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About Maggie Nelson
Maggie Nelson is the author of several books in multiple genres. Her six books of nonfiction include On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint (Graywolf Press, 2021), The Argonauts (Graywolf Press, 2015), global best-seller and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award; a landmark work of cultural, art, and literary criticism titled The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (Norton, 2011), which was named a NY Times Notable Book of the Year; the cult classic Bluets (Wave Books, 2009), which was named by Bookforum one of the 10 best books of the past 20 years; a memoir about her family, media spectacle, and sexual violence titled The Red Parts (originally published by Free Press in 2007, reissued by Graywolf in 2016); and a critical study of painting and poetry titled Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions (University of Iowa, 2007; winner, the Susanne M. Glassock Award for Interdisciplinary Scholarship). Her books of poetry include Something Bright, Then Holes (Soft Skull Press, 2007), Jane: A Murder (Soft Skull, 2005; finalist, the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir), The Latest Winter (Hanging Loose Press, 2003), and Shiner (Hanging Loose, 2001). She has been the recipient of a Creative Capital Literature Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction, an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, and an Andy Warhol Foundation/Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant. In 2016 she received a MacArthur "genius" grant. She writes frequently about art, and currently teaches at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
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Named a Most Anticipated/Best Book of the Month by: NPR * USA Today * Time * Washington Post * Vulture * Women’s Wear Daily * Bustle * LitHub * The Millions * Vogue * Nylon * Shondaland * Chicago Review of Books * The Guardian * Los Angeles Times * Kirkus * Publishers Weekly
So often deployed as a jingoistic, even menacing rallying cry, or limited by a focus on passing moments of liberation, the rhetoric of freedom both rouses and repels. Does it remain key to our autonomy, justice, and well-being, or is freedom’s long star turn coming to a close? Does a continued obsession with the term enliven and emancipate, or reflect a deepening nihilism (or both)? On Freedom examines such questions by tracing the concept’s complexities in four distinct realms: art, sex, drugs, and climate.
Drawing on a vast range of material, from critical theory to pop culture to the intimacies and plain exchanges of daily life, Maggie Nelson explores how we might think, experience, or talk about freedom in ways responsive to the conditions of our day. Her abiding interest lies in ongoing “practices of freedom” by which we negotiate our interrelation with—indeed, our inseparability from—others, with all the care and constraint that entails, while accepting difference and conflict as integral to our communion.
For Nelson, thinking publicly through the knots in our culture—from recent art-world debates to the turbulent legacies of sexual liberation, from the painful paradoxes of addiction to the lure of despair in the face of the climate crisis—is itself a practice of freedom, a means of forging fortitude, courage, and company. On Freedom is an invigorating, essential book for challenging times.
An intrepid voyage out to the frontiers of the latest thinking about love, language, and family
Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir, a work of "autotheory" offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language. It binds an account of Nelson's relationship with her partner and a journey to and through a pregnancy to a rigorous exploration of sexuality, gender, and "family." An insistence on radical individual freedom and the value of caretaking becomes the rallying cry for this thoughtful, unabashed, uncompromising book.
"This is criticism at its best." —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
Writing in the tradition of Susan Sontag and Elaine Scarry, Maggie Nelson has emerged as one of our foremost cultural critics with this landmark work about representations of cruelty and violence in art. From Sylvia Plath’s poetry to Francis Bacon’s paintings, from the Saw franchise to Yoko Ono’s performance art, Nelson’s nuanced exploration across the artistic landscape ultimately offers a model of how one might balance strong ethical convictions with an equally strong appreciation for work that tests the limits of taste, taboo, and permissibility.
Late in 2004, Maggie Nelson was looking forward to the publication of her book Jane: A Murder, a narrative in verse about the life and death of her aunt, who had been murdered thirty-five years before. The case remained unsolved, but Jane was assumed to have been the victim of an infamous serial killer in Michigan in 1969.
Then, one November afternoon, Nelson received a call from her mother, who announced that the case had been reopened; a new suspect would be arrested and tried on the basis of a DNA match. Over the months that followed, Nelson found herself attending the trial with her mother and reflecting anew on the aura of dread and fear that hung over her family and childhood--an aura that derived not only from the terrible facts of her aunt's murder but also from her own complicated journey through sisterhood, daughterhood, and girlhood.
The Red Parts is a memoir, an account of a trial, and a provocative essay that interrogates the American obsession with violence and missing white women, and that scrupulously explores the nature of grief, justice, and empathy.
Jane tells the spectral story of the life and death of Maggie Nelson’s aunt Jane, who was murdered in 1969 while a first-year law student at the University of Michigan. Though officially unsolved, Jane’s murder was apparently the third in a series of seven brutal rape-murders in the area between 1967 and 1969. Nelson was born a few years after Jane’s death, and the narrative is suffused with the long shadow her murder cast over both the family and her psyche.
Exploring the nature of this haunting incident via a collage of poetry, prose, dream-accounts, and documentary sources, including local and national newspapers, related “true crime” books such as The Michigan Murders and Killer Among Us, and fragments from Jane’s own diaries written when she was 13 and 21, its eight sections cover Jane’s childhood and early adulthood, her murder and its investigation, the direct and diffuse effect of her death on Nelson’s girlhood and sisterhood, and a trip to Michigan Nelson took with her mother (Jane’s sister) to retrace the path of Jane’s final hours.
Each piece in Jane has its own form, and the movement from each piece to the next--along with the white space that surrounds each fragment--serve as important fissures, disrupting the tabloid, “page-turner” quality of the story, and eventually returning the reader to deeper questions about girlhood, empathy, identification, and the essentially unknowable aspects of another’s life and death. Equal parts a meditation on violence (serial, sexual violence in particular), and a conversation between the living and the dead, Jane’s powerful and disturbing subject matter, combined with its innovations in genre, shows its readers what poetry is capable of--what kind of stories it can tell, and how it can tell them.
These days/the world seems to split up/into those who need to dredge/and those who shrug their shoulders/and say, It’s just something/that happened.
While Maggie Nelson refers here to a polluted urban waterway, the Gowanus Canal, these words could just as easily describe Nelson’s incisive approach to desire, heartbreak, and emotional excavation in Something Bright, Then Holes. Whether writing from the debris-strewn shores of a contaminated canal or from the hospital room of a friend, Nelson charts each emotional landscape she encounters with unparalleled precision and empathy. Since its publication in 2007, the collection has proven itself to be both a record of a singular vision in the making as well as a timeless meditation on love, loss, and―perhaps most frightening of all―freedom.
À travers une série de collages de poèmes, sources documentaires, fragments du journal intime de sa tante, brèves dans des journaux et enquête sur les traces de la disparue, Maggie Nelson explore la nature de ce fait divers, le dernier en date d’une macabre série d’assassinats perpétrés dans la région. Dans cette grande œuvre écrite sous forme de long poème, l’autrice éclaire l’ombre portée sur son passé, et interroge ces fantômes qui peuplent nos vies et que l’on tait. Elle crée une forme hybride et poétique qui impose une réalité brutale au silence pesant, la juge, la confronte et la fait plier par l’écriture. L’ouvrage présent réunit deux livres de Maggie Nelson dans un volume tête-bêche. Jane, un meurtre, enquête poétique sur la disparue. Une partie rouge, au verso, démarre à l’instant où la police annonce l’arrestation d’un suspect et la tenue d’un procès.
Cet ensemble que l’on pourrait nommer “Le livre de Jane” est un document littéraire unique sur un féminicide et sur la violence à l’œuvre dans nos sociétés.