Saturday, September 1, 2012

Two Kinds of Decay

Last night, I started reading Sarah Manguso's Two Kinds of Decay, and I couldn't put it down. I finished it at about 1am and am still thinking about the story this afternoon. I love her poet's-language and the way that she pushes through the story -- diagnosis, treatments (many painful treatments), leaving and re-entering and leaving school again to live with her parents -- without falling into the pitfalls of dwelling too much on emotion. She's also funny at times:

"My blood plasma had filled with poison made by my immune system. My immune system was trying to destroy my nervous system. It was a misperception that caused me a lot of trouble" (14).

Understated and direct. Woven in shorts that focus on the trajectory of her life with the disease, sometimes interspersed with memories of the past, after the second half of the story -- this is a brilliant arrangement of parts.

And this line is just, so, perfect, in response to a doctor who took pity on her and told her that she'd "already endured something much worse than most people have to endure in an entire regular-length life":

"The doctor was older than my parents, and he must have had plenty of younger patients, but he didn't understand yet that suffering, however much and whatever type, shrinks or swells to fit the size and shape of a life" (83-84).

I love this book.