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Well, I am sure that you wouldn't have read anything like "The Argonauts" ever before. It is a memoir for sure but not the kind that you'd expect. It doesn't start-off like that nor does it feel like you are reading a memoir, but a memoir it is. It is the story of Maggie Nelson and her relationship with the artist Harry Dodge. It is also the story of her life and what was, could have been and what eventually came to be. At the same time, Nelson also speaks of so many things that your mind will be pulled in a hundred different directions and you will only enjoy the ride as you read further.
The book didn’t seem strange to me at all (though a lot of people who I know of read it and thought that way). In fact, if anything it seemed very normal to me as she traversed the landscape of sexuality (Harry is neither man nor woman), how it felt (feels) to love Harry, how they got married facing a lot of criticism and yet at the core of this book all I read about was love. Maggie also becomes pregnant with a sperm donor at the same time as Harry takes testosterone and has breast removal surgery. I don’t even know if I can call this queer or anything else. Why must anyone label it?
“The Argonauts” moves beyond all of this. It is about love – maternal, paternal and more. It is about building a home and making a family just like yours and mine. The personal experiences of Nelson merge with the exploratory, bordering intellectual as well. The writing at any point does not feel sentimental. It is matter of fact and not meant to scandalize anyone. I loved the small parts of the book – single sentences that made so much sense when viewed within the larger picture. Also the notes in the margin will make the reading experience even better. “The Argonauts” to me is just an honest account of love, faith, and joys of family-making, which every reader will relate to and enjoy.
What an amzing book. Impossible to categorize, it's a memoir, a philosophical exploration, a psychological study, an extended meditation on gender, all presented with blazing honesty. No use to anyone who thinks Aristotelian laws of logic are written in stone; more akin to the Dutch Intuitionist school of thought, but that scarcely does it justice. All of this and written with wit and style. If you like a book which challenges much of what you thought you believed, then this is the one for you.
THE ARGONAUTS, da americana Maggie Nelson, é um livro sobre e para o nosso tempo. Um misto de memória, comentário social/político e teoria de gênero, ela narra sua experiência da vida ao lado do escritor e artista Harry Dodge, de gênero fluido. Ao mesmo tempo, seu livro, publicado no ano passado, é um comentário sobre desafiar convenções num mundo cada vez dominado pelo conservadorismo.
Indo e vindo entre história (pessoal e social) e divagações (pessoais, sociais e filosóficas), Maggie se dirige a um “você” que logo fica claro se tratar de Harry. Uma das primeiras questões a emergir na narrativa é a heteronormatividade – e quando se dá conta disso, a autora fica incomodada. Como ela e seu companheiro, que desafiam tantas coisas, sem se dar conta estão transformando sua relação em algo tão próximo do hegemônico? Eles chegam a se casar legalmente quando a Proposição 8 – que bania casamento do mesmo sexo na Califórnia - estava para ser aprovada (depois foi revogada). Ela explicar estar pensando apenas no lado prático e burocrático da união legal, mas mesmo assim, é uma questão que ela problematiza com profundidade.
O que torna ainda mais interessante quando, num esforço em conjunto com o parceiro, ela tenta engravidar. É uma jornada ao mesmo tempo burguesa e transgressora, para ela. E, ao mesmo tempo em que Maggie tenta engravidar, Harry está fazendo seu tratamento com testosterona, e quando os dois chegam no ápice desses objetivos, ela escreve: “parecia que o corpo dele estava ficando cada vez mais ‘masculino’, e o meu, mais e mais ‘feminino’. Mas não era assim como me sentia por dentro. Do lado de dentro, éramos dois humanos passando pro transformações ao lado um do outro, sendo a testemunha um do outro. Em outras palavras, estávamos envelhecendo”.
Citando autores que vão desde Wittgenstein e Lacan até chegar em Susan Sontag e Judith Butler, a questão central para Maggie são as políticas de identidade, suas aplicações e fracassos. Por meio de uma investigação pessoal, de sua história e de seu companheiro, a autora faz um retrato do presente, das condições individuais e da disputa do entre os indivíduos e a sociedade moldando personalidades.
When I ordered this book I expected a more traditional narrative structure and love story. When I realized that it was written in a more fragmented writing style, and closer to memoir, I still looked forward to reading it.
The first thing that bothered me, though, was the constant references to various philosophers. Theoretically, I could imagine that this could be interesting; I have a four year Honours BA specialist in philosophy, and I love that stuff. But I came to feel that Nelson was just trying to show off: ‘look how in-the -know I am, look how fashionable I am! Wink, wink.’ It was like a teenage boy displaying his arcane knowledge of bands no one cares about.
As the narrative went on (there is no story, so I won’t dignify it by calling it that), Nelson’s attitude to motherhood started to grate. She displays that annoying attitude of some feminists (usually childless ones, granted) where they act like motherhood is ordinary, or beneath them.
Hey listen, I got pregnant, read ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ and watched a lot of TLC’s ‘A Baby Story.’ It was, in retrospect, quite fun. I didn’t feel any need to compare it to gay male experiences of life — why would you? When my baby was born, I also had zero desire to carry her at five months into a sex show (or ‘cabaret’) and I certainly don’t think it’s surprising that the bouncer didn’t let Nelson in!
Nelson acts like she’s some big rebel and so much better than all the other ladies. She even admits to calling straight couples “breeders” in the past. I didn’t see anything here, though, that would mark her as a original thinker or a person able to withstand outside pressure and do her own thing. She seems very much a follower, albeit of a smaller crowd. Basically, Nelson seems to be someone who spent the first forty years of her life looking down on normalcy (why is never explained) and then, whoops, all of the sudden, she becomes a wife with two kids married to a fairly stereotypical male-acting (and passing) spouse.
Speaking of her husband Harry, I was expecting a love story here — but there is almost no Harry. Maybe a couple of sentences here or there. He seems very masculine. I have suspicions that Nelson is so, so self-involved that Harry is little more than a political accessory for her. He certainly doesn’t come across as a real person who the author truly ‘sees’ or understands.
I still give this book two stars because it was compelling enough to read to the end (although I’ll save you the trouble — “Baby Story” on TLC does those kinds of endings far better, without the pretensions). This book also made clearer to me a certain kind of desiccated, urban intellectual — which was interesting. I can imagine that Nelson is the type of woman who sneers at other women for drinking pumpkin spice in the fall. Nelson quotes a lot of feminist thinkers but I have a feeling Nelson is the one who’s actually the misogynist.
Maggie Nelson can write. And she throws in quotes and ideas liberally to her word stew. Her technique is clever and impressive. The good is that there are some really tender insights and learning for the reader. The bad is that Maggie tries to justify why this isn't just another clever middle-class professional woman saying "look at me" because she did what billions of other women around the world have done, but thinks somehow her baby is noteworthy to strangers. He's not. Nice try though...