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On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint

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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 mome 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.


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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 mome 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.

30 review for On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint

  1. 5 out of 5

    Adam Dalva

    A return to the lens and style of ART OF CRUELTY - crystalizing on four key questions of freedom. I was specially drawn to parts 2 (on sex) and 3 (on drugs), and found the research there particularly fascinating. Nelson is brilliant, of course.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Vincent Scarpa

    "In fact, one of this book’s sleeper surprises was that focusing on freedom brought me into a full-throttle reckoning with anxiety, one of freedom’s most formidable adversaries. Perhaps this shouldn’t have been a surprise: one of the lessons of interdependence is that you can’t get to know anything without getting to know its siblings or surroundings. I would not be the first thinker (or human) to discover the distressing, if potentially fertile, kinship between freedom and anxiety, even if I ha "In fact, one of this book’s sleeper surprises was that focusing on freedom brought me into a full-throttle reckoning with anxiety, one of freedom’s most formidable adversaries. Perhaps this shouldn’t have been a surprise: one of the lessons of interdependence is that you can’t get to know anything without getting to know its siblings or surroundings. I would not be the first thinker (or human) to discover the distressing, if potentially fertile, kinship between freedom and anxiety, even if I had to learn it anew for myself. But I can say that, through repeated, often painful excursions, I have learned which habits of mind lead to more panic, more curdled and constricted heart (dread of bad scenes or surprises; the ferocious desire to ward off pain, illness, or death; attempts to control that which dwarfs one’s ability to do so), and which ones lead to vastness, empty space, blue sky, whatever you want to call it — the silence and nothingness at the end of writing and everything else. I didn’t and still don’t know what opening onto that vastness would feel like. Sometimes I feel sure I won’t know until I die. But I’m not going for a freedom drive that’s primarily a death drive; all that comes soon enough. Until then, I want to be in, all in: all heart, no escape."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    On Freedom is a collection of linked, highly anticipated essays about the nature, complexities and paradoxes of freedom and a heady, iconoclastic work of cultural criticism that examines the concept of freedom through the lenses of art, climate, drugs and sex. Compared to Nelson’s previous books, this certainly feels significantly more academic than just casual reading. Rather than focus on moments of liberation, the book explores how we balance our need to care for and protect others with our n On Freedom is a collection of linked, highly anticipated essays about the nature, complexities and paradoxes of freedom and a heady, iconoclastic work of cultural criticism that examines the concept of freedom through the lenses of art, climate, drugs and sex. Compared to Nelson’s previous books, this certainly feels significantly more academic than just casual reading. Rather than focus on moments of liberation, the book explores how we balance our need to care for and protect others with our need for individual space to move, think, organise, express and imagine. Maggie Nelson is one of the most esteemed writers of our day, and her extraordinary mind is in full bloom in this new work. It is a panoptic survey of a huge range of art and ideas. Nelson is one of the most exciting and original thinkers at work today, and this is one of those books that only comes along once a decade or so and that engages with the most complex, urgent and fascinating issues of our time, from the personal to the civic. It is also a hugely important thinking book that will open up new ways of understanding the world, will be read for many years to come and will no doubt make a profound impact on the world of ideas and the world of letters. Drawing on a vast range of material, from critical theory to pop culture to the intimacies and plain exchanges of daily life, Nelson's On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint explores how we might think, experience or talk about freedom in ways responsive to the conditions of our day. She examines her abiding interest in the ‘practices of freedom’ by which we negotiate our interrelation with – and our inseparability from – others, with all the care and constraint that relationship entails while accepting difference and conflict as integral to our communion. For Nelson, thinking publicly through the knots in our culture – from the turbulent legacies of sexual liberation to the lure of despair in the face of the climate crisis – is itself a practice of freedom. It is a means of forging fortitude, courage and company in which she explores ideas of queerness, care and freedom yet so much more. It is an expansive, exhilarating work and a boundary-pushing, provocative read which is fascinating and thought-provoking in equal measure. She explains throughout that the contemporary discourses she has chosen are for good reason. Art is a natural fit: she’s taught art and writes about art. She calls art, along with sexual freedom, her “most native ground.” Her section on drugs and addiction is “more niche, esoteric, but as a sober person I’m interested in substance abuse—the idea of being enslaved, enthralled.” And climate “is what’s on everyone’s mind.” This book is a contribution to the cultural conversation in which Nelson takes the loftiest ideas and tethers them to the ground; she makes important things legible and there’s a warmth to her writing. Also, she doesn’t come to answers but poses questions. The book is full of thinking and feeling and nuanced analysis written in fluid prose. Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andrin Albrecht

