Serious props to Maggie Nelson for breaking free from the binaries that plague contemporary life. Female vs. male, gay vs. straight, assimili3.5 stars
Serious props to Maggie Nelson for breaking free from the binaries that plague contemporary life. Female vs. male, gay vs. straight, assimiliationist vs. revolutionary - Nelson deconstructs all of these restrictive categories and argues for a richer, more nuanced way of being. My favorite part of The Argonauts centers on how Nelson describes love as an evolving process, one that we must renew and revitalize every single day. In addition to discussing theory, she incorporates details from her own life, with a focus on her marriage to her fluidly gendered partner as well as her foray into motherhood.
This book's structure disappointed me though. Nelson includes no chapter or section breaks, so her ideas sprawl in a jumbled, confusing way. Because of the book's stream-of-consciousness writing style and layout, I felt that Nelson only scratched the surface of several ideas instead of developing them to their fullest potential. I appreciate her commitment to nontraditional prose and to circumnavigating literary convention. But the mixture of discursive analysis and autobiographical bits did not leave room for a unified, cohesive message or takeaway.
Overall, recommended to anyone interested in an essay/memoir that tackles queerness in a smart, stylish way. The ending of The Argonauts, when she contrasts the birth of her son to the death of her partner's mother, almost made me cry. Again, kudos to Nelson for encouraging us to think deeper and to love harder....more
As someone who has dealt with mental illness in his family, I found Imagine Me Gone so honest and redemptive. Adam Haslett confronts the toug4.5 stars
As someone who has dealt with mental illness in his family, I found Imagine Me Gone so honest and redemptive. Adam Haslett confronts the tough questions that come with loving someone in pain: how much do you try to save someone before you have to let them save themselves? How do you act with compassion when it feels like everyone needs more than you had to begin with? Where do you draw the line between wanting someone to live for your own sake instead of their own? These questions and more rang through my mind as I finished this book, along with gratitude that Haslett crafted such a somber, moving story of a damaged family forever in the process of healing.
Approach this book if you can stomach sadness; avoid it if you search only for happiness in your stories. Haslett's novel follows a five-member family that begins with Margaret and John, who marry each other in 1960s London even after Margaret learns of John's secret, devastating depression. The rest of the book unfolds in decades and includes the perspectives of their children: troubled and frenetic Michael, who obsesses over music and racial justice, resolute middle-child Celia, who serves as the rational backbone of the family, and attention-seeking Alec, whose flair for drama hides a love that Margaret deems the most simple and unquestioning of the three. The family struggles and at times succeeds in caring for one another over many years, and they intensify their efforts to support Michael as his well-being deteriorates as more and more time passes.
The characters in Imagine Me Gone exemplify quiet resilience. Haslett imbues each member of the family with nuance and depth. They come most alive in their interactions with one another: how Celia listens to Michael's fanatic rambles, how Margaret pays for his bills without question, how Alec attaches himself to all their problems and cannot let go. Each family member tests how deep and how far they can extend themselves for one another. Sometimes they fail, which makes them the most human of all.
I loved Haslett's careful, genuine approach to addressing mental health and illness in this book. He avoids glamorizing any of the characters' pain and renders them three-dimensional, giving them interests and quirks alongside their battles. He tackles the complexities of mental illness from multiple angles: Michael's fraught and damaging dependency on medication, Celia's profession as a therapist, and the family's shared trauma surrounding John's depression. Imagine Me Gone raises important questions about mental illness as the topic gains more attention in public discourse. As any good therapist would treat their clients, Haslett puts his characters first, and his compassion for them shines even when the novel itself feels shrouded in darkness.
Overall, a sad book with remarkable insight and prose. Though at first I had mixed feelings about Haslett's detached narrative, I grew to appreciate his writing style. As a gay younger brother myself, I resonated the most with Alec, though all of these characters stole my heart in some way. Imagine Me Gone serves as my favorite novel of 2016 thus far and the closest one to receiving five stars since I finished Hanya Yanagihara's masterpiece A Little Life. Check Haslett's novel out if you want a poignant, thought-provoking mood dampener....more
Addicted to heroin, unsatisfying relationships with men, and her own torturous life in New York City, our protagonist Maya has more than a co3.5 stars
Addicted to heroin, unsatisfying relationships with men, and her own torturous life in New York City, our protagonist Maya has more than a couple of problems. Though quite intelligent and observant about the little details in life, she struggles to break free from a cycle of self-destruction that leaves her always wanting more. Avoid this book if you have a frail heart, because Maya engages in loads of explicit sex and drug use, riding the waves of an unstable life until she wears herself out. But she redeems herself with her sharp wit, her consistent cynicism, and her will to keep on going, all the way to the very end.
Problems defies categorization; it creates its own literary mold. The book has no chapters and almost no section breaks, so the prose fashions itself as a wild ride in Maya's uncouth stream-of-consciousness. The writing flows well, though it embraces every raw and uncomfortable thought possible, a squeamish experience, in particular for those who dislike the lack of boundaries in books like So Sad Today. I do not perceive Problems as an enjoyable read, though I do consider it a worthwhile one, similar to the process of overcoming an addiction itself.
Recommended to those who feel drawn to unsympathetic characters, writing that pushes you to the edge of your comfort zone, and unconventional novels. Maya may not win a place in many people's hearts, but she sure does stand out with her jagged, unique voice, one that resonates in its own discomfort. Curious to see what Sharma will write next. ...more