The Argonauts

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (2015) I first heard of Maggie Nelson's book Bluets (2009) and put it on my list of books to check out—because it sounded like my kind of thing—between poetry, prose, essay, memoir... but starting out with being about the color blue (which reminds me, someone stole my copy of Derek Jarman's Chroma—please return!) The Argonauts is an even more irresistible title, especially when you read about (which I'll leave for the reader to discover) her inspiration to use that title. A great title goes a long way, at least with fools like me. So like a fool I dove into this book, hearing nothing beforehand, and found out it's like a virtual compendium of subjects that not only make me profoundly uncomfortable, but also I avoid like there's no tomorrow. Sex, marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood, children, death, love, gender reassignment, surgery, academia, those philosophers I haven't read, and even (as a confirmed bachelor, cisgender, old-guy) companionship. And did I say love? And for all that, the part about dealing with a stalker terrified me the most. As soon as I got reading, on about page 1, I realized this book wasn't for me. But there was something about her writing—perhaps that elusive quality I lamely describe as “good writing”—evident on about page 1—that kept me going. I felt like I was getting to know Maggie Nelson, and I committed to reading the entire book. Then two weird things happened—one was that while I was reading it, I started to hear about it everywhere, from the media to people I know. It was one of those things—the book everyone's talking about. The other thing is I was enjoying it immensely. The reason it took me so long to read (it's a pretty short book, word-wise) is that it's also very dense—first in ideas, but more in emotions. A single paragraph can fill you up for an entire day, or longer. Also, I'm like the world's slowest reader. Also, while I was reading this is when I got re-interested in the idea of “memoir” and the memoir form, and the problems inherent with and beautiful things about memoir. So that really made it all immediate, as well, and along with that, my interest in writers who not only cross over genre lines but just recognize no lines at all, as with this book. All that is very exciting to me, and in the meantime I read about all those (above) subjects (cringing, sighing, dreaming) that I normally avoid like the plague.