    The thing I really love about Maggie Nelson’s writing––the thing that makes her perhaps the first theorist whose entire work I want to read not because it’s necessary for an argument I myself am trying to make, but really just because it captivates me––is that, as she says herself towards the end of this book, she writes primarily to “think[…] aloud with others.” There is nothing didactic about her texts, none of the “I’ve spent years on positing this thesis, and now I’m going to defend it with The thing I really love about Maggie Nelson’s writing––the thing that makes her perhaps the first theorist whose entire work I want to read not because it’s necessary for an argument I myself am trying to make, but really just because it captivates me––is that, as she says herself towards the end of this book, she writes primarily to “think[…] aloud with others.” There is nothing didactic about her texts, none of the “I’ve spent years on positing this thesis, and now I’m going to defend it with all I have” so typical to conventional scholarly writing. Instead, they are meandering, unsure about themselves, full of gaps, counter-arguments, and unanswered questions. It’s absolutely amazing! It shows how writing can function as a tool to investigate the questions in your head further, and, even better, to make others engage with the questions in their heads as well without just falling into a “do I support or do I reject this” dichotomy. This writing-as-process is clearly most evident in “On Freedom”, and it is the reason why I’d never go as far as calling this book brilliant. It’s a conversation. You sit down with a very intelligent, well-read, anxiety-riddled, voraciously interested person, have a pitcher of tea each, and start discussing. It’s a stunningly productive discussion. It brings you to questions you’ve never thought about, gives you new perspective and secondary sources on questions you’ve already thought about a lot, lets you not enthusiastically here and shake your head there. By the end of the evening, you want walk away with the feeling you’ve just witnessed genius at work. But you’ll feel inspired, perturbed, eager to meet that person again soon to pick up the threads where you’ve left them. There’s an argument to be made that that’s even more valuable. “On Freedom” is essentially a collection of four essays on the semantics, politics, ambiguities, and problematics of “freedom” in all its highly heterogenous manifestations, alongside its––according to her inextricably connected––cousin “care”. Nelson thinks about the use of these terms, this concept, this construct, this connotation, first with regards to art (think offensiveness, think censorship, think prudishness, think safe spaces, think cultural appropriation, think racism, think critics), sex (think homophobia, different waves of feminism, the conundrum of sexual liberty versus (un)sexual safety, kinks, judicial and extrajudicial retaliation, self-identification, the different status of sex to different people), drugs (think endorphin rushes, prohibition, gendered and racialized differences in drug narratives, think abstinence, which is a subjugation to rules as much as it is freedom from increasing destruction), and climate change (think “what on Earth is there left to think if we’re on a runaway train towards annihilation, with our children and millions of species and our children’s children shackled to us”, but think also “how can we still find the motivation to act? To not panic? How can we catch a break from all this without loudly declaring that all climate scientists are Chinese socialists?) The first two are arguably more conventional essays, certainly also due to the fact that Nelson has extensively written on these subjects before; the second two feel quite a bit more like non-fiction, and also that is refreshing. There is not really anything groundbreaking in “On Freedom” as such, and it also doesn’t carry the same poetic punch as “The Argonauts”. Nevertheless, it is an unquestionably worthwhile read, especially if approached not so much as a source of information than as motivation to find more information, dig deeper and deeper, embrace ambivalence, complex theory, (political) care for the people around you, but also the simple and all the more beautiful realities of life, by yourself.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Summer Brennan

