On Our Shelves: The Argonauts

We have a book recommendation for you today—and since this title is cat and staff approved, you really can’t go wrong!

The Argonauts

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (Graywolf Press)

Maggie Nelson’s 2009 Bluets was a rigorous and engaging analysis of heartbreak and despair, filtered through an exploration of the color blue—and now, with The Argonauts, we have a similarly smart, genre-bending, inventive examination of Nelson’s most recent intellectual obsessions: emotional intimacy and sex, pregnancy and motherhood, and, at the heart of the book, the author’s romantic relationship with the fluidly gendered artist Harry Dodge. Just as Dodge rejects the familiar binary narrative that sees transgender people as ‘trapped in the wrong body’—“I’m not on my way anywhere, Harry sometimes tells inquirers”—Nelson rejects a culture that demands we pick a side in every debate, and instead embraces ambiguity and improvisation:

I looked anew at unnameable things, or at least things whose essence is flicker, flow. . . . I stopped smugly repeating ‘Everything that can be thought at all can be thought clearly’ and wondered, anew, can everything be thought.

And, fittingly, Nelson’s spare and swirling prose defies categorization, moving deftly from reminiscence to criticism to philosophy. Even a ‘conventional’ experience like motherhood becomes somehow stranger and richer when seen through Nelson’s fearless reflections. Her aim is not to define, but to question—to seek comfort and freedom in uncertainty and transition. If you’re looking for a beautifully written memoir that challenges you and thumbs its nose at traditional genre expectations, The Argonauts might be just the book for you.

Two-For-One Tuesday

I hope your holiday Monday was chock-full of good books, strong coffee, and assorted Presidential celebrations. Today we’re helping to banish the post-long-weekend blues with not-one-but-two! splendid recommendations—we’re generous like that.

Recommendation #1: You should come to Malvern Books tonight at 7pm to hear poet Cindy St. John read from her forthcoming collection, I Wrote This Poem. W. Joe is hosting, and will be taking questions from the audience as well as asking a few of his own.

Recommendation #2: If you’re in need of some startlingly smart reading material, Malvern staff member Taylor Jacob Pate would very much like to press into your hands a copy of the brilliant Bluets by Maggie Nelson. Here’s what Taylor has to say…

1. Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color…

BluetsBluets by Maggie Nelson is a love story like many love stories; a thrilling ride of magic that can only be described as: blue: derelict: tarp flapping in the wind on a rooftop in a gray sky: a grey sky beaten first purple then blue: a tiny cheap locket: salt tears: trinket after trinket: memory of what never happened: what happened:

In a deft & passionate voice readers experience falling in love with the color blue through a series of numbered sections that jolt the reader from Geothe’s Blue to Joni Mitchell’s to Mallarme’s.

This is the dysfunction talking … this is the deepest blue talking, talking, always talking at you.

The intensity & voracity creates a whirlwind that sucks readers in & tosses them about in a mess of confession, sex, love & rock-n-roll.

Academically speaking this book of {what many consider to be} poems proves the value of research & close reading, though as a love story Maggie Nelson stalks the color blue in its physical form as well as in the abstract & theoretical realms. Happy, sad, crazy, lovely, human, human, human this collection is a gem.

229. I am writing this down in blue ink, so as to remember that all words, not just some, are written in water.

232. Perhaps, in time, I will stop missing you.