Maggie Nelson’s Bluets (Wave Books, 2009) is a fragmented love-story. It covers the narrator’s intense relationship with the color blue, her personal experiences of love & loss, philosophical investigations, natural phenomenon, art, etc. etc., all mixed together in a series of small fragments, told in a beautiful and sometimes very poetic language.
To get an idea of Nelson’s playing around, have a look at this:
145: In German, to be blue -blau sein- means to be drunk. Delirium tremens used to be called “blue devils”, as in “my bitter hours of blue -devilism” (Burns, 1787). In England “the hour blue” is the happy hour at the pub. Joan Mitchell- abstract painter of the first order, American expatriate living on Monet’s property in France, dedicated chromophile and drunk, possessor of a famously nasty tongue, and creator of arguably my favorite painting of all time, Les Bluets, which she painted in 1973, the year of my birth-found the green of spring incredibly irritating. She would have preferred to live perpetually in “l’heur de bleu”. Her dera friend Frank O’Hara understood. Ah daddy, I wanna stay drunk many days, he wrote, and did.
Mitchell’s Les Bluets has given name to Nelson’s book, but Nelson is however not the only writer being inspired by Mitchell’s blue painting, just have a look at this:
Lydia Davis on Joan Mitchell’s Les Bluets:
I start with the fact that Les Bluets (The cornflowers) is the painting I think of first when I think of one that has had particular significance in my life. Then I have to figure out why. I am not even certain that Les Bluets was the actual painting I saw. What I did see was a very large white and blue painting by Joan Mitchell in her studio more than twenty years ago, and that is the one I am thinking of. cont
Nelson’s book is neither the world’s first document on the color blue, but is a very original and beautiful text; intriguing, challenging – alluring –
– in short: a book I’m very glad to have found!
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Sounds interesting and reminds me of Derek Jarman. I just wonder why she used bluets and not the correct word bleuets? A word play?
I guess Nelson used Bluets because Mitchell did, I have no idea why Mitchell did it –
Lydia Davis on Joan Mitchell – how completely wonderful, thank you! (and I didn’t know that particular painting)
It was new to me too. Such a great discovery!