> Book Review - Like Love: Essays and Conversations by Maggie Nelson - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Book Review – Like Love: Essays and Conversations by Maggie Nelson

Maggie Nelson’s (Bluets, The Argonauts) latest work, Like Love: Essays and Conversations, is both curious and unpinnable: a joyful blend of multiform pieces, all drawn from writings created across 20 years of Nelson’s work and lived experience. Comprising reviews, critical essays, remembrances, tributes, conversations, and profiles, Like Love can perhaps be described as Nelson’s great artistic exercise in preservation.

Impactful, flowing, funny, devastating, and important, it is a work that takes you room to room around an eclectic house full of artists and their art, lives, and thoughts; an excitable, ever-changing gathering carrying with it meditations on feminism, politics, sexuality, dialogue, creation, language in relation to visuals, and more. A rich conversation held by many mouths and faces.

Supported strongly by essays and observations like ‘Coming Hungry to No Wrong Holes’, ‘My Brilliant Friend’, ‘The Call’, and ‘Changing the form in Dreams’ – in addition to the work’s preface, titled ‘Lights Up’, which in itself is a piece of work that both shapes the collection to come and immediately pulls readers into a thick reel of specific memory, time, and action whilst Nelson was young – Like Love tries to hold onto moments of inspiration and importance in Nelson’s life, and maintain their motion in the process.

Swinging between observation, conversation, confession, and creative experimentation is a style witnessed consistently in Nelson’s ongoing career as a writer and poet – reading Like Love feels like holding some of Nelson’s clearest and most crystalised links to people, things, idea, and place in the distinct, personal form she first interacted with them. Importantly, the work is an ode to love and friendship; to being inspired by your idols and art from others; from looking to the past and future in trying to understand life’s perplexing facets.

Nelson cherishes conversation as an integral part of the human experience, something that must be held and memorialised with authenticity to the original voices, dreams, and stories. Shocking, soft, honest, and emotive, Maggie Nelson’s Like Love has a strong voice and is her clearest direct lesson in being a memoirist so far.

Like Love: Essays and Conversations is published by Fern Press on 23 May 

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