Friday, March 25, 2016

Review: The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

An intrepid voyage out to the frontiers of the latest thinking about love, language, and family.

Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir, a work of ''autotheory'' offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language. At its center is a romance: the story of the author's relationship with the artist Harry Dodge. This story, which includes Nelson's account of falling in love with Dodge, who is fluidly gendered, as well as her journey to and through a pregnancy, is an intimate portrayal of the complexities and joys of (queer) family-making.

Writing in the spirit of public intellectuals such as Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes, Nelson binds her personal experience to a rigorous exploration of what iconic theorists have said about sexuality, gender, and the vexed institutions of marriage and child-rearing. Nelson's insistence on radical individual freedom and the value of caretaking becomes the rallying cry of this thoughtful, unabashed, uncompromising book.

From the library.

I wanted to like this, I really did, but it was just so incredibly boring.  Seriously, even the author seemed bored by her material as she read the book.  And read it was.  There was no performance at all on this audiobook, just close to five hours of monotonous droning.  The author may as well have been reading tax form instructions for the amount of animation she brought to her reading.  I'm 99.9% sure that she could have made Harry Potter boring if she read it aloud.

The story, if you can even call it that, was just a neverending bitchfest about how all straight people are evil, society is heteronormative and therefore evil, all non-intellectuals are evil, anyone who isn't a feminist is evil, etc., etc. There was seriously a five minute rant about how the author's mother dared to put a family photo on a mug and give it to her because the photo was heteronormative and therefore offensive.  Forget the fact that it was her family in the damn photo.  I mean, what a bitch to give your daughter a gift.  She's so abused.

The bitchfest continued with what I think was supposed to be an intellectual study of gender and relationships which included a quote from an individual the author deems acceptable in almost every paragraph.  It would have been genuinely fascinating had it had a teensy, tiny bit of warmth or joy to it.  Instead, it was a whiny mess worthy of a group of black turtleneck clad intellectuals grouped around a table in a pretentious coffeehouse drinking tiny cups of snooty coffee.  I actually banged my iPod against my forehead out of sheer frustration more than once while I was listening to this because the author had such a "holier than thou" attitude.

Overall, the problems with this arise not from the subject matter, but from the author.  Her off putting attitude and poor performance took what could have been an interesting narrative had it been written by virtually anyone else on Earth and made it a teeth grinding experience that I could not wait to end.  I'm sure the author would tell me that I'm just too stupid to understand her method and too inherently biased and privileged as a heterosexual cisgender woman to even comprehend her message but I still cannot bring myself to recommend this unless you have already read and enjoyed the author's previous works.  

☆☆☆☆ = Didn't Like It


Ryan said...

As a gay man, I tend to skip anything that uses the term heteronormative. I'm so confused on why we insist on bogging our community down with labels for every single thing. Ill pass in this one.

Post a Comment