Maggie Nelson

Maggie Nelson With Lilly Jenner, The Linen Building, fri., Jan. 17.

Critics have struggled, largely in vain, to fit Maggie Nelson’s writing into boxes. They often say it defies description or is uncategorizable. Ask Nelson, and she’ll say one of the most stinging descriptors she supplied herself—“autotheory”—for her 2015 bestseller, The Argonauts. Mostly, though, she treats the critical tempest around her work like a storm in a teapot.

“Reception is kind of a secondary, other planet to my work,” she said. “I’m not particularly concerned with what people have to say about it in terms of genre. I think that the concern with genre is contemporary and myopic. I don’t think it’s something that’s reflected in the history of literature that much.”

In light of her ambivalence toward where her books fit, genre-wise, it should be enough to say that Nelson writes. On Friday, Jan. 17, she’ll read in Boise at The Linen Building, part of The Cabin’s Ghosts & Projectors reading series alongside Boise State University MFA student Lilly Jenner.

Nelson didn’t say what, exactly, she’d read, but she has plenty of work behind her (and a few upcoming titles) to draw from for the event. She’s the author of nine books of poetry, essays, theory and criticism, as well as the winner of an NEA fellowship for poetry, a National Book Critics Circle Award (for The Argonauts) and a MacArthur fellowship. In 2022, she’ll release a book of essays, and in 2021, she’ll drop a new book of criticism about the idea of freedom.

“It tends to the notion of freedom and self-governance. It features in climate conversations and sexual freedom, the world of drug literature and drug addiction. It took a long time,” she said.

Whether it’s topics from the past, like her love affair with the color blue (treated in Bluets) or her criticism of violence (The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning), it will be engaging; and read by the author in what is likely one of the most intimate-possible settings for an artist of Nelson’s caliber. The reading begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $6-$10.

—Harrison Berry

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