seems to have a mixed-to-negative relationship with. For me, On Being Blue is a beautiful little book. Gass' eloquence can't be denied, nor can his intelligence and personable voice that doesn't always come through in his fiction. But it's no Bluets. This is everything good about the Gass study plus more; he ...more
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to Maggie Nelson I see the world through blue-coloured glasses now.
Review to come.
May 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
May 18, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5, rounded up.

This was my introduction to the work of Nelson, and I find it puzzling, solely on the basis of this slim volume, what all the hoopla is about. I'll admit I came to this via a rather idiosyncratic, circuitous route: that is, a recent read (Inside/Out), was referred to as a 'queer version of Bluets', and though I was not enamored of that book either, I was curious to find out what the original contained.

Both books largely deal with coming to terms with failed love affairs and the
Nov 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maggie Nelson's writing, reputed for defying categorisation, had been on my list for so long that the author became to me an almost mythical figure. Close to mythical lies the word mythic, and the colour blue is a bit of both—it has seeped into our understanding of the divine and otherworldly; and there's something larger-than-life about it, something about it being endless and layered and rare and dangerous all at the same time that fascinates.

In 2009, when Bluets was written, blue had already
Olivia (Stories For Coffee)
Beautiful prose, beautiful insights that I highlighted to put into my commonplace book, but a majority of the collection I wasn’t completely invested in.
Bluets contains both severe self-doubt and self-aggrandisement. A courageous move on the part of the author, given how frequently people(at least I) experience both poles but fail to recognize that those traits are in the same entity. Maggie Nelson quotes Goethe when talking about how all the understanding of a personal condition doesn't help relieve the ache that comes from it. She writes about all of her suffering, fucking, reading, writing, talking and thinking.
Then I lay my head down on t
Sep 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtqia
reread. still excellent.
Jun 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2018
Bluets had a lot of the same sharp wit and similar pithy observations that I enjoyed in The Argonauts but I think this one was just a bit too abstract for my tastes. I also didn’t do myself any favors by reading this in short bursts over the span of two weeks when I think Nelson’s writing best lends itself to a more immersive reading experience. Still enjoyed it, still looking forward to checking out her other works.
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
1. blue


a. Of a color intermediate between green and violet, as of the sky or sea on a sunny day. “The clear blue sky"
b. informal. (of a person or mood) melancholy, sad, or depressed. “Mom was feeling a bit blue”
2. Bluets is Maggie Nelson’s 2009 hybridization of lyrical essays, aka 240 meditations upon the color blue. Such a simple concept and yet have you reflected on the color in all its variations, collected it as an herbalist collects plants, investigated the color on such a d
Bluets is a fragmentary record of Nelson’s arbitrary obsession with the color blue. It’s composed of 240 short numbered essays of about a paragraph each; some are just one or two sentences. At one point Nelson refers to these as “propositions,” but really they are more like metaphorical musings. Blue takes on so many meanings: with the connotation of “depressed”, it applies to her loneliness and sense of loss after the breakdown of a relationship (she continues addressing her former partner as “ ...more
2.5 rounded up (tentatively)

I enjoyed parts of this, and Maggie Nelson's writing was as great as it always is... but it felt like something was missing, like it was a fragmented collection that didn't quite come together.
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
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
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Maggie Nelson is the author of nine books of poetry and prose, many of which have become cult classics defying categorization. Her nonfiction titles include the National Book Critics Circle Award winner and New York Times bestseller The Argonauts (Graywolf Press, 2015), The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (Norton, 2011; a New York Times Notable Book of the Year), Bluets (Wave Books, 2009; named by Boo ...more

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“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.”
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