Tyler Curtis at The Quarterly Conversation:
Such is the thread that runs so exquisitely through The Argonauts, poet and critic Maggie Nelson’s memoir, for lack of a more comprehensive term. At once a meditation on queerness, language, and family, and in part a spiritual follow-up to the melancholic Bluets, Nelson’s book traverses the gap between theory and the lived experience that it so often abstracts into oblivion. She traces her relationship with artist Harry Dodge, and memories pass through critical-philosophical cogitation. We often find Nelson and Dodge in conversation, or sharing passages from Wittgenstein or Barthes, and the two spar on the function of names and categories, assimilation and resistance in X-Men, and Nelson’s neglecting the queer part of her life in her writing until now, which is effectively the starting point of this project.
Once we name something, is it irreversibly changed? Can words “do more than nominate”? At one point Nelson recalls the fervor for and against Proposition 8 in California (which made same-sex marriage illegal), and her and Dodge’s frantic journey from courthouse to courthouse to get married once it becomes clear that the ballot proposition would likely pass. But how adequate is the term “same-sex marriage,” anyway? And how many queer folk actually “think of their desire’s main feature as being ‘same-sex’”? What really makes a family unit? And what exactly are the so-called defenders of traditional marriage reallylamenting?