|Essential reading on timely topics.|
A seamless blend of memoir and cultural commentary, Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts is, among many other things, a book about relentless introspection and transformation, about confronting one's own truths and biases and finding meaning in collisions big and small. Nelson explores the course of her relationship with the transgender artist Harry Dodge, along with their attempts to get pregnant, her experiences with academia, and her roles as mother and stepmother. Told in brief, loaded sections and referencing everything from gender theorists to parenting books to philosophers, The Argonauts is a book that is best read slowly; there is much to savor in this urgent, fiercely intelligent work. Recommended By Renee P., Powells.com
The Argonauts is a book I wanted to reread before I was even halfway through.
Maggie Nelson shakes up all gender-queer stereotypes as she grows into a wife, a stepmom, and then a birth mother. She writes in a way that is literary, poetic, and academic. I would consider this canon for queer reads. Recommended By Andy A., Powells.com
The Argonauts is at once deeply personal and incisively intellectual. Nelson's prose shines as she navigates the terrain of pregnancy, motherhood, and the fluidity of particular familial relationships. Recommended By Mary Jo S., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
An intrepid voyage out to the frontiers of the latest thinking about love, language, and family
Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir, a work of “autotheory” offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language. At its center is a romance: the story of the author's relationship with the artist Harry Dodge. This story, which includes Nelson's account of falling in love with Dodge, who is fluidly gendered, as well as her journey to and through a pregnancy, offers a firsthand account of the complexities and joys of (queer) family-making.
Writing in the spirit of public intellectuals such as Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes, Nelson binds her personal experience to a rigorous exploration of what iconic theorists have said about sexuality, gender, and the vexed institutions of marriage and child-rearing. Nelson's insistence on radical individual freedom and the value of caretaking becomes the rallying cry of this thoughtful, unabashed, uncompromising book.
"A fiercely provocative and intellectually audacious memoir that focuses on motherhood, love and gender fluidity....The author turns the whole process and concept of motherhood inside out, exploring every possible perspective, blurring the distinctions among the political, philosophical, aesthetic and personal....A book that will challenge readers as much as the author has challenged herself." Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"An honest, joyous affirmation of one happily unconventional family finding itself." Publishers Weekly, starred review
"At once a work in the tradition of surgical critics of self and art like Susan Sontag and in a category of writing entirely new, The Argonauts promises to re-write the script for any of us struggling to nurture critical and intellectual practices in the maelstrom of the everyday. This book is radical intelligence made manifest in the quotidian: a family album that speaks what very few have had the audacity to name — intellectual, social, political, and intimate desires....If you want to think — or better yet, to imagine — in ways you never before thought possible, read this book." Brooklyn Quarterly
"Maggie Nelson is arguably one of the best contemporary writers around." Portland Mercury
"What a dazzlingly generous, gloriously unpredictable book! Maggie Nelson shows us what it means to be real, offering a way of thinking that is as challenging as it is liberating. She invites us to 'pay homage to the transitive' and enjoy 'a becoming in which one never becomes.' Reading The Argonauts made me happier and freer." Eula Biss
"Maggie Nelson cuts through our culture's prefabricated structures of thought and feeling with an intelligence whose ferocity is ultimately in the service of love. No piety is safe, no orthodoxy, no easy irony. The scare quotes burn off like fog." Ben Lerner
"There isn't another critic alive like Maggie Nelson — who writes with such passion, clarity, explicitness, fluidity, playfulness, and generosity that she redefines what thinking can do today. Indeed, I come away from The Argonauts with a heady, excited sensation of having seen unveiled a new era of embodied, soulful rumination. Her impeccable sentences destroy doxa and gleefully remake the body politic; her prose seems air-borne, like an Argus-eyed levitator in touch with the divine. Buoyant, Nelson soars through art and philosophy and her own experiences with reckless mastery and insurrectionary ease — a virtuosity born of deep reflection and fearless trust in what literature, at its best, can do." Wayne Koestenbaum
"Once again, Maggie Nelson has created awe-inspiring work, one that smartly calls bullshit on the places culture — radical subcultures included — stigmatize and misunderstand both maternity and queer family-making. With a fiercely vulnerable intelligence, Nelson leaves no area un-investigated, including her own heart. I know of no other book like this, and I know how crucially the culture needs it." Michelle Tea
About the Author
Maggie Nelson is a poet, critic, and nonfiction author of books such as The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning, Bluets, and Jane: A Murder. She teaches in the School of Critical Studies at CalArts and lives in Los Angeles, California.