The Washington Post
Two Kinds of Decayby Sarah Manguso
The events that began in 1995 might keep happening to me as long as things can happen to me. Think of deep space, through which heavenly/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>
The events that began in 1995 might keep happening to me as long as things can happen to me. Think of deep space, through which heavenly bodies fly forever. They fly until they change into new forms, simpler forms, with ever fewer qualities and increasingly beautiful names.
There are names for things in spacetime that are nothing, for things that are less than nothing. White dwarfs, red giants, black holes, singularities.
But even then, in their less-than-nothing state, they keep happening.
At twenty-one, just starting to comprehend the puzzles of adulthood, Sarah Manguso was faced with another: a wildly unpredictable disease that appeared suddenly and tore through her twenties, vanishing and then returning, paralyzing her for weeks at a time, programming her first to expect nothing from life and then, furiously, to expect everything. In this captivating story, Manguso recalls her nine-year struggle: arduous blood cleansings, collapsed veins, multiple chest catheters, the deaths of friends and strangers, addiction, depression, and, worst of all for a writer, the trite metaphors that accompany prolonged illness. A book of tremendous grace and self-awareness, The Two Kinds of Decay transcends the very notion of what an illness story can and should be.
The Washington Post
The New York Times
In 1995, when Rome Prize-winning poet and fiction writer Manguso (Siste Viator) was a junior at Harvard, she suffered the first attack of a rare autoimmune disease called CIDP, which would turn her body against itself. CIDP attacks the myelin coating of the peripheral nerves. The result is increasing numbness, followed by paralysis spreading from the extremities inward, until the sufferer can no longer control his or her breathing, and dies. In short, lyrical chaptersthe book free-associates between memories, while sticking to a rough chronological orderManguso recounts the harrowing indignities of her treatments, frequent relapses, descents into steroid-induced clinical depression, crucial college sexual experiences had and missed, and trips back and forth between schools, hospitals and her parents' Massachusetts home. What makes this lightning-quick book extraordinary is not just Manguso's deadpan delivery of often unthinkable details, nor her poet's struggle with the damaging metaphors of disease, but the compassion she acquires as she comes to understand her pain in relation to the pain of others: "suffering, however much and whatever type, shrinks or swells to fit the shape and size of a life." (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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What People are Saying About This
At the white-hot center of this book burns the intelligence and wit of Sarah Manguso, one of the most brilliantly talented writers at work today. She is a clear-eyed visionary, a connoisseur of the penetrating declarative, an unsentimental chronicler of the horrifying insult of illness and of the desires that drive us headlong into adulthood. With a poet's brevity, with riveting narrative energy, with searing insight and compassion, Manguso leads us into hell and back again; every step of the way, there's the thrill of knowing we're in the hands of a new literary master. --Julie Orringer, author of How to Breathe Underwater
Meet the Author
Sarah Manguso is the author of two books of poetry, Siste Viator and The Captain Lands in Paradise, and the short story collection Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape.
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