    Through four chapters broken up into smaller subsections, Nelson explores the concept of freedom through the lens of art, sex, drugs, and the climate crisis, bringing her trademark brilliance and intellectual modesty to each. I found the first sections on art and sex especially good, and kept feeling the need to highlight whole paragraphs. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such nuanced and interesting takes on concepts such as who has “the right” to tell which stories in art, the #MeToo movement, and Through four chapters broken up into smaller subsections, Nelson explores the concept of freedom through the lens of art, sex, drugs, and the climate crisis, bringing her trademark brilliance and intellectual modesty to each. I found the first sections on art and sex especially good, and kept feeling the need to highlight whole paragraphs. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such nuanced and interesting takes on concepts such as who has “the right” to tell which stories in art, the #MeToo movement, and our understanding of individual sexualities through the framework of feminism. I consider it required reading.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Many of my favorite authors, perhaps pressured by the weight of politics, wrote their worst novels between 2016-2020. On Freedom, a collection of four essays centered around many of the biggest questions of our time, is fine, but wildly uneven. This is most clear in Maggie Nelson’s first essay on art. Less than making a point, it seeks to disentangle: I see it as Nelson setting the table and preparing a meal rather than addressing issues directly. I enjoyed reading it and I admire Nelson’s refus Many of my favorite authors, perhaps pressured by the weight of politics, wrote their worst novels between 2016-2020. On Freedom, a collection of four essays centered around many of the biggest questions of our time, is fine, but wildly uneven. This is most clear in Maggie Nelson’s first essay on art. Less than making a point, it seeks to disentangle: I see it as Nelson setting the table and preparing a meal rather than addressing issues directly. I enjoyed reading it and I admire Nelson’s refusal to apply knee-jerk reactions to her subject matter, but the whole thing comes off as too safe (ironic considering the Twitter mob has suggested it is anything but.) True to Andrea Long Chu’s review, however, it offers few original ideas of its own, and suffers from false equivalencies. I see value in questioning our readings of art, but Nelson provides none of her own, instead recycling the ideas of others. The most insightful point I gleaned is the idea of minority artists creating work not aligned around their identity being heralded as irrelevant or unimportant, causing immense dissatisfaction. I have heard the second essay on sexuality involves misreadings of cited authors, but at the very least this piece opens itself more to varied interpretation. Again, it suffers from leveraging quotation over insight - I don’t think that the references are wrong, but where does Maggie step in? While her stance around consent is undoubtedly going to be received as unpopular, I see this piece as much more valuable than her essay on art in that it actually feels relevant to the world and raises interesting questions about desire and narrativity. Nelson focuses on many historical depictions of femme desire that are interesting, and offers a perspective on #MeToo that I found more valid than what she addressed regarding art. I actually didn’t think she went far enough in analyzing what she wanted to say, rather than being controversial as the Twitter mob seems to suggest. A quote I liked: “Our desire to treat everyone with compassion, kindness, and forgiveness and to throw harmful assholes off a cliff is a big koan.” The final two essays are significantly better than the first half of the book, making one wonder what the editors were thinking with their ordering. The essay on drugs in literature feels like the only unique entry in the collection, offering new perspective like Art of Cruelty provided and ultimately lent as a template. While the final essay on climate change was great, I have already read a million other pieces echoing a similar sentiment. It offers a welcome arrangement of perspectives that are, again, not new. In short, this book takes the form of The Art of Cruelty as a starting point for approaching the work it addresses, but also shows where that book succeeded and this one failed. I think what I loved about AoC was that it was a subject matter I was fully unacquainted with - the topics here are familiar to all of us. To take the same strategy towards popular subjects we all have opinions on is a weakness unless deeper readings are employed. It worked for the essay on Drugs and Literature, otherwise feeling insufficient. I’m not mad I read it, and Nelson remains to my mind one of our greatest living writers. But she obviously has more to offer than this. On one hand, she is addressing topics expected of a great writer. On the other, she fails to offer new insight into this critical subject matter. Some people online are suggesting she crossed a line. To me, the problem is that she has crossed none, outsourcing risky opinions to others more qualified to answer than she is. My stance on her hasn’t changed, but I am dropping a hard “better luck next time”.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    There's interesting stuff here but plenty that feels uninspired or wrong. Not just the standard cancel culture handwringing (which she equivocates over more than embracing) but as pointed out by many queer and feminist theorists (some of whom are mentioned here: Andrea Long Chu and Natasha Leonard), her premises are often tired, the arguments she is having passed their sell by date and her attacks on certain people (Leonard, in particular) unfair. I tended to agree with much of Chu's review of th There's interesting stuff here but plenty that feels uninspired or wrong. Not just the standard cancel culture handwringing (which she equivocates over more than embracing) but as pointed out by many queer and feminist theorists (some of whom are mentioned here: Andrea Long Chu and Natasha Leonard), her premises are often tired, the arguments she is having passed their sell by date and her attacks on certain people (Leonard, in particular) unfair. I tended to agree with much of Chu's review of the book: https://www.vulture.com/article/maggi... From a Leonard tweet: "Also learned that Maggie Nelson criticizes another of my essays, in a wilfully careless misreading. She claims I state & argue things that I wholly do not about sex & porn. It's funny, but also fucked, cuz more ppl will read her version of me than will ever read my work directly." "Also: the essay she horribly misrepresents calls upon experiences I had with an abusive ex. She ignores the abusive aspects..then claims, out of nowhere - her source being MY essay (misread)- that I “rifled” through the ex’s porn search history. Which I didn’t. Honestly fuck her." https://twitter.com/natashalennard/st...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michael Padden

