Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts exists in its own universe. My first reaction to Nelson’s book was awestruck silence, such as one might experience when confronted with some dazzling supernatural phenomenon. Nelson is so outrageously gifted a writer and thinker that The Argonauts seems to operate in some astral dimension where the rules of normal physics have been suspended. Her book is an elegant, powerful, deeply discursive examination of gender, sexuality, queerness, pregnancy and motherhood, all conveyed in language that is intellectually potent and poetically expressive.
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.