A dazzling philosophical investigation of the challenge of living in the present, by a brilliant practitioner of the new essay.
In her third book, which continues to define the contours of the contemporary essay, Sarah Manguso confronts a meticulous diary that she has kept for twenty-five years. "I wanted to end each day with a record of everything that had ever happened," she explains. But this simple statement belies a terror that she might forget something, that she might miss something important. Maintaining that diary, now 800,000 words, had become, until recently, a kind of spiritual practice.
Then Manguso became pregnant and had a child, and these two Copernican events generated an amnesia that put her into a different relationship with the need to document herself amid ongoing time.
Ongoingness is a spare, meditative work that stands in stark contrast to the volubility of the diary — it is a haunting account of mortality and impermanence, of how we struggle to find clarity in the chaos of time that rushes around and over and through us.
At twenty-one, just as she was starting to comprehend the puzzles of adulthood, Sarah Manguso was faced with another: a wildly unpredictable autoimmune disease that appeared suddenly and tore through her twenties, 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 struggle: arduous blood cleansings, collapsed veins, multiple chest catheters, depression, the deaths of friends and strangers, addiction, and, worst of all for a writer, the trite metaphors that accompany prolonged illness. A book of tremendous grace, transcends the very notion of what an illness story can and should be.