300 Arguments: Essays

Manguso specializes in these tiny books. This was by far my favorite of the 3 I’ve read so far, a “short book composed entirely of what [she] hoped would be a long book’s quotable passages.”

The snippets appeal to minuscule attention spans like the one I’ve developed that keeps me tossing book after book into the reject pile. Somehow I made it through this unscathed.

A smattering of samples:

  • “For a little attention, complain a little. For a lot of attention, stop complaining.”
  • “The greatest commitments are to experiences with no known end points: friendship, marriage, parenthood, one’s own life.”
  • “Bad art is from no one to no one. “
  • “The difference between writers under thirty and writers over forty is that the former, like everyone their age, already know how to act like famous people: people whose job it is to be photographed.”

The Two Kinds of Decay: A Memoir

My second Sarah Manguso book in a few weeks (previously Ongoingness), although that is no great feat with her slender books that are consumed within an hour. This was her 2009 exploration of a rare disease that has been affecting her since 1995, an autoimmune disease called CIDP. Each section is a tiny snippet, a brief but vivid memory of doctors and waiting rooms and hospitals and steroid side-effects. She latches onto the belief that she’s slept with too few people, and that adding one more to her list would give her some sort of boost, getting down to business with a friend, Victor, who ends up dying of an aneurysm seven years later while she’s still kicking.

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

Very slim volume to kick off the new year. Thankfully small, because there was very little of interest in it. A different title could have been Have a baby, stop journalling or Your life is over when you breed children. It had such great promise, the author confronting a diary of 25 years running… “The diary was my defense against waking up at the end of my life and realizing I missed it… The trouble was that I failed to record so much. I’d write about a few moments, but the surrounding time–there was so much of it! So much apparent nothing I ignored, that I treated as empty time between the memorable moments.” And to be fair, she does go on in this vein for a bit before baby amnesia overtakes her and she loses the ability and desire to think about her own life. Another woman lost to baby vapors, alas.