Saturday, March 13, 2021

The suckings and ejaculations of the heart

The ink and the blood in the turquoise water: these are the colors inside the fucking.
Is blue the color of hope or of despair?

Bluets, by Maggie Nelson, is an investigation into the colour blue, blueness in general, and love. In 240 meditations, or episodes, or prose poems, she grieves a relationship while a friend lies paralyzed following a serious accident. From the beginning, she also declares herself to be in love with the colour blue and proceeds down a path of philosophy, aesthetics, and symbolism.

4. I admit that I may have been lonely. I know that loneliness can produce bolts of hot pain, a pain which, if it stays hot enough for long enough, can begin to simulate, or to provoke — take your pick — an apprehension of the divine. (This ought to arouse our suspicions.)

Nelson calls them propositions, invoking Wittgenstein. She addresses Wittgenstein's Remarks on Color, written in his final months, directly. "He chose to write about color. About color and pain. Much of his writing is urgent, opaque, and uncharacteristically boring."

Goethe's Theory of Colour also plays a large role. Nelson turns to scientific, medical, philosophical, musical, artistic, and literary sources to describe the colour and the feeling it invokes. 

(Someone at bookclub mentioned Bluets during a discussion of Han Kang's The White Book. That's when I first heard of it. It immediately put me in mind of William H. Gass's On Being Blue, which Nelson also references.)

In proposition 21, she describes a dream:

There was a dance underway, in a mahogany ballroom, where we were dancing the way people dance when they are telling each other how they want to make love.

...and I think I understand that she is a little like me, and the devastation of her breakup is relatable, and the force of her everything is relatable. Now I think I am closer to understanding:

20. Fucking leaves everything as it is. Fucking may in no way interfere with the actual use of language. For it cannot give it any foundation either. It leaves everything as it is.

But I don't know. Is "may" an imperative construction? — fucking shall not be permitted to sway our communication, it cannot be the basis of our communication, it is something else entirely.

Where does the blueness reside? (What colour is my blue sofa in the dark?)

I am mystified by how a book of this sort comes to be published. It would infuriate many readers. I cannot imagine it having wide appeal. It is art. Maybe this is how I want to write, meditatively, propositionally. (I want to infuriate.) She posits the female gaze. I learn about Catherine Millet and Isabelle Eberhardt.

For my part I have no interest in catching a glimpse of or offering you an unblemished ass or airbrushed cunt. I am interested in having three orifices stuffed full of thick, veiny cock in the most unforgiving of poses and light.

Horace-Bénédict de Saussure's cyanometer
I wonder what kind of woman is Maggie Nelson, and again I think she is like me.

72. It is easier, of course, to find dignity in one's solitude. Loneliness is solitude with a problem. Can blue solve the problem, or can it at least keep me company within it? — No, not exactly. It cannot love me that way; it has no arms. But sometimes I do feel its presence to a be a sort of wink — Here you are again, it says, and so am I.

Her blue is not holy or unholy. It is not depression, nor is it festive. It is some solace, a pharmakon, like fucking or writing. 

92. 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 a 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?)

I think my despair has been sufficiently witnessed. I am, however, desperate to be witnessed, before I disappear, witnessed in my desire and secrecy, my madness and joy.

178. Neither Cornell nor Warhol made the mistake of thinking that all desire is yearning. For Warhol, fucking was less about desire than it was about killing time: it is take-it-or-leave-it work, accomplished similarly by geniuses and retards, just like everything else at the Factory. For Cornell, desire was a sharpness, a tear in the static of everyday life — in his diaries he calls it "the spark," "the lift," or "the zest." It delivers not an ache, but a sudden state of grace. It might be worth noting here that both Warhol and Cornell could arguably be described, at least for periods of their lives, as celibate.

179. When I imagine a celibate man — especially one who doesn't even jerk off — I wonder how he relates to his dick, what else he does with it, how he handles it, how he regards it. At first glance, this same question for a woman might appear more "tucked away" (pussy-as-absence, pussy-as-lack: out of sight, out of mind). But I am inclined to think that anyone who thinks or talks this way has simply never felt the pulsing of a pussy in serious need of fucking — a pulsing that communicates nothing less than the suckings and ejaculations of the heart.

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