Reviews

The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson

samkrapels's review

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emotional funny inspiring reflective medium-paced

5.0

fishfingered's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional reflective fast-paced

5.0

vonnemiste's review

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5.0

"The mother of an adult child sees her work completed and undone at the same time. If this holds true, I may have to withstand not only rage, but also my undoing. Can one prepare for one's undoing? How has my mother withstood mine? Why do I continue to undo her, when what I want to express above all else is that I love her very much?

What is good is always being destroyed: one of Winnicott's main axioms."

- Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts , pg. 140

"Let's face it. We're undone by each other. And if we're not, we're missing something. If this seems so clearly the case with grief, it is only because it was already the case with desire. One does not always stay intact. It may be that one wants to, or does, but it may also be that despite one's best efforts, one is undone, in the face of the other, by the touch, by the scent, by the feel, by the prospect of the touch, by the memory of the feel."

- Judith Butler, Undoing Gender

This is simply one of the most astonishing books I've ever read. It's about motherhood and kinship and family, but its also about sex and romance and queerness and gender and life and death and birth and dying. It's simultaneously a memoir of Nelson's romance with her partner the artist Harry Dodge, who is genderfluid, and their life together, as well as an account of Nelson's pregnancy, as well as a meditation on heady anthropological and theoretical questions about gender performance, sexuality, identity, family, and the self. I've never been so moved by a theoretical text, nor have I ever been so challenged and put through intellectual hoops by a memoir. I'll be thinking about and processing this wondrous book for a long time.

mguinnip's review

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3.0

Almost gave this two stars, but three because I was engaged enough to keep reading to the end. Considering the hype around this book, I was disappointed. I’m glad this was not my first Maggie Nelson read because I think it would’ve discouraged me from reading anything else of hers.

While I definitely have my critiques, this was still at times an interesting perspective of the journey of impending motherhood and exploration of queer identity. It had beautiful anecdotes and reflections that made me appreciate having read them. I was especially fascinated by one of Nelson’s first inquiries into queer relationships that “appear” heteronormative and the boundaries of “what is queer?”
However, the continual oration of her partner’s experiences with gender, sexuality, transitioning, and more, through her eyes as a cis woman under the guise of their love story rubbed me the wrong way. Not knocking her for including details of their relationship and struggles experienced together, but theorizing and narrating on behalf of someone else just felt weird. Some of the language used in describing her emotions and these experiences also made me frustrated - some sprinkled in micro-aggressions. Not gonna knock her for being honest about how she felt and perceived such situations, but to then turn around in the next paragraph speaking with such agency and taking on the role of an advocate made the narration that much more unreliable.

What disappointed me the most was that I had heard people describe this work as “accessible” and I did not find this to be. I think the mixed-genre of “autothoery” opens up great possibilities, but it just felt like the bottom fell out. The combination of theory and autobiography, in my mind, would be a perfect combination to make complex theories relatable and digestible, but I did not feel that was what was accomplished. It got very caught up in the theory and academia of it all, so much so that the sincerity began to slip and a gimmicky feeling rose to the surface. It made me cringe and put it down for days at a time.

An attempt at unpacking queer identity, spaces, and experiences in a genre-bending memoir, but it didn’t pull through for me. I credit this partially to context/time period, partially to overall structure, and partially to over-ambition. This is definitely also tainted by my own biases/experiences informing the way that I read this.

***wanted to add that i commemorate and appreciate Maggie Nelson for approaching such a daunting task, especially during the time period it was published, and admit that a lot of my critiques come from a modern reading of it, with a lot of new vocabulary and different perspectives/literature influencing my interpretation***

rileyeffective's review against another edition

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challenging emotional inspiring medium-paced

5.0


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fletchybaby's review against another edition

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3.0

This was hitting a lot of great topics. I learnt a lot and felt a lot. I didn’t find it as form bending as I was expecting from the hype it just felt like a diary without the dates in. The first three quarters were really theory heavy, the author doesn’t dumb down at all which I admire but I struggled a lot to get through some of the tougher quotes and concept and felt quite alienated. The last quarter however was amazing, suddenly there was this clarity and emotional connection to the topics discussed throughout that I hadn’t felt previously and it was magic.

readingundertheradar's review

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4.0

Nothing like I've ever read before, The Argonauts was an incredibly loving portrayal of the author's experience learning about gender, queerness, and love, and I (feeling like I want to learn more about all these topics because I honestly don't know a lot but am working on learning) was drawn by her curiosity and want to belong in her relationship and her world.

shifo's review against another edition

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challenging informative inspiring reflective slow-paced

4.0

alexisbashta's review

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challenging emotional funny inspiring reflective medium-paced

4.0

norasteinkopf's review against another edition

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emotional funny hopeful inspiring reflective slow-paced

4.0