On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry

On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry


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On Being Blue is a book about everything blue—sex and sleaze and sadness, among other things—and about everything else. It brings us the world in a word as only William H. Gass, among contemporary American writers, can do.

Gass writes:
Of the colors, blue and green have the greatest emotional range. Sad reds and melancholy yellows are difficult to turn up. Among the ancient elements, blue occurs everywhere: in ice and water, in the flame as purely as in the flower, overhead and inside caves, covering fruit and oozing out of clay. Although green enlivens the earth and mixes in the ocean, and we find it, copperish, in fire; green air, green skies, are rare. Gray and brown are widely distributed, but there are no joyful swatches of either, or any of exuberant black, sullen pink, or acquiescent orange. Blue is therefore most suitable as the color of interior life. Whether slick light sharp high bright thin quick sour new and cool or low deep sweet dark soft slow smooth heavy old and warm: blue moves easily among them all, and all profoundly qualify our states of feeling.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590177181
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 03/11/2014
Series: NYRB Classics Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 356,077
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

William H. Gass (b. 1924) is an essayist, novelist, and literary critic. He grew up in Ohio and is a former professor of philosophy at Washington University. Among his books are six works of fiction and nine books of essays, including Tests of Time (2002), A Temple of Texts (2006), and Life Sentences (2012). New York Review Books will republish his story collection In the Heart of the Heart of the Country (1968) in 2014. Gass lives with his wife, the architect Mary Gass, in St. Louis.

Michael Gorra’s Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece (2012) was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography. His earlier books include After Empire: Scott, Naipaul, and Rushdie (1997) and The Bells in Their Silence: Travels Through Germany (2004). He has taught at Smith College since 1985, where he is now the Mary Augusta Jordan Professor of English. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with his wife and daughter.

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On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
abirdman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An incredibly beautiful book that demonstrates how powerful words-- just words-- can be. Unclassifiable, it's part philosophy, part poetry, part meditation, part roman a clef, and the David R. Godine edition-- even in paperback-- is sumptuous.
EnriqueFreeque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Blue's more than a color, mood, or groove of a jukebox tune. The symbology of blue, along with its definitions, are as infinite as its nuanced hues. Aqua, azure, turquoise, cerulean, indigo, cobalt, ad infinitum ... There's endless shades of adjectives on the adjective, blue.Or so says William H. Gass (and I tend to believe him), in his idiosyncratic synthesis, On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry, of all that's ever been -- or could be -- blue.Besides blue ontologically and blue philosophically, Gass covers blue cross-culturally, literarily, erotically, psychologically, phenomenologically, aesthetically, metaphorically, and practically every other word ending, "-ically," that one might encounter in a dictionary too.At the book's core, I believe Gass is asking: How do blue's meanings become blue's meanings and what do blue's meanings then mean to our very being? Even an intrepid reader might be wondering "huh?" or "WTF?" at such an inquiry, as I was, after having just written it. If so, know you're in good company, as William H. Gass is a certifiable linguistic mystic, and loves creating language -- what he's coined, "a world of words," like it's magic -- much more than making his language, particularly in On Being Blue, completely comprehensible to an understandably perplexed readership.On Being Blue, while beholden to all of the momentarily forthcoming labels, is not necessarily in a monogamous relationship with only one, be it prose poetry, strict philosophy per se, literary criticism, erotica, autobiography, or fiction. Rather, On Being Blue, borrowing something from all styles of discourse, is a metaphysical manifesto built not out of the blue, but literally out of blue. The Epicurean blue of knowledge. The blue of gnosis or the gnosis of blue. It's a highly stylized interdisciplinary hybrid of a master-wordsmiths exposition that doesn't offer any easily navigated routes (or clues) how to interpret every facet of blue. And makes no apologies for failing to do so, too.No real surprise there, as Gass has never cared about being contemporary or orthodox or popular for everyone, so in love with the crafting and fashioning of language he is; and, in reading On Being Blue, it certainly seems his language loves him back. Self-indulgently so? Perhaps. And that's probably the harshest criticism I could level against it (and perhaps against Gass in general) that the point of it all (in his essays) or the plot of it all (in his postmodern stories and experimental novels) gets lost in his lush, elaborate language. Like searching for a specific leaf in the Amazon rainforest, seeking the plot (if it even exists) in, say, Gass' dark magnum opus, The Tunnel, for instance.If there is a point to On Being Blue, the point is obvious. The point is blue.