cover image Liars


Sarah Manguso. Hogarth, $28 (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-24125-7

The second novel from essayist and poet Manguso (after Very Cold People) paints an excoriating portrait of a marriage. In brisk prose, Manguso tells the story of John and Jane, who meet as emerging artists and discover, over the course of their 14-year union, just how “adversarial” a marriage can become. Jane, who narrates, is a writer deeply committed to her craft. While working on a book-length poem, she meets John, a multidisciplinary artist, and she’s relieved to find a kindred spirit, someone “for whom making art was central and being in a relationship was incidental.” But after getting married and becoming parents, Jane realizes John is “the main character” and she’s “his wife.” Consequently, she “floated face down in housewifery,” cooking, cleaning, and taking charge of moving the family from New York City to Los Angeles after John launches a film production company there, then back to New York after the company fires him. When John eventually leaves her, she fantasizes “about shitting in my hand and smearing... the shit into the backs of all his paintings.” Manguso’s barbed sentences push the plot forward at a brisk pace. The author is at the top of her game. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (July)