The Red Parts
Selected as a Book of the Year 2017 in the Guardian
‘Maggie Nelson’s short, singular books feel pretty light in the hand… But in the head and the heart, they seem unfathomably vast, their cleverness and odd beauty lingering on’ Observer
In 1969, Jane Mixer, a first-year law student at the University of Michigan, posted a note on a student noticeboard to share a lift back to her hometown of Muskegon for spring break. She never made it: she was brutally murdered, her body found a few miles from campus the following day.
The Red Parts is Maggie Nelson’s singular account of her aunt Jane’s death, and the trial that took place some 35 years afterward. Officially unsolved for decades, the case was reopened in 2004 after a DNA match identified a new suspect, who would soon be arrested and tried. In 2005, Nelson found herself attending the trial, and reflecting with fresh urgency on our relentless obsession with violence, particularly against women.
Resurrecting her interior world during the trial – in all its horror, grief, obsession, recklessness, scepticism and downright confusion – Maggie Nelson has produced a work of profound integrity and, in its subtle indeterminacy, deadly moral precision.
"A harrowing but clear-eyed examination of crime's emotional fallout" -- David Nicholls "Maggie Nelson's short, singular books feel pretty light in the hand... But in the head and the heart, they seem unfathomably vast, their cleverness and odd beauty lingering on...her work is blazingly intimate" -- Rachel Cooke * Observer * "Powerful and searingly honest" * Guardian * "Remarkable. I'm still reeling from its exhilarating brilliance" -- Claire-Louise Bennett "A book-long riff on the first-person essay that Joan Didion built... Nelson eschews tidy resolution. She argues that stories are by nature imperfect - and yet she also shows us how they can become totally worthwhile" * Time Out * "In writing The Red Parts, Nelson has made her own box holding the fragments of many things. It's not a beautiful object, but a valuable, coolly shimmering one, which captures the raw bewilderment that can affect a family for generations after a violent loss" * San Francisco Chronicle * "There is something daring in the intimacy of Nelson's work... Her books, five works of nonfiction and four books of poetry, are light in your hands but heavy and powerful in all the nonliteral senses" * New York Magazine * "Nelson balances starkness with sensitivity and salvages beauty from trauma, while also perverting every strong statement - arguing, softly, against absolutes in general and her own convictions in particular...uncertainty and vulnerability are what is so special about Nelson's writing... The result is a victim impact statement as complex and perplexing as the case itself... By bouncing everything through the prism of her strong relations; by refusing to be intimidated by originality, Nelson is a true original" * Irish Times * "Maggie Nelson is one of the most electrifying writers at work in America today, among the sharpest and most supple thinkers of her generation" -- Olivia Laing * Guardian * "Nelson is candid, funny and - for many years a poet - has a talent for compression and juxtaposition that makes for an enthralling use of language" -- Paul Laity * Guardian * "It's Nelson's articulation of her many selves - the poet who writes prose; the memoirist who considers the truth specious; the essayist whose books amount to a kind of fairy tale, in which the protagonist goes from darkness to light, and then falls in love with a singular knight - that makes her readers feel hopeful" * New Yorker * "Nelson's cathartic narrative encompasses closure of unrelated events in her own life, such as mourning her dead father, dealing with a recent heartache and reconciling with her once-wayward sister. Her narrative is wrenching" * Publishers Weekly * "There's no one quite like Maggie Nelson writing right now... We are lucky to have her" * Bookriot * "A memoir by a very cool writer - Maggie Nelson reminds me a bit of Joan Didion... Grim, but very well told." -- William Leith * Evening Standard * "Nelson confronts both her own and society's disquieting fascination with the murder of pretty white women - as well as memory of her father's sudden death...and the way such ruptures inspire a craving for story-making, catharsis, justice and reassuringly tidy ethical lines" * Times Literary Supplement *
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