    I love Maggie Nelson. This book is so compelling and the paradoxes that she presents will have me contemplating how freedom should and does function in our lives for a while. I especially can’t wait to dig into the bibliography of the Drug Fugue chapter. Nelson understands that creativity comes from limitation and does an amazing job of telling us how expansive that limitation can be.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Karola Karlson

    I sort of liked Maggie Nelson's "The Argonauts" for its poetic language and urgent humanistic message. "On Freedom" however, while tackling important matters, was almost impossible for me to read due to the inconsistency of argumentation and purposelessly overflowing syntax. It feels like the book lacked a professional editor who could have asked at times (= on every page of the book) "what do you mean by the word 'it" here?" or "how does the following example relate to your argument" or had tol I sort of liked Maggie Nelson's "The Argonauts" for its poetic language and urgent humanistic message. "On Freedom" however, while tackling important matters, was almost impossible for me to read due to the inconsistency of argumentation and purposelessly overflowing syntax. It feels like the book lacked a professional editor who could have asked at times (= on every page of the book) "what do you mean by the word 'it" here?" or "how does the following example relate to your argument" or had told that "we can remove half of this sentence as it's just rambling irrelevant to the context."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    My review for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: https://www.startribune.com/review-on... Given that Maggie Nelson is known for expanding categories and defying the expectations of genre, it's little wonder, perhaps, that her latest book, the subtle yet wide-ranging "On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint," would take as its subject the quality or state of being free (if one defines it positively), or the power or condition of acting without coercion (if one defines it in relation to what it's My review for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: https://www.startribune.com/review-on... Given that Maggie Nelson is known for expanding categories and defying the expectations of genre, it's little wonder, perhaps, that her latest book, the subtle yet wide-ranging "On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint," would take as its subject the quality or state of being free (if one defines it positively), or the power or condition of acting without coercion (if one defines it in relation to what it's not). Although therein lies much of this book's allure, because what do we even mean when we say freedom? "Part of the trouble resides in the word itself, whose meaning is not at all self-evident or shared. In fact, it operates more like 'God,' in that, when we use it, we can never really be sure what, exactly, we're talking about, or whether we're talking about the same thing," Nelson writes in her introduction. The author of nine previous books — including, most recently, 2015's National Book Critic's Circle Award-winning "The Argonauts" — Nelson is a broad thinker, concerned with ethics, and careful to balance emotion with intellect. Far less memoiristic than "The Argonauts," "On Freedom" is more focused on cultural criticism and philosophizing, exploring its capacious topic through the frames of art, sex, substance use and climate change. Nelson's applications of these restrictions to her seemingly limitless topic feels savvy because — rather than offering a polemic or manifesto on personal or political freedom — she addresses "the ways in which freedom appears knotted up with so-called unfreedom, producing marbled experiences of compulsion, discipline, possibility, and surrender." In each of the book's four sections — "Art Song," "The Ballad of Sexual Optimism," "Drug Fugue" and "Riding the Blinds" — Nelson grounds this subject, which tends toward heady abstraction, in concrete specifics. All the while, she expresses her skepticism "about turning more and more arenas of life (teaching, activism, art) into caretaking and therapy." Characteristically, Nelson's text is thick with references to other writers and thinkers, putting her own observations in juxtaposition with those by Foucault, Arendt, Baldwin, Rancière and many, many more. Moreover, "On Freedom" has a full 55 pages of notes at the end, like a hallway of doors, all waiting to be opened and entered should the reader desire to journey even deeper into the subject with Angela Davis, Lauren Berlant, Fred Moten and Nietzsche as guides, to name but a few. Nelson currently teaches at the University of Southern California and draws on her previous experience teaching at CalArts, and reading this book feels like being in the presence of an inspiring professor, someone who has a great deal to show you, but ultimately wants to show you most of all how to think for yourself. "If ceding freedom to noxious forces is a grievous error, so, too, is holding on to rote, unventilated concepts of it with a white-knuckled grip," she explains of her motivations. By the end of her theorizing, Nelson has breathed fresh air into the title notion, and in her openhanded treatment has given her readers a chance to consider freedom more freely.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    It's always a pleasure to think along with Maggie Nelson, but this one didn't quite hit me the way her other stuff has. Not totally sure why. The text is so dense with citations and quotations from other writers that sometimes it feels like I lose her argument. The chapter on addiction felt like a missed opportunity to dig into the philosophical complexities around addiction's relationship to the idea of freedom: to what degree does it make sense to say that an addicted person is free and making It's always a pleasure to think along with Maggie Nelson, but this one didn't quite hit me the way her other stuff has. Not totally sure why. The text is so dense with citations and quotations from other writers that sometimes it feels like I lose her argument. The chapter on addiction felt like a missed opportunity to dig into the philosophical complexities around addiction's relationship to the idea of freedom: to what degree does it make sense to say that an addicted person is free and making choices freely, what are the implications to our idea of free will, etc. Instead it was basically notes from a seminar she teaches on the literature of addiction. Cool to read but not really that illuminating in terms of the ideas presented or how they relate to the book's themes. That said there's a lot of beautiful ideas in the book. I loved the framework she comes back to of thinking of her subjects as knots whose threads need to be carefully untangled as opposed to the maddeningly simplistic and Manichean tendencies of much current discourse. Anyway, I'd solidly recommend reading it but for me personally was a bit disappointing as it didn't live up to the level of the Art of Cruelty which is one of the best works of cultural criticism of this century.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dan Curiosity Hour

