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The Argonauts
Cover of The Argonauts
The Argonauts
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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. It binds an account of Nelson's relationship with her partner and a journey to and through a pregnancy to a rigorous exploration of sexuality, gender, and "family." An insistence on radical individual freedom and the value of caretaking becomes the rallying cry for this thoughtful, unabashed, uncompromising book.

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. It binds an account of Nelson's relationship with her partner and a journey to and through a pregnancy to a rigorous exploration of sexuality, gender, and "family." An insistence on radical individual freedom and the value of caretaking becomes the rallying cry for this thoughtful, unabashed, uncompromising book.

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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.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 16, 2015
    In a fast-shifting terrain of “homonormativity,” Nelson, poet and author of numerous works of gender and sexuality (The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning; Bluets), plows ahead with a disarmingly blushing work about trying to simultaneously embrace her identity, her marriage with nomadic transgender filmmaker Harry, and motherhood. She mixes a memoir of her love for Harry with clinical depictions of their attempts to get her pregnant, as well as a critical meditation on the queer craft of “becoming,” investigating the ways that “new kinship systems mime older nuclear-family arrangements” and whether those older models are good, oppressive, useful, or fair. Nelson takes her title from the notion that the Argonauts could continually replace their ship’s parts over time, “but the boat still called the Argo.” The new waters she’s sailing include learning how to be a stepparent to Harry’s young son and then a mother to her newborn, no longer scorning heterosexual “breeders,” and becoming much more forgiving of what she once saw as too-outrageous queer radicalism, since all—including her husband, undergoing his own gender voyage via testosterone therapy and surgery—have a “shared, crushing understanding of what it means to live in a patriarchy.” Nelson writes in fine, fragmented exhalations, inserting quotes from numerous theorists as she goes (Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, D.W. Winnicott). Her narrative is an honest, joyous affirmation of one happily unconventional family finding itself. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Associates.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from February 1, 2015
    A fiercely provocative and intellectually audacious memoir that focuses on motherhood, love and gender fluidity.Nelson (Critical Studies/CalArts; The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning, 2012, etc.) is all over the map in a memoir that illuminates Barthes and celebrates anal eroticism (charging that some who have written about it hide behind metaphor, whereas she's plain from the first paragraph that she's more interested in the real deal). This is a book about transitioning, transgendering, transcending and any other trans- the author wants to connect. But it's also a love story, chronicling the relationship between the author and her lover, the artist Harry Dodge, who was born a female (or at least had a female name) but has more recently passed for male, particularly with the testosterone treatments that initially concerned the author before she realized her selfishness. The relationship generally requires "pronoun avoidance." This created a problem in 2008, when the New York Times published a piece on Dodge's art but insisted that the artist "couldn't appear on their pages unless you chose Mr. or Ms....You chose Ms., 'to take one for the team.' " Nelson was also undergoing body changes, through a pregnancy she had desired since the relationship flourished. She recounts 2011 as "the summer of our changing bodies." She elaborates: "On the surface it may have seemed as though your body was becoming more and more 'male, ' mine more and more 'female.' But that's not how it felt on the inside." 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, wondering if her writing is violating the privacy of her son-to-be as well as her lover. Ultimately, Harry speaks within these pages, as the death of Dodge's mother and the birth of their son bring the book to its richly rewarding climax. A book that will challenge readers as much as the author has challenged herself.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • The New Yorker

    "[Nelson's] book-part memoir, part critical inquiry touching on desire, love, and family-is a superb exploration of the risk and the excitement of change. Thinking and feeling are, for Nelson, mutually necessary processes; the result is an exceptional portrait both of a romantic partnership and of the collaboration between Nelson's mind and heart."

  • Vanity Fair "Maggie Nelson slays entrenched notions of gender, marriage, and sexuality with lyricism, intellectual brass, and soul-ringing honesty in The Argonauts."
  • The Boston Globe "Reading Maggie Nelson is like watching a high-wire act. Her books are inspiring. . . . Because of her dazzling sentences, I will read whatever the daredevil writes. She cozies up to ideas unlike any other American writer."
  • Bustle "Maggie Nelson has proven her brilliance-a special blend of poeticism and philosophy, of theorizing and prose-weaving-in her eight previous nonfiction releases. But in The Argonauts, the gifted critic and scholar breaks generic ground with her work of 'auto theory,' which offers a glimpse into the writer's mind, body, and home. . . . The Argonauts is a must-read."
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