The Two Kinds of Decay: A Memoir

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9780374280123: The Two Kinds of Decay: A Memoir

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.

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About 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.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

  The BeginningThe disease has been in remission seven years. Now I can try to remember what happened. Not understand. Just remember.
 For seven years I tried not to remember much because there was too much to remember, and I didn’t want to fall any further behind with the events of my life. I still don’t have a vegetable garden. I still haven’t been to France. I have gone to bed with enough people that they seem like actual people now, but while I was going to bed with them I thought I was catching up. I am sorry. I had lost what seemed like a lot of time.
 I waited seven years to forget just enough—so that when I tried to remember, I could do it thoroughly. There are only a few things to remember now, and the lost things are absolutely, comfortingly gone.
 I wrote down some things while the disease was happening—there are notes from one hospital stay and a few notes from the sickest years—but it isn’t much.
 Sometimes I think the content of those days might not have finished happening. It might have begun then, in 1995, but I needed to save the rest of it until I was stronger.
 The events that began in 1995 might keep happening to me as long as things can happen to me. Think of spacetime, 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.THE TWO KINDS OF DECAY. Copyright © 2008 by Sarah Manguso. All rights reserved. For information, address Picador, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

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