Review: Nelson’s Bluets

Bluets

Maggie Nelson

A meditation on blue, sorta, but also a inquiry into love, life and theory. This is clearly a precursor to the Argonauts. There’s a similar style and tone, moving from the conversational to the theoretical and back. It isn’t as polished as the Argonauts, nor as emotionally compelling, but still an interesting, thought provoking read.

As I’ve written elsewhere, I’m much more drawn to Nelson’s prose than her poetry. This one sits somewhere in the middle – written in prose, but with the kind of hyper careful word choice and syntax that we see in her poetry. An interesting book, clearly an experiment of sorts, which lead to much stronger work later on.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Review: Kraus’s I Love Dick

I Love Dick (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents)
Chris Kraus

 

A strange book; it unsettled me. Now, months after finishing it, I’m still not sure what I thought of it.

 

The basic premise is well known – Kraus, filmmaker, theorist, and wife of French theorist Sylvere Lotringer has a short encounter with a theorist named Dick* and becomes infatuated. She and Lotringer begin playing a game with Dick where they send him letters ruminating on the nature of Kraus’s “love” for Dick, a man she has met once. As the book progresses, Lotringer and Kraus relationship begins to fail, Kraus has a number of other encounters with Dick, and all the while she writes him these long, letters describing her “love” for him, but also her life, and her thoughts on various artists and political activists.

 

Let’s start by saying that I initially found the conceit of the book off putting. Dick did not ask to be the object of Kraus’s obsession, nor did he consent to be the subject of the book. I understand that Kraus is subverting gender roles here – that in many cases women are the object of desire, without their consent, but I’m not sure the best way to challenge this is to inflict the same cruelty on a unsuspecting man.

 

That said, Dick does, eventually, consent. Maybe? He sleeps with Kraus, that’s for sure, yet still claims he doesn’t want to be part of the game. That doesn’t seem like fair play. Or does it? Can he have it both ways? Make love to her, but not love her? Could a women? In the end, Dick comes off like a dick. But so does Kraus.

 

Kraus’s place as a woman in the male dominated world of “theory” is, in the end, the central premise of the book. Dick and Sylvere travel the world giving lectures on their ideas about art, Kraus’s only space for these thoughts is in love letters to a stranger all the while wondering about how she ended up here. I’m not sure how much of this book is true, nor am I sure how much that matters. Basically, it’s all a big mess. But its an engaging one, and the mix of memoir, criticism, humor and cynicism has had a huge impact on other books I love, like Nelson’s the Argonauts. All in all, a compelling, if confusing, read.

 

Recommended.

 

*In the book, Dick is only referred to by his first name, but it is now well known that he is Dick Hebdige

Review: Nelson’s The Argonauts

The Argonauts
Maggie Nelson

If you’re interested in parenting, gender identity, committed relationships, theory, love, sex, motherhood, queer theory or just gut wrenchingly good memoirs, you really should read Maggie Nelson’s the Argonauts.

Conceived as a set of vignettes, the book tells the story first of Nelson’s marriage to Harry Dodge, a gender queer artist as suspect of language as Nelson is enraptured by it. It also deals indepth with Nelson’s pregnancy and motherhood (and step-motherhood to Dodge’s child from a previous relationship). Spliced throughout it are memories of Nelson’s childhood, and extensive ruminations on major works in feminist and queer theory, poetry, and more.

Nelson is fundamentally a poet. She writes beautifully and honestly about the struggles to make sense of this world, to share it with another, and to bring a new life into it. The book is so good, and so honest, I couldn’t put the damn thing down. The parts on her relationship to Dodge, and on what it means to be a mother, and a family, rang so true.  At times the all these things are raw and hard — at others joyous – and all of it is well written.

I wanted to read every damn passage out loud.

Super good.

You should read it, I’d love to discuss it with you.

Recommended for anyone interested in what it means to live an examined life.