“Sure, it’s a memoir, but everything we write is autobiographical.
Sure, it’s social criticism, but there’s no axe to grind or party to support.
It could be poetry if it weren’t for all the prose, or philosophy if it weren’t so unsystematic.
Does it need a label? What’s in a name? “Label me and negate me, Kierkegaard wrote. Yet the desire to categorize reigns. If only it were possible to live without succumbing to the temptation to assimilate all experience to old classifications. Maggie Nelson knows that we can’t avoid using the old words but that we can make them new. She lovingly uses her own life to teach us differences, and the result is an inspirational ode to improvisation and recreation.”
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. At its center is a romance: the story of the author’s relationship with the artist Harry Dodge. This story, which includes Nelson’s account of falling in love with Dodge, who is fluidly gendered, as well as her journey to and through a pregnancy, is an intimate portrayal of the complexities and joys of (queer) family-making.
Writing in the spirit of public intellectuals such as Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes, Nelson binds her personal experience to a rigorous exploration of what iconic theorists have said about sexuality, gender, and the vexed institutions of marriage and child-rearing. Nelson’s insistence on radical individual freedom and the value of caretaking becomes the rallying cry of this thoughtful, unabashed, uncompromising book.