The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

I don’t know what this book was, but I loved it. I need to read it at least three more times, and discuss it in a classroom setting, and make my sweetheart read it, and discuss it lying in bed with her. I want to soak up this book more, and carry it around with me, underline parts, and write notes in the margins. I’ve read it through once, pretty much straight through during a shift at the bookstore, with a break in the middle to get a slice of pizza, and that isn’t enough interaction. That was enough to know this book means something, that it could be important to me, but not enough to break down the hows or whys.

The way Nelson weaves through theory and autobiography is mesmerizing. Far too often there is a divide between theory and life, which kind of defeats the point. Nelson’s living her theory, trapped by it sometimes, changing it to face the reality of day to day existence.

Nelson is writing about family, especially motherhood, especially what it means to be a queer feminist mother. Nelson is figuring out what it means to be a part of queer family when family means two parents and children, like a “normal” family, instead of the vastness of queers as family that is a common metaphor. This naturally leads to writing about homonormativity, which is something Nelson doesn’t want to be a part of, even as that conflicts with her desire for a comfortable domestic life.

Queer’s one of those big words that means a thousand different things to a thousand different people, which means it always has to be defined. Nelson’s definitions really worked for me. I really wish I had written it down before I had to give it back to the library. I appreciated her perspective about what it means to be queer, and what it means to navigate a partner’s queerness when it’s different than your own, which can be something really big, and is something I’ve been thinking on, but isn’t something I see discussed very often.

Nelson is simply a great writer. I wish I could write like this. It’s a perfect mix of passion and honesty with academic writing. That’s very close to my ideal prose style. There are moments, especially early on, where things seem confused, and it isn’t clear who she’s writing to, but it gets more sure as things go on. Overall the cut and paste nature of the text adds a lot. It makes the book more playful and less predictable. I really need to read it again. I’m not done with this book, not even close. I have more things to say about it, and it has more things to say to me.

One thought on “The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

  1. I am in love with this book, somewhere it resonated so well with me on a personal level. The descriptions and the artwork and her personal experiences through them, that made me feel so much. I can understand the need you have, this is a book to be shared with a lover.

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