Two Kinds of Decay

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Memoirs, Non-fiction

I had Sarah Manguso‘s memoir, The Two Kinds of Decay for years, but never opened the book until two weeks ago. I picked it up from my shelf randomly and I’m glad I did. I’ve always liked the way she writes.

Sarah’s Illness

While Sarah Manguso was in second-year college, she developed a neurological disease, it was very uncommon, it didn’t even have a name. Reading her words on her illness is calming. Her words make this easier. Makes me feel silly for thinking whatever I’m going through is painful.

Below are some of my favourite quotes from the book:

  • Everything that happens, happens in a moment that follows from all the other moments in spacetime. As I see it, that’s the main problem with neurological symptoms that can’t be measure in numbers yet, and why many of my symptoms weren’t treated… My symptoms were so unlikely, by the book, that despite my reports of them, there were assumed not to exist.

The decay

  • The fear of death came once, and that was it. It was like getting an immunity to the chicken pox. It never goes away. I am learning not to remember it.
  • I felt no antipathy, just a certainty that his pity would accrue to me, and would grow in me like the sea of antibodies with which I was already invisibly killing myself, and that I couldn’t take in any additional poison.
  • My college boyfriend called the day before his graduation, I said hello, and then I said I didn’t want to see hi or speak with him. I already felt the numbness creeping into my hands, my face, my tongue. The antibodies would stay there until I replaced my plasma or died. Severe all complications now, the numbness said, no matter how dear.
  • Having spent my twenties expecting to die, I turned thirty and arrived in the afterlife with nothing left to do. I wrote to an older friend, asking him what I should do now that I was thirty, having spent all my twenties expecting to die. He wrote back that I should shoot for thirty-one.

The Two Kinds of Decay

“Nothing happens in a moment. Nothing happens quickly. If you think something’s happened quickly, you’re looking at only a part of it… Nothing happens in an instant. Nothing starts happening and nothing finishes happening.”

  • This is suffering’s lesson: pay attention. The important part might come in a form you do not recognise.”
  • Everything that happens is the last time it happens. We see things only as their own fatal brightness, and there is nothing after that brightness. You can’t learn from remembering. You can’t learn from guessing. You can learn only from moving forward at the rate you are moved, as brightness, into brightness.”

This 2016, I’m reading 24 books. How about you? Join the Reading Challenge!

Two Kinds of Decay
By (author)  Sarah Manguso

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