Yesterday I was talking with my boss/mentor about my discouragement regarding the book club incident, and she handed me this book: The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. She said she’d found it in the New Yorker and wanted to know what I thought. We recently attended a Safe Space training that got us talking about gender fluidity within linguistics, and this book touches on those topics in the context of a relationship that, at first glance, reminds me of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe in Just Kids.
Funnily enough, later that night I saw a post about Emma Watson’s book club, Our Shared Shelf, selecting The Argonauts as their May book. I was hesitant to get caught up in Hermione’s book club when it started because I’m a bit fatigued with the Harry Potter franchise, and I admit that there was a moment, around the time of the Burberry ads and the theatrical release of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, when I was all, “Stop trying to make Emma Watson happen.” But she has turned into the best kind of feminist starlet, and her book club is better than my book club, so I just joined the group on Goodreads.
I read a bit of The Argonauts last night, but it is not the sort of book you read while falling asleep, and I read a little more closely over cereal this morning. My boyfriend immediately asked if it had to do with Jason and the Argonauts, but the title comes from Roland Barthes’ writing about love being like a structural object that is in a constant state of renewal, and the image he uses is the Argo.
Just as the Argo’s parts may be replaced over time but the boat is still called the Argo, whenever the lover utters the phrase “I love you,” its meaning must be renewed by each use, as “the very task of love and of language is to give to one and the same phrase inflections which will be forever new.” (Nelson, page 5)
Without getting to deep into linguistics, which I’ve never formally studied, my starting point for this book is that romantic mantra for grammar geeks: Love is a verb.