Author: Maggie Nelson
Publisher: Graywolf Press
I picked this book up, knowing it was meant to be the thing, and read a few random pages. The wide set margins, paragraph breaks, and names in the margins unnerved me—there was something going on, and this something was a thing I wouldn’t be able to understand. I acquiesced that it wasn’t for me. When I was gifted it, however, I took it as a sign and gave in, my curiosity getting the better of me. 50 pages later I still felt trepidation (the book is only 180 pages long), and I told people I felt slightly scared of the book I was reading at the moment. But the last 50 pages were the ones that reached out, grabbed me by the collar, and pulled me in.
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The Argonauts is non-fiction, memoir, prose poetry, creative writing, psychoanalysis, and everything in between. This book feels smarter than you do, or maybe just than I am; I don’t know Lacanian psychology and many of the references to people and books and philosophers were, to me, empty markers of intelligence. I didn’t understand exactly what the reference to Argonauts meant, but now I look it up it’s something about changing as you grow—which is the essence of the book.
Once I pushed past this, once I let myself be vulnerable to the author’s intelligence, I began to be emboldened by the book. For all the names, the theories, and the philosophers, this book is a book about life. About humans and about love. Maggie Nelson is her own vehicle, her own tool, to analyse life.
By the last pages I was crying (very likely due largely to the bad day I was having) while Nelson wove the narrative of the birth of her son with that of the death of her partner’s parents. I’ve also never read someone writing so honestly about pregnancy before, and I sort of feel less frightened and more frightened all at the same time.