10 hours after voluntarily admitting himself into psychiatric care, then slipping out unnoticed, Sarah Manguso’s friend stepped in front of a train. In the years that ensued, Ms. Manguso sought to make sense of his death and her grief. A former poet, she had originally planned to write a novelization of those ten hours. As time went on, it became clear she didn’t want to make up a story and the project foundered. This episodic work moves back and forth in time, details some of her own experiences with thoughts of suicide and reactions to antipsychotics. She even speculates that a side effect of such a drug, akathisia, could have contributed to his urge to throw himself into the path of the oncoming train. But mostly that’s just a mechanism for her trying to come to terms with the thing, not an outright indictment. The writing is affecting and clear, unflinching and raw at times.
Don’t tell me about the rich variety of mourning customs throughout the world from the beginning of civilization to now–I don’t want to know about customs. I don’t care to know how others act out the playlet of their ruination.
I just want to know about my particular grief, which is unknowable, like everyone else’s.
This quiet little book gave me a lot to think about and I look forward to delving into more of her work.