To write a diary is to make a series of choices about what to omit, what to forget.
A memorable sandwich, an unmemorable flught of stairs. A memorable bit of conversation surrounded by chatter no one records.
Sarah Manguso’s new book is a distillation of what she has felt, learned, forgotten and so on from 25 years of keeping a diary. In the afterword she explains her choice not to enclose any of the actual diary, not the least of which is because each memory and episode is preceeded by another and leads into the next, so what can be simply pulled out and examined with any reliability? So she refers to the documents, asking us to take on faith that it exists and in doing so creates an elegant rumination on her life as lived, as is being lived, as will be lived. Ongoingness.
Remember the lessons of the past. imagine possibilities of the future. And attend to the present, the only part of time that doesn’t require the use of memory.
Her thoughts on her life as a young woman, as a writer and now as a mother, flow and ebb, turning back in on themselves. Such navel gazing could be tiresome in lesser hands but she approaches things with a frankness that is rather refreshing. A rather clear-eyed look down the barrel of time that each of us can appreciate. The memory of this book may mutate or vanish altogether but it’s beuaty and courage is here now and that’s enough.