More Manguso Memories


After yesterday’s post introducing Sarah Manguso in Manguso Magnificent, we’re back with more.

Sarah Manguso, Ongoingness: The End of a Diary:

I assumed that maximizing the breadth and depth of my autobiographical memory would be good for me, force me to write and live with greater care, but in the last thing one writer ever published, when he was almost ninety years old, he wrote a terrible warning. He said he’d liked remembering almost as much as he’d liked living but that in his old age , if he indulged in certain nostalgias, he would get lost in his memories. He’d have to wander them all night until morning. He responded to my fan letter when he was ninety. When he was ninety-one, he died. I just wanted to retain the whole memory of my life, to control the itinerary of my visitations , and to forget what I wanted to forget. Good luck with that, whispered the dead. 

And here:

The least contaminated memory might exist in the brain of a patient with amnesia— in the brain of someone who cannot contaminate it by remembering it. With each recollection, the memory of it further degrades. The memory and maybe the fact of every kiss start disappearing the moment the two mouths part.

And here:

When I’m back with my own memories I drink a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. It helps soften their pressure, but the effect fades. Then I think I should practice grace for what I’ve been given to remember, but whatever I do, I can’t seem to forget what I want to forget. And then I think I don’t need to write anything down ever again. Nothing’s gone, not really. Everything that’s ever happened has left its little wound.



  1. Last night, a friend said to me, “thinking about the past brings pain; thinking about the future brings anxiety; being in the present brings peace”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your friend has wonderful writing prospects. Check out the similarities here:

      Living in a dream of the future is considered a character flaw. Living in the past, bathed in nostalgia, is also considered a character flaw. Living in the present moment is hailed as spiritually admirable, but truly ignoring the lessons of history or failing to plan for tomorrow are considered character flaws. I still needed to record the present moment before I could enter the next one, but I wanted to know how to inhabit time in a way that wasn’t a character flaw.
      ~ Sarah Manguso, Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Similar to what Maggie Smith said in an interview, “My future has been.” That brings me closer to hoarding or trying to hoard all memories, not unlike squirrels gathering nuts for winter. There is a [somewhat] chaotic gathering to that energy however, since my Winter when it arrives will be a forever one…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. She really has a unique expression and style of writing. When I read a paragraph, it makes me contemplate what she means and how she thinks! Good writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Okay- I’m going to get my hands on her book. This so resonates with a revelation I had in one early morning recently — too big for this little comment box and too raw for quick interpretation.Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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