Selected as a Book of the Year 2017 in the Guardian
'Maggie Nelson’s short, singular books feel pretty light in the hand... But in the head and the heart, they seem unfathomably vast, their cleverness and odd beauty lingering on' Observer
In 1969, Jane Mixer, a first-year law student at the University of Michigan, posted a note on a student noticeboard to share a lift back to her hometown of Muskegon for spring break. She never made it: she was brutally murdered, her body found a few miles from campus the following day.
The Red Parts is Maggie Nelson’s singular account of her aunt Jane’s death, and the trial that took place some 35 years afterward. Officially unsolved for decades, the case was reopened in 2004 after a DNA match identified a new suspect, who would soon be arrested and tried. In 2005, Nelson found herself attending the trial, and reflecting with fresh urgency on our relentless obsession with violence, particularly against women.
Resurrecting her interior world during the trial – in all its horror, grief, obsession, recklessness, scepticism and downright confusion – Maggie Nelson has produced a work of profound integrity and, in its subtle indeterminacy, deadly moral precision.
A Guardian Book of the Year
Maggie Nelson is one of the most electrifying writers at work in America today, among the sharpest and most supple thinkers of her generation - Olivia Laing
Bluets winds its way through depression, divinity, alcohol, and desire, visiting along the way with famous blue figures, including Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday, Yves Klein, Leonard Cohen and Andy Warhol. While its narrator sets out to construct a sort of ‘pillow book’ about her lifelong obsession with the colour blue, she ends up facing down both the painful end of an affair and the grievous injury of a dear friend. The combination produces a raw, cerebral work devoted to the inextricability of pleasure and pain, and to the question of what role, if any, aesthetic beauty can play in times of great heartache or grief.
Much like Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse, Bluets has passed between lovers in the ecstasy of new love, and been pressed into the hands of the heartbroken. Visceral, learned, and acutely lucid, Bluets is a slim feat of literary innovation and grace, never before published in the UK.
Maggie Nelson is a poet, critic and the author of five books of non-fiction. Her books include The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial, The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (a New York Times Editor’s Choice) and The Argonauts (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award), as well as four collections of poetry. In 2016 she was awarded the MacArthur Genius fellowship. She currently lives in Los Angeles.