April 7, 2016

On sale today by Melville House UK: The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson


At this point, Maggie Nelson’s extraordinary The Argonauts almost needs no introduction. Last week, The Argonauts was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award. It has also been named a Top Ten Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly, and dominated the end of year lists, including being picked three times in the New Yorker‘s list of ‘Books We Loved in 2015’. And many, many people loved The Argonauts: Olivia Laing described Nelson as “among the sharpest and most supple thinkers of her generation” while Geoff Dyer called the book “provocative and passionately brilliant.” Carrie Brownstein put it simply with, “This book is a life-changer.”

The praise shows no signs of abating in 2016; in the UK it has already been called out by the New Statesman as a notable book of the year. The Argonauts is available to British readers today. 

Here’s an excerpt from an early part of the book:


October, 2007. The Santa Ana winds are shredding the bark off the eucalyptus trees in long white stripes. A friend and I risk the widowmakers by having lunch outside, during which she suggests I tattoo the words HARD TO GET across my knuckles, as a reminder of this pose’s possible fruits. Instead the words I love you come tumbling out of my mouth in an incantation the first time you fuck me in the ass, my face smashed against the cement floor of your dank and charming bachelor pad. You had Molloy by your bedside and a stack of cocks in a shadowy unused shower stall. Does it get any better? What’s your pleasure? you asked, then stuck around for an answer.


Before we met, I had spent a lifetime devoted to Wittgenstein’s idea that the inexpressible is contained—inexpressibly!—in the expressed. This idea gets less air time than his more reverential Whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent, but it is, I think, the deeper idea. Its paradox is, quite literally, why I write, or how I feel able to keep writing.

For it doesn’t feed or exalt any angst one may feel about the incapacity to express, in words, that which eludes them. It doesn’t punish what can be said for what, by definition, it cannot be. Nor does it ham it up by miming a constricted throat: Lo, what I would say, were words good enough. Words are good enough.

It is idle to fault a net for having holes, my encyclopedia notes.


In this way you can have your empty church with a dirt floor swept clean of dirt and your spectacular stained glass gleaming by the cathedral rafters, both. Because nothing you say can fuck up the space for God.

I’ve explained this elsewhere. But I’m trying to say something different now.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
PAGES: 160
ISBN: 9780993414916
ON SALE: April 7, 2016