Ongoingness

Sarah Manguso

Sometimes I think there is an order you need to read books by certain authors; maybe the chronological sequence gives you a context of their development that helps you progress with them, but other times a truly excellent later work will make you more interested to read less mature works than if you had started with those. And after reading Ongoingness, I think I should have waited to read 300 Arguments, because for me Ongoingness was probably the set up I needed. These books have very different intentions, but Sarah Manguso uses a similar writing approach of short, aphoristic entries.

In Ongoingness she chronicles her obsession with keeping a daily diary. ““I wanted to end each day with a record of everything that had ever happened.” But as she transitions into motherhood, her relationship with the diary changes, she begins to see the diary as a hopeless act of trying to hold on to every moment rather than appreciating them as they pass by. Documenting each and every possible memory becomes less crucial than she felt when she was younger, which leads to fascinating discoveries about our desires to archive our lives.

Shortly after the turn of the millennium, I read the diary from beginning to end. Finding nothing of consequence in 1996, I threw the year away.

I’d already shredded the volumes I wrote in high school — not to keep them from others but to keep them from myself. So it seems I didn’t want to remember everything.

I wanted to remember what I could bear to remember and convince myself it was all there was.

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