On Being Blue: a Philosophical Inquiry by William H. Gass

This is a book for people who love language.

Ideas, too.  William H. Gass has plenty of ideas, but, for me, this book was about language.  Reading William H. Gass was spending times in the hands of a master, a master who is having a very good time.

I had a good time, too.

On Being Blue is the most thorough look at the word ‘blue’ and all things blue you’re likely to ever find.  It may be the only book about the subject.

I enjoyed it all, but my favorite section is on the idea that ‘blue’ equates with sex.  Blue language is language about sexuality.  Sex is notoriously difficult to write about outside of seriously blue erotic, maybe not even there.  Mr. Gass is largely against it.  Here’s a long quote, that I loved, and that I largely agree with by the way.

An author is responsible for everything that appears in his books. If he claims that reality requires his depiction of the sexual, in addition to having a misguided aesthetic, he is a liar, since we shall surely see how few of his precious passages are devoted to chewing cabbage, hand-washing, sneezing, sitting on the stool, or, if you prefer, filling out forms, washing floors, cheering teams.

Futhermore, the sexual, in most works, disrupts the form, there is an almost immediate dishevelment, the proportion of events is lost; sentences like After the battle of Waterloo, I tied my show, appear; a sudden, absurd and otherwise inexplicable magnification occurs, with the shattering of previous wholes into countless parts and endless steps; articles of undercloghin crawl away like injured worms and things which were formerly perceived and named as nouns cook down into their adjectives.  What a page before was a woman is suddenly a breast, and then a nipple, then a little ring of risen flesh, a pacifier, water bottle, rubber cushion. Without plan or purpose we slide from substance, fact to feeling, all out becomes an in, and we hear only exclamations of suspicious satisfaction: the ums, the ohs, the ahs.

Mr. Gass loves using language, and talking about how to use language.

I had a great time with On Being Blue.