    What a thought-provoking work! It's timely to think about and explore the idea of what freedom means and the limitations of freedom (and ways it is abused). This is a topic I've considered for awhile, but after reading this book, it's hard to stop thinking about and mulling over the many angles to consider freedom. An important read! Note: I voluntarily requested, read, and reviewed this book. Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for sending me a temporary digital advance reading cop What a thought-provoking work! It's timely to think about and explore the idea of what freedom means and the limitations of freedom (and ways it is abused). This is a topic I've considered for awhile, but after reading this book, it's hard to stop thinking about and mulling over the many angles to consider freedom. An important read! Note: I voluntarily requested, read, and reviewed this book. Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for sending me a temporary digital advance reading copy/advance review (ARC) galley of this book in exchange for an honest review. As always, my opinions are my own and do not represent my co-host or the podcast. I request, read, and review many books prior to publication to explore possible future guests for the podcast. I wish we could interview the author of every one of these books because I'm so impressed by the creativity, thoughtfulness, and wisdom shared through the temporary books I get through NetGalley. I find the idea of simplifying any book into 1-5 stars to be quite silly and reductionist, so I don't participate in that game and instead, just give five stars to each book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David Thiedig

    "We all struggle with what it means to "know" about global warming, even as we are living it. As Edward Morris and Susannah Sayler of the Canary Project point out, "knowing" is distinct from "believing" as, by their account, true belief would spur action, yet we do not act. (It would help, of course, if we felt surer about what actions to take, or if we had a stronger sense of the collective into which our individual actions poured.) As Morris puts it, "Belief is a function of feeling. We can on "We all struggle with what it means to "know" about global warming, even as we are living it. As Edward Morris and Susannah Sayler of the Canary Project point out, "knowing" is distinct from "believing" as, by their account, true belief would spur action, yet we do not act. (It would help, of course, if we felt surer about what actions to take, or if we had a stronger sense of the collective into which our individual actions poured.) As Morris puts it, "Belief is a function of feeling. We can only believe in climate change - by which I mean not statistically created research object, and not even the hyper object, but rather the cost in terms of pain that climate change will cause - when we are opened emotionally to it. Pierced." He and Sayler have described this awakening as a type of rupture or trauma. Those who have borne the brunt of climate-related trauma have already been delivered unto this awakening; those who have not face something of a paradox, wherein the continued refusal to be pierced on behalf of others may be precisely what ensures that climate-related trauma will come to them as well."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    So much respect for Maggie Nelson. She writes difficult books about difficult topics, resisting all pressure to supply an easy answer, or shorten her beautiful periodic sentences. Something interesting happened, though, as I read this. For the first three quarters of the book, I read in awe, transifixed by her erudition and clarity of vision. However, in the last essay, I felt an added dimension in my response. As she writes about climate change, the most inherently dispiriting of her topics, sh So much respect for Maggie Nelson. She writes difficult books about difficult topics, resisting all pressure to supply an easy answer, or shorten her beautiful periodic sentences. Something interesting happened, though, as I read this. For the first three quarters of the book, I read in awe, transifixed by her erudition and clarity of vision. However, in the last essay, I felt an added dimension in my response. As she writes about climate change, the most inherently dispiriting of her topics, she evokes such passion that the reader feels inspired and ennobled. There is beauty and there is hope, although we have to be, in the words of Amanda Gorman "brave enough to see it."