The Argonauts is Maggie Nelson’s fifth book (excluding her poetry), a maturely written memoir about the bona fide truth to pregnancy with no pussy-footing about the difficulties, the oddities, the extreme feelings that come to the surface, with a style of writing that draws you in. A success of a book that demands focus, Nelson reminds us that she and Harry are no conventional couple and provides intimate insight into the dark and light of pregnancy.
Maggie Nelson, born 1973, is an American writer, author of five books of nonfiction, including The Argonauts (2015), The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (2011), Bluets (2009), The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial, (first published in 2007, reprinted in 2016), and Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions (2007, winner of the Susanne M. Glassock Award in Interdisciplinary Scholarship). Her books of poetry include Something Bright, Then Holes (2007), Jane: A Murder (2005, finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir), The Latest Winter (2003), and Shiner (2001). She has been the recipient of a 2016 MacArthur Fellowship, a 2012 Creative Capital Literature Fellowship, a 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction, an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, and an Andy Warhol Foundation/Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant. She is generally described as a genre-busting writer defying classification, working in autobiography, art criticism, theory, scholarship, and poetry.
An honest account of motherhood that mirrors the jumbled aspects of the thought process, she discusses such things as the weirdness that her body is a producing a human of a different gender. She tells us about how she felt “surprised” that her body could “make a male body.” Nelson guides us through her memoir, which she intercepts with theory quotes, which made it feel somewhat academic. Critically, the first paragraph of the book catches the reader into binary thinking, and also sets a needless transgressive tone: “Instead the words I love you come tumbling out of my mouth in an incantation the first time you fuck me in the ass, my face smashed against the cement floor of your dank and charming bachelor pad.”
Interestingly, the title of the book is a metaphor for the idea that love, while it may always be present, needs always be remade as people evolve and manifest. It presents differing sides of itself over time, is, as Nelson puts it in her acknowledgments, “an infinite conversation, an endless becoming.” The book is a culmination of theory, self-reflection, and an exploration of language, the possibilities of love, and the uncompromising belief in fluidity in identity, gender, family. “An endless becoming” is a repeated motif, and the overarching metaphor. Genres in this book are twisted beyond recognition; boundaries surpassed.
However, in this present climate where we are back fighting for the rights of our bodies as women, I advocate that you give this a read as it sets out the journey, the evolve and transition of body changes, and Nelson makes it an interesting Argo, if nought else.