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Book of the Day: The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson

15.11.16

Book of the Day: The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson

Posted By: RebeccaOppenheimer

Tyler Mendelsohn reviews her pick for Book of the Day:

One of the things that stands out about The Argonauts is its balance of academic writing and writing that gets at an emotional core. Throughout the book, Maggie Nelson interweaves quotes from various philosophers, writers and thinkers of all kinds, past and present—but ultimately, the book is a love letter to her partner Harry, whom she addresses as “you” throughout the book.

Harry is neither male nor female, and the book provides a perspective on family-making that often isn’t told in the mainstream. Nelson also ponders what makes something “queer”—a family, an act, an individual—and how even something as ordinary as giving birth can be a queer act. Her perspective is important, especially as more and more people are choosing new ways of making a family.

Among the quotes by philosophers and writers is a section written by Harry about witnessing a mother’s death. This part is stunning, and in its own way it queers the format of the book—written by Maggie Nelson to her partner, it’s also written in parts by her partner.

At times, it feels like Nelson values quantity over quality of quotations; she sometimes piles ideas onto each other in ways that obscure the original points. But sifting through the noise is well worth it to find a lot that makes you think—and whole lot of beauty.

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