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I’m such a huge fan, I feel like I would read anything she writes at this point. The concept of “Freedom” is applied across four distinctly different areas of thought/humanity here, and the concept is treated with Nelson’s characteristic elasticity. This is one of the things I love about her writing- I get to see the expansiveness of her thinking up close. I think it’s fair to say the whole project lends itself more easily to some topics more so than others, but with many moments of shimmering i I’m such a huge fan, I feel like I would read anything she writes at this point. The concept of “Freedom” is applied across four distinctly different areas of thought/humanity here, and the concept is treated with Nelson’s characteristic elasticity. This is one of the things I love about her writing- I get to see the expansiveness of her thinking up close. I think it’s fair to say the whole project lends itself more easily to some topics more so than others, but with many moments of shimmering intensity. Following a quick first read, I’m confident I’ll go back to it again piecemeal again and again in years to come.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Fenster

    Maggie Nelson's intellectual range is as impressive as ever as she turns her characteristically keen eye to the word and practice of freedom. "The question is not whether we are enmeshed," she asserts, "but how," and her writing is evidence enough, the "Four Songs" more like a high-volume symphony of interdisciplinary voices alongside whom her arguments dance. Even so, Nelson is consistent-- from Bluets to The Art of Cruelty to On Freedom-- in her ability to linger, her intellectual pacing that Maggie Nelson's intellectual range is as impressive as ever as she turns her characteristically keen eye to the word and practice of freedom. "The question is not whether we are enmeshed," she asserts, "but how," and her writing is evidence enough, the "Four Songs" more like a high-volume symphony of interdisciplinary voices alongside whom her arguments dance. Even so, Nelson is consistent-- from Bluets to The Art of Cruelty to On Freedom-- in her ability to linger, her intellectual pacing that pauses and observes as intently as it surges forward. On Freedom will make you move.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    To those who would scoff at such a characterization [of art] as sentimental enchantments, or who have come to see art as just another bankrupt concept or damaging tributary of capital, I offer no rebuttal, save a reminder that it can be other things too – things that to some of us matter as much as or more than the fruits of demystification. A chewy book, with more-than-adequate care (ha!) given to the explorations and tangents within. However, at times it feels like a great deal of conceptual wo To those who would scoff at such a characterization [of art] as sentimental enchantments, or who have come to see art as just another bankrupt concept or damaging tributary of capital, I offer no rebuttal, save a reminder that it can be other things too – things that to some of us matter as much as or more than the fruits of demystification. A chewy book, with more-than-adequate care (ha!) given to the explorations and tangents within. However, at times it feels like a great deal of conceptual work towards a fractional reorientation.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Allison Floyd

