The Guardian: Maggie Nelson on intellectualism and having ‘baggage’

April 15, 2016 | Alumni in the News

Though there are many brilliant lines in Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, said critic Wayne Koestenbaum, this one especially jumped out at him: “You’re a great student because you don’t have any baggage, a teacher once told me, at which point the subterfuge of my life felt complete.”

“That was me, wasn’t it?” Koestenbaum asked Nelson on Wednesday night, speaking at the New York Public Library. “Ever since I read the book in pre-galley I thought: ‘Wow, why did I say that, what did I mean?’”

Koestenbaum and Nelson have known each once since “the 20th century, when neither of us had email” and when Nelson was Koestenbaum’s student at the City University of New York. At Live from the NYPL, the two discussed how someone with “no baggage” ended up writing two books about her aunt’s murder, purported differences in their temperaments, and how the highly acclaimed Argonauts — a mix of memoir, criticism, and theory about “small, miraculous domestic dramas” — came to be.