Sarah Manguso

Published May 1, 2009 by Graham

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Sarah Manguso is an renowned young writer best known for her memoir, The Two Kinds of Decay, which chronicles a long, frustrating battle with an overbearing autoimmune disease. I’d like to point your attention towards a collection of Manguso’s short (really, really short) stories published by McSweeney’s in 2007. Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape is included in a set with two other tiny books from Dave Eggers and Deb Olin Unferth. Together, the collection is referred to as One Hundred and Forty-Five Stories in a Small Box. With a careful, dry wit Manguso recounts minute scenes of quiet revelation, tragicomic devestation, and internal humiliation. Lasting no more than a paragraph each, the stories have been trimmed of any superfluous indulgence, getting straight to the point with a deceptively lethargic sense of urgency.

The espresso machine, which I care for as if part of my own body, has been misused again. Someone has thrown away one of the metal cups by accident, and the pump has been left on too long. It stays unclean the whole day. I have posted a list of instructions and given a demonstration, and people still cannot or will not care for it as I do. I weep as I try to fix the machine, realizing that even if I haven’t convinced the others it’s part of me, I seem, at least, to have convinced myself.

And one more, just for kicks:

One Saturday my piano teacher calls everyone out to the back porch and points to a nest full of just-hatched chicks. In his thick accent, he delivers an obviously practiced line: “It’s our little modernity wart.” No one laughs. He says it again: “It’s our little modernity wart.” Still no one acknowledges his line. He says it again. And then, improbably, he says it a fourth time. He turns to me, knowing I will have to say something. My teacher’s need for affirmation disturbs me. I understand then that his genius in the studio does not translate to genius elsewhere.

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