Review: Bluets by Maggie Nelson

IMG_4098Bluets was given to me as a birthday present. I had heard of Maggie Nelson before but haven’t read anything by her. The Argonauts has been on my to read list, as friends keep recommending it but like I said, I haven’t read it yet. I am actually glad that I got to read Bluets first. It is such an extremely wonderful and unexpected little book, that surprised me in many ways, all the way till the end.

Bluets, part poetry, part memoir, is a book about the authors love for the colour blue, but it is also so much more than that. Each new page is a meditation, not only on colours but on life and emotions and how we live with them:

“Life is a train of moods like a string of beads and as we pass through them they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in it’s focus. To find oneself trapped in any one bead, no matter what it’s hue, can be deadly.”

The book is structured into 239 very short pieces, each one dealing with a different aspect of blue. Some are historical or scientific facts, connections to religion, art and literature and others are biographical snippets of the author’s life. There is no order, neither chronological nor topical, the pieces could each stand for their own and yet in the end they shape a clear and concise picture. The connections between the short pieces are only evident in the end. The two main ‘story lines’ are a love that Nelson lost and a close friend who had an accident and is now unable to walk. Her feeling of coming to terms with these things infuses almost every page of the book.

Bluets is a brave book. Nelson opens up a great deal about her feelings in some of the pieces, describing a variety of feeling of which not all are pretty. Her journey to getting to the essence of what blue is, is therefore also a journey to her most inner thoughts. She writes about love, sex and friendship, sadness and loss and she manages to do that in a very heart-breaking way:

“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.”

Nelson definitely managed to make me see the world in a different light. She has sharpened my awareness for all colors, not just the blue. It is wonderful when a write is able to influence their readers in a way like this. Even after I had finished the book, something definitely stayed with me, influenced my way of seeing the world and made me question my perception of things. I think this is the biggest strength of the book. I am glad I read it. And I would definitely read it again, which I don’t say about a lot of books.

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Pietro Cilati – Schön und verdammt

IMG_2393This short essay was an interesting peek into the lives of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Pietro Ciatati managed to balance objectivity and emotionality in this portrait of a very complicated relationship. Scott, the alcoholic, pedantic and dictatorial husband and of course writer and Zelda, the obsessive and schizophrenic dancer and artist led a life that was both glamorous and disastrous. Ciatati describes the beginning of their relationship, the parties and holidays, a fast paced life of success and wealth. Zelda is portrayed as a very independent and headstrong person, who was at times even stronger than Scott. But then things begin to shatter, madness, and alcoholism takes hold, destroys their family and extinguishes whatever happiness they had before. It is quite heart-breaking to read of the pain that defined this relationship. Yes, Scott was overbearing, jealous of Zelda’s creativity and a drunk who beat her but I also could understand the pain he must have felt. His wife spent most of their marriage, of her life really, in a mental institution and Ciatati portrayed this time in her life quite harrowingly. This essay seems like a good starting of point to read more about their lives and maybe to read more by Fitzgerald