Book Review: “The Argonauts” by Maggie Nelson

By December 14, 2015December 6th, 2021No Comments
The Argonauts - IntraSpectrum

The first few passages of The Argonauts might lead you to believe it’s a reflection on queer relationships – namely, the author Maggie Nelson’s relationship with artist Harry Dodge.

“You’ve punctured my solitude, I told you. It had been a useful solitude, constructed, as it was… But the time for puncturing had come.  I feel I can give you everything without giving myself away, I whispered in your basement bed. If one does one’s solitude right, this is the prize.”

book photo by emily janWithout chapters or cohesive sections, Nelson interweaves psychoanalytic, queer, and feminist  theory with her radically intimate personal narratives. Those unfamiliar with the oft-quoted theorists – such as Roland Barthes, Judith Butler, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Donald Winnicott – will find Nelson’s musings to be either helpful introductions, or tangents that detract from her narrative. Nevertheless, Nelson’s winding digressions are a feature, not a bug. Over and over again, she lands on the instability of categories – is there queerness found in marriage, pregnancy, stepparenting, aging? Where is the radicality in queer domesticity?

“Can fragility feel as hot as bravado? I think so, but sometimes struggle to find the way. Whenever I think I can’t find it, Harry assures me that we can. And so we go on, our bodies finding each other again and again, even as they – we – have also been right here, all along.”

The answers are found, lost, and found again throughout this book that is equal parts memoir, theory, and critique. At a brief 160 pages, looking for the universal in Maggie Nelson’s universe is an accessible voyage for all queer-minded readers.

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