Bluets, by Maggie Nelson

  1. To focus on a single object or concept is to open a world of free association. The strength of the single theme is that it allows boundaries to be drawn, questioned, erased, altered. The obsessive turning of the object can reveal complexities where they are least expected, just as attempts to apprehend a whole world of chaos can only lead to the grossest of simplifications. To focus is to expand.
  2. In your case, the object is the colour blue. An oscillating frequency of light: confessions and lies, philosophy and physics, dreams and desire.
  3. Your book arrived in the post one early evening. A slim volume, light in hand, printed in an elegant serif, with a constellated cover that was, as a matter of course, blue. It is an attractive book. I had my dinner quietly, with pause, and then gobbled the book whole, in one sitting. It was winter, but I chose to keep the window open in the kitchen. Smoke and shivers. I wondered, cried, died deep inside.
  4. “All is transfigured, as though the broken columns of a ruined temple had suddenly resumed their ancient splendour” (J.A. Baker)
  5. I wish I could be as deliberate as you, bare myself the way you do. A sad, sodden soul. Speak out loud, and consign it to the page. A faint version of you.
  6. So suppose I mimed your every move, mouthed your every word. Suppose I had thoughts like yours: pithy, enlightening, enigmatic. Suppose I could express them with a fine erudite plume, like you, baring my soul so terribly, like you. Suppose I could be a faint writerly version of you. Perhaps you could think of it as flattery.
  7. It would be useful, because I find it incredibly difficult to write about the personal. Like you must too, and yet so brilliantly do. How can anyone explain what it feels like to be stranded in one’s own mind, as if on an island battered by waves, home to strangers whose intents are unknown and, thereby, frightening? How does one properly express what it means to be in love and to experience it as pain? How can words express desires so powerful they leave one either panting in expectation or huddled in a corner – begging for release?
  8. My impersonal turn of phrase is transparent. “One”, “anyone”: I mean me. The paneling in my kitchen is a bright, primary red.
  9. When I was done reading, I wrote your last phrase on a card and stuck it to the wall of my room “When I was alive, I aimed to be a student not of longing but of light”. Let me also be alight.
  10. The opposite of life in the light is life in darkness. Yet what is to be preferred is not clear. “Through darkness comes light”, was it? I once read that suffering is the precondition to understanding. “It is an infinite merit to be able to despair”, Kierkegaard said, “the possibility of this sickness is man’s advantage over the beast”. Or as the note says: “to choose despair is to get the better of it”. What consolation…
  11. What is it you said about despair? Ah, yes. “Eventually I confess to a friend some details about my weeping – its intensity, its frequency. She says (kindly) that she thinks we sometimes weep in front of the mirror not to inflame self-pity, but because we want to feel witnessed in our despair. (Can a reflection be a witness? Can one pass oneself the sponge wet with vinegar from a reed?)”
  12. Have you ever paused in your crying and stared into the mirror close enough as to see a reflection of your face in the darkness of your own pupils? It is an alien feeling.
  13. My writing is plagued by self-doubt and censored melodrama. That is why I release it into the digital ether. To force on myself the realization that there is nothing to be ashamed of, that there is nothing to be mocked, and if I am mocked, so that I can tell myself it does not matter. What did you feel when you wrote of your loneliness, your sadness, your desires? What was it like to see the words you wrote published for all to judge?
  14. Is there a way to avoid melodrama and self-pity? Such emotions are to be despised. Rather, I want to touch others gently, wrap their hearts in soft silk to make them feel towards me the same warmth I feel towards them, and the same fear of suffocation. You seem to have found a way, so I imitate you in the hope that it will be enlightening.
  15. I parachuted out of a plane once. Writing and releasing it into the world is much harder, even if my corner of the internet is still a private affair. Jusqu’ici tout va bien… but what matters most is not the fall, but the landing.
  16. On Sunday 4th of February 1912, after preening his cloth wings in front of the press, Franz Reichelt tested a parachute of his own invention for the first, and last, time. His leap from the first floor of the Eiffel tower is quite possibly the first death to be imprinted on film. It makes for eery viewing. “Comme s’il eut pressenti l’horrible sort qui l’attendait, le malheureux inventeur hésita longuement avant de se lancer dans le vide”. (As if foreboding the horrible fate awaiting him, the unfortunate inventor long hesitated before throwing himself into the void).
  17. Only 2 days before, an American had jumped from the hand of the Statue of Liberty (another Eiffel tower). This without injury. “It has been said of him that he must be 300 feet in the air with a cigar in his mouth to be absolutely comfortable”, the New York Times wrote of the man in question, who refused to be interviewed.
  18. Overcoming fear and doubt, that is, throwing oneself off the ledge in spite of it, is a key. To act, or write, without comment, is another.
  19. In the space of a few pages you made me finally understand that a person is not one thing (a face, an illness) or another (an utterance, a brief flash of violence) but a compound of their contradictions. That the mind is a jumble, holding for every thing its opposite. That all of this can be accessed in writing. That in the absence of words, I can turn to others’. That I can write without fear.