300 Arguments

Sarah Manguso

The premise of this slim offering is contained in one of the 300 snippets: “Think of this as a short book composed entirely of what I hoped would be a long book’s quotable passages.” While I definitely found some quotable moments in the quotable passages (which is kind of funny!), it didn’t really work for me as a book; it just didn’t feel crafted. Some of the “arguments” are funny or sardonic, some feel rather profound, while others strike me as throwaways. The trouble is the ones that do sound like a long book’s quotable passages just beg for the rest of the book, and the rest are fragments for the sake of the premise.

This one suggests it was purely an assignment or a game of numbers:

“I used to write these while playing hooky on what I hoped would be my magnum opus. Assigning myself to write 300 of them was like forcing myself to chain-smoke until I puked, but it didn’t work. I didn’t puke.”

Well, neither did I, but does that make it art?