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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. 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, offers a firsthand account 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.
send the fragment because I had in any way achieved its serenity. I sent it with the aspiration that one day I might—that one day my jealousy might recede, and I would be able to behold the names and images of others inked onto your skin without disjunct or distaste. (Early on we made a romantic visit to Dr. Tattoff on Wilshire Boulevard, both of us giddy at the prospect of clearing your slate. We left crestfallen at the price, the improbability of ever completely eradicating the ink.) After
and a certain May Bookstaver that Alice—who was also Stein’s editor and typist—found all sorts of weasely ways to omit every appearance of the word May or may when she retyped Stein’s Stanzas in Meditation, henceforth an unwitting collaboration. By February I was driving around the city looking at apartment after apartment, trying to find one big enough for us and your son, whom I hadn’t yet met. Eventually we found a house on a hill with gleaming dark wood floors and a view of a mountain and a
wheeling / up and down the aisles trying to get a front view of / him and see how he was / Hung and what his face was like”). But his poetics struck me as refreshingly without a will to power, or even a will to perversity. They feel triumphantly wilted, like so many of the flowers Schuyler paid tribute to. This wiltedness may have had, in part, a chemical root. As Schuyler writes in “The Morning of the Poem”: “Remember what / The doctor said: I am: remembering and staying / off [the sauce]:
much relief as grief. The intruder had finally been expelled. The sodomitical mother would melt away, and the maternal body would be ours, at last. No wonder, then, that our mother’s announcement that she was getting married again caught us off guard, just a few years later. As she and her husband-to-be told us the news at a dinner party orchestrated, to our surprise, for just that purpose, I watched my sister turn a furious red, then lunge around for a vine that could hold her. Well, if the
months old, he was stricken by a potentially fatal nerve toxin that afflicts about 150 babies of the 4 million+ born in the United States each year. Recently my mother visited the Killing Fields in Cambodia. After she returned, she sat in our living room showing me her trip photos while Iggy motored around the shaggy white rug, doing “tummy time.” I barely want to tell you about this, because of the baby, she said, nodding in his direction, but there was a tree there, an oak tree, called the