    GUTGed on p. 82! If this weren't due back at the library, and if people weren't waiting for it, I would probably slog through it and at least skim the rest (as I skimmed these 82 pages). But! Maybe I've become shallower in the interlude, or I've killed too many brain cells, or this one just isn't resonating with me as much as Maggie Nelson's other works of critical theory—whatever the case may be, I just couldn't click with it. I guess I'm more on the "critical theory lite" end of the spectrum. GUTGed on p. 82! If this weren't due back at the library, and if people weren't waiting for it, I would probably slog through it and at least skim the rest (as I skimmed these 82 pages). But! Maybe I've become shallower in the interlude, or I've killed too many brain cells, or this one just isn't resonating with me as much as Maggie Nelson's other works of critical theory—whatever the case may be, I just couldn't click with it. I guess I'm more on the "critical theory lite" end of the spectrum. She's always worth reading, though!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alissa

    Oh my word, just the last lines - until then I want to be in, all in - all heart, no escape (ie living, committed to life, not living merely until the death march ends). Ah, what beauty. Everything here is timely, and yet has so much universality - meditations on care, what makes a good life, what true freedom even is. I haven't seen a work of this intellectual magnitude hit in a while that I had high hopes for commercially. I have high hopes for this one. Oh my word, just the last lines - until then I want to be in, all in - all heart, no escape (ie living, committed to life, not living merely until the death march ends). Ah, what beauty. Everything here is timely, and yet has so much universality - meditations on care, what makes a good life, what true freedom even is. I haven't seen a work of this intellectual magnitude hit in a while that I had high hopes for commercially. I have high hopes for this one.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Salty

    A quote from a review: "Nelson argues that, for all its gains, #MeToo has also had the effect of reducing men and women to predators and potential victims, with women’s sexual desire all but erased. It’s as though by more broadly acknowledging the power differences between, say, a male boss and a female employee, the culture has allowed those dynamics to become obliterative and total." Fuck this concern troll. A quote from a review: "Nelson argues that, for all its gains, #MeToo has also had the effect of reducing men and women to predators and potential victims, with women’s sexual desire all but erased. It’s as though by more broadly acknowledging the power differences between, say, a male boss and a female employee, the culture has allowed those dynamics to become obliterative and total." Fuck this concern troll.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marije de Wit

    Not sure how to rate ATM. Five stars for the pieces about art, (literature and) drugs, and climate. The part on sex I'll have to reread, and probably more than once. Some of it seemed like feminist infighting as opposed to what freedom means here, and without making any productive point, but I'm really not sure. Not sure how to rate ATM. Five stars for the pieces about art, (literature and) drugs, and climate. The part on sex I'll have to reread, and probably more than once. Some of it seemed like feminist infighting as opposed to what freedom means here, and without making any productive point, but I'm really not sure.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kent Winward

    The climate change section felt the most strained. Sex, drugs, and art sections were stronger. For me, the drug section was the best, although the prescription drug side was left out and how that impacts our freedom. Lots of food for thought, which makes it a great book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    I am drawn to all of Maggie's writing and I was interested in hearing her take on the concept of freedom especially when it comes to freedom in art. I find her writing a little complex and dense, but I will plow through it because I an so intrigued by her thought process and her critiques. I am drawn to all of Maggie's writing and I was interested in hearing her take on the concept of freedom especially when it comes to freedom in art. I find her writing a little complex and dense, but I will plow through it because I an so intrigued by her thought process and her critiques.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lanie Tankard

    Here's my review in THE WOVEN TALE PRESS: https://www.thewoventalepress.net/202... Here's my review in THE WOVEN TALE PRESS: https://www.thewoventalepress.net/202...

  25. 4 out of 5

    freya

    maggie nelson is such a genius she never misses

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Didn’t agree with every sentence, but every sentence made me think.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tessy Consentino

    This book did not disappoint! Absolutely fascinating. You know it’s a good one when you want to read every book cited in the back.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Elbrackeen Brackeen

    A must re-read for me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Almost made me very depressed for a minute there

  30. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    the section on sex blew my world open, in particular. wow is it lame to review in emojis? 👍🏼➕🖤👍🏼➕🖤🔝🔝🔝🔝🔝

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