300 Arguments – Sarah Manguso

Think of this as a short book composed entirely of what I hoped would be a long book’s quotable passages

That’s one of the “arguments”, which neatly describes the book. It’s easy to review a book like this: all I have to do is quote a few of the aphorisms.

Whatever you’re feeling, billions already have. Feel for them.

The trouble with letting people see you at your worst isn’t that they’ll remember; it’s that you’ll remember.

There truly are two kinds of people: you and everyone else.

It’s wonderful to see a rather vague thought I have had many times, put into a neat and concise package like this. It is almost literally true that every one is a gem. I don’t want to quote too many, otherwise I will just be copying out the book. Maybe just one more.

I look at young people and marvel at their ignorance of what’s coming, and the old people look at me.

Heh. Actually maybe one last one. I have long been a fan of Friedrich Nietzsche’s aphoristic writings, but one of his most famous sayings gets a nice riposte here:

What fails to kill me will kill me eventually.

Even though each of the 300 arguments stands alone, they do collectively build up a picture of the author, her life, and a way of looking at the world. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts in a way that reminds me of Davids Markson’s This Is Not A Novel. Anyway, it has inspired me to seek out more of Manguso’s writing.

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