cover image Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

Sarah Manguso. Graywolf, $20 (104p) ISBN 978-1-5559-7703-0

The subtitle of Manguso’s elegant, slim meditation is both deceptive and true. Though she despises endings—time, she reiterates, is not a journey from one fixed point to another but rather a never-ending continuum—she wants to explore what it means to end something that for so long made up a crucial part of her identity: for 25 years, Manguso kept a diary, a document that’s now more than 800,000 words. Rather than just recording momentous events, she admits that “I couldn’t face the end of a day without a record of everything that had ever happened.” Curiously, this new volume, which is not the diary—an afterword discusses her decision process whether or not to excerpt it—but a reflection on the process itself and what it meant to her to be so focused on documenting and giving meaning to moments that might, in fact, have no meaning. It would be too simplistic—and nothing about Manguso’s prose, despite its sparseness, is simple—to conflate her role as a mother with her changing views on the nature of time and the meaning, or lack thereof, of moments. Structured somewhat like a prose poem—there’s more white space on each page than there is text—Manguso’s essay is both grounding and heady, the spark of a larger, important conversation that makes readers all the more eager for her future output. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit. (Mar.)