2/3 Book Challenge: Bluets

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 few sections on the train to wherever it was, then forty-five minutes on a misty commute to work, and finally on Amtrak headed home from Champaign, another weekend spent between home and home. And I finished it with a gasp for breath, hot tears in my eyes, as the Nicolas Jaar mix unfolded in my ears and the miles slipped by in the darkness.

I don’t know how to write about this book. I don’t even know where to begin. As I think about it, I keep coming back to the idea of a tone poem, a single extended meditation on a single theme – in this case, the idea of blue. Blue of lapis lazuli, of sadness, of pornography. A love affair with a color, an exploration of the sensation of perceiving color, of the experience of feeling, of the feeling of loss, of the loss of a love.

203. I remember, in the eighties, when crack first hit the scene, hearing all kinds of horror stories about how if you smoked it even once, the memory of its unbelievable high would live on in your system forever, and you would thus never again be able to be content without it. I have no idea if this is true, but I will admit that it scared me off the drug. n the years since, I have sometimes found myself wondering if the same principle applies in other realms-  if seeing a particularly astonishing shade of blue, for example, or letting a particularly potent person inside you, could alter you irrevocably  just to have seen or felt it. In which case, how does one know when, or how, to refuse? How to recover?

I don’t know how to express how deeply parts of this book resonated with me. I have pages and pages of highlights and bookmarks, of passages that caught my breath, that I will no doubt return to when my heart is aching and I need to remember that what I’m feeling isn’t unique in the world, that others have experienced and thought and felt these same things, and have moreover been able to put them into words more eloquent than anything I could hope to write.

193. I will admit, however, upon considering the matter further, that writing does do something to one’s memory – that at times it can have the effect of an album of childhood photographs  in which each image replaces the memory it aimed to preserve. Perhaps that is why I am avoiding writing about too many specific blue things – I don’t want to displace my memories of them, nor embalm them, nor exalt them. In fact, I think I would like it best if my writing could empty me further of them, so that I might become a better vessel for new blue things.

I can’t promise you’ll like this book. I make no such offers. Perhaps you should start here first.

This is the twelfth of at least 15 books that I plan to read in the next year for my friend Mark’s 2/3 Challenge.


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