Reading Maggie Nelson is like watching a high-wire act. Her books are inspiring, if sometimes a little stunt-y, as if she were addicted to being a literary daredevil.
Still, because of her dazzling sentences, I will read whatever the daredevil writes. She cozies up to ideas unlike any other American writer — in a homely, visceral way, as if she packed lunch each day with theory and sandwiches.
Nelson is the author of eight books that range across categories. Two of my favorites are a romantic prose-poem about the color blue and a critical work about cruelty in art. There is also a study of female American artists and an existentialist true-crime volume about her aunt who was murdered.
“The Argonauts” is a short memoir whose subject is mostly the resilience of families of all kinds at a moment when our culture is blowing up the meaning of that word (yet again).
The plot, as much as there is one, follows Nelson as she starts a family with Harry Dodge, the female to male transgender person and performance artist she falls in love with and marries.