by Maggie Nelson
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.
"[A] sense of optimism sits at the heart of On Freedom. What else is possible? it asks... On Freedom is an argument for how we engage with objects of analysis -- and one another -- in a way that is principled but not rigid, that displays care for other people's perceptions, pains and desires, and that has respect for what we cannot know." -- Ismail Muhammad, New York Times Magazine
"In discussion after discussion, Nelson shows the same alertness to context, intellectual modesty and the conviction that ethical goodness is never all on one side..."[ On Freedom] doesn't aim to provide a positive account of the meaning of freedom. But if we understand freedom, above all, through our opposition to bondage, we can learn a great deal, as her book shows, from carefully cataloging and challenging the many ways of being unfree." -- Kwame Anthony Appiah, The New York Times Book Review
"Precise and atmospheric, combining fierce intellectual kick with an openness to nuance... [Nelson asks] how to live in a world with crushing oppression, alongside people with cruel and violent beliefs, without giving into despair or violence yourself." -- Annalisa Quinn, NPR
"Maggie Nelson's books crack your heart open on a marble countertop and piece it back together, but not before you've thought critically about your entire life. Her writing leaves you smarter, even if it sometimes contains truths that are hard to swallow." -- NYLON
"In exploring weighty issues related to art, sex, drugs, and climate change, Nelson offers her own ideas around what real freedom might look like. Many of the hallmarks of her style are on display here... [and] she gets pointed as well, especially when unpacking timely topics like cancel culture and consent." -- The A.V. Club
"Accessible critical theory from a verified genius." -- Lit Hub
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