Book Club: The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

The consensus in the room: What actually happened in this book……..

As active readers, it pained us to have a book hyped up on many lists and each of us feeling it fell flat in a number of ways. Each of us working in some form of higher education, the content went over our heads (and not to say we are experts in academia!). We spent a few minutes trying to understand Auto-theory and how Argonauts fit into the content thematic elements – we fell somewhat short on the former but saw some connection with the latter. As the work was somewhat of a letter to Harry, we wondered if that had an affect on the final product since he was not in favor of having his life as well as his first son’s showcased and shared for the world to see. The transformation, not just physical, allowed us to see how both Maggie and Harry were still the same people in the beginning to presently but not knowing the middle of the journey, one could detect the evolution over time being a dramatic change. Seeing that Nelson has also written poetry, you can tell how that style and story-telling naturally was infused in the text while sharing her and Harry’s story. However, there seemed to be a fear of writing and holding back:

“You’re the only one who knows when you’re using things to protect yourself and keep your ego together and when you’re opening and letting things fall apart, letting the world come as it is – working with it rather than struggling against it. You’re the only one who knows. And the thing is, even you don’t always know” (Nelson 27)

Overall, each of us felt that we were grasping at straws at different parts of the book, looking for anything to knock our socks off or make a connection we could relate to or be inspired from.  This discussion goes back to our early book club meetings of what makes a good book versus what makes a good book club book. And let us add on tot that, do bestsellers automatically mean good books? We applaud the attempt to academic excellence with this genre of memoir/criticism, however, the disjointed style turned us off as it was hard to get back into the content when we took a break – which was often.

Here’s to our next book club selection, The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende! Enjoy the warmer weather 🙂

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