23 February 2015

Review: Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso

Ongoingness by Sarah MangusoIn just less than a hundred pages Sarah Manguso talks about her intimate relationship with her twenty-five-year-old daily habit of writing about her life. At the beginning of Ongoingness: The End of a Diary, she admits:

I couldn't face the end of a day without a record of everything that had ever happened (p. 3)
She kept a diary both so she wouldn't forget and so she could "stop thinking about what had happened and be done with it."

In more than eight hundred thousand words (she destroyed some of her journals over the years), she wrote to preserve memories, stop time, and maybe find some immortality. But with the birth of her son, Manguso gained a different perspective on those very things: memory, time, and the future.

The beautiful, succinct passages that make up Ongoingness ultimately come around to the realization that the true repository of memories and ultimate marker of time are not in meticulously kept diaries but are in the flash and sparks of new generations, in a "world of light unending."

I've read this slim volume twice now and will likely read it again. Sarah Manguso's thoughts have a sharp, crisp focus, yet her prose is poetic and flowing. I've marked many passages that need my fuller attention, that call to me to sift through the layers. Ongoingness will be with me for a while.

A few quotes:
Today was very full, but the problem isn't today. It's tomorrow. I'd be able to recover from today if it weren't for tomorrow. There should be extra days, buffer days, between the real days. (p. 11)

Marriage isn't a fixed experience. It's a continuous one. It changes form but is still always there, a rivulet under a frozen stream. Now, when I feel a break in the continuity of till death do us part, I think to myself, Get back in the river. (p. 25)

In my experience nursing is waiting. The mother becomes the background against which the baby lives, becomes time. (p. 53)
Published by Graywolf Press, March 3, 2015
ISBN-13: 9781555977030
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

10 comments:

bermudaonion 2/23/15, 8:10 AM  

Hm, maybe I should start a diary - she makes it sound rather cathartic. This sounds good to me!

Karen White 2/23/15, 8:39 AM  

Beautiful writing!

Megan 2/23/15, 9:32 AM  

This doesn't sound like something that would normally appeal to me, but the quotes you shared have me interested. I could definitely get behind the "stop thinking about what had happened and be done with it philosophy." Also, buffer days are absolutely necessary.

Thanks for the great review - I'll be putting this one on my wish list.

Leah @ Books Speak Volumes 2/23/15, 9:35 AM  

I've been really curious about this book, so I was excited to see your review! I'm glad to hear it's just as lovely as it sounds :)

rhonda 2/23/15, 9:38 AM  

Based on your review I just preordered!

rhapsodyinbooks 2/23/15, 11:52 AM  

I don't know if I would necessarily be interested in someone else's musings, if you know what I mean.

jilllora 2/23/15, 10:44 PM  

Gorgeous! I've always loved the idea of keeping a journal, but I can never stick with it. I'm always terribly impressed by those who do.

Kailana 2/25/15, 9:13 AM  

This sounds really good! I am going to have to read it at some point. :)

Daryl 2/25/15, 3:22 PM  

i never have written a diary .. tho often my blog feels like one at least to me ... too much reality in a diary .. i will stick to fiction ...

Shaina 3/8/15, 10:31 PM  

This sounds great. I can really connect with the quotation about needing "filler days" to recover from and prepare for more real ones. If only!

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