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15

Perfection

1
terms
8
notes

nonfiction. this was shockingly good

Manguso, S. (2020). Perfection. The Paris Review, 233, pp. 15-23

15

When I was an “emerging” artist I wanted only to finish emerging. But not knowing what I would become, not knowing the circumference of my life—I never expected to solve those mysteries, and once they were solved, I missed them. I didn’t know I’d miss them.

—p.15 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago

When I was an “emerging” artist I wanted only to finish emerging. But not knowing what I would become, not knowing the circumference of my life—I never expected to solve those mysteries, and once they were solved, I missed them. I didn’t know I’d miss them.

—p.15 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago
16

On an autumn afternoon we sat in the back seat of a small car. There were too many people in the back seat. Our legs touched. Hello, he said. My left side burned. I can feel the pressure of his body, all our clothes between us. I’ve been trying to write about this for thirty years.

I want to dig up everyone who was in that car and drag them all home, holding on to their melting faces, screaming into them, Was any of this real? Did any of it happen?

We wrote notes to each other and left them on each other’s drawing boards in the art studio. Fifteen years ago I threw them away. They were getting in the way of what I wanted to remember, which was the distance between us. I didn’t realize at the time that I controlled it totally, that I’d invented it to maintain my ecstatic debasement.

—p.16 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago

On an autumn afternoon we sat in the back seat of a small car. There were too many people in the back seat. Our legs touched. Hello, he said. My left side burned. I can feel the pressure of his body, all our clothes between us. I’ve been trying to write about this for thirty years.

I want to dig up everyone who was in that car and drag them all home, holding on to their melting faces, screaming into them, Was any of this real? Did any of it happen?

We wrote notes to each other and left them on each other’s drawing boards in the art studio. Fifteen years ago I threw them away. They were getting in the way of what I wanted to remember, which was the distance between us. I didn’t realize at the time that I controlled it totally, that I’d invented it to maintain my ecstatic debasement.

—p.16 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago
16

At the twenty-fifth reunion, a presentiment of the grave, now that all the girls from your high school class have borne the last of their children.

—p.16 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago

At the twenty-fifth reunion, a presentiment of the grave, now that all the girls from your high school class have borne the last of their children.

—p.16 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago

(noun) a train of attendants; retinue / (noun) procession / (noun) a funeral procession

16

Pigeons roost in the cathedral and shit down onto the cortege, and so the burial begins.

—p.16 by Sarah Manguso
uncertain
3 months, 2 weeks ago

Pigeons roost in the cathedral and shit down onto the cortege, and so the burial begins.

—p.16 by Sarah Manguso
uncertain
3 months, 2 weeks ago
18

You give up your job to move somewhere for your spouse’s job, which pays better than yours ever will, so the marriage wins. It happens five times in a row, in five consecutive years. You’d never have agreed to this, but the marriage keeps winning! The trick is to train yourself to value the marriage above yourself, to feel as if you win when the marriage wins. After the fifth move, I barely even tried to make friends, barely arranged the house, barely cared what it looked like, what I looked like. Marriage is a machine that deforms whatever self you once were into an accommodating engine.

But then there is the opposite agony of the pristine, unmarked self.

—p.18 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago

You give up your job to move somewhere for your spouse’s job, which pays better than yours ever will, so the marriage wins. It happens five times in a row, in five consecutive years. You’d never have agreed to this, but the marriage keeps winning! The trick is to train yourself to value the marriage above yourself, to feel as if you win when the marriage wins. After the fifth move, I barely even tried to make friends, barely arranged the house, barely cared what it looked like, what I looked like. Marriage is a machine that deforms whatever self you once were into an accommodating engine.

But then there is the opposite agony of the pristine, unmarked self.

—p.18 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago
20

Having nothing to write isn’t writer’s block. It’s just the dormant phase of the work. I used to write all through this phase, and it looked like productivity. It wasn’t.

The concept of writer’s block depends on the assumption that whatever you’re producing, it’s not enough.

I need to insulate myself from even the idea of productivity in order to get anything of value done. But even the idea of getting it done is evidence of the pollution of the act.

—p.20 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Having nothing to write isn’t writer’s block. It’s just the dormant phase of the work. I used to write all through this phase, and it looked like productivity. It wasn’t.

The concept of writer’s block depends on the assumption that whatever you’re producing, it’s not enough.

I need to insulate myself from even the idea of productivity in order to get anything of value done. But even the idea of getting it done is evidence of the pollution of the act.

—p.20 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago
21

Crossing an ocean is a good metaphor for reading a book, but it’s not a good metaphor for writing one unless the crossing takes place before the age of astronomy, and the captain is ready to fall off the edge of the world.

—p.21 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Crossing an ocean is a good metaphor for reading a book, but it’s not a good metaphor for writing one unless the crossing takes place before the age of astronomy, and the captain is ready to fall off the edge of the world.

—p.21 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago
22

Only an idiot wouldn’t be depressed, I think, and it makes me smile.

Depression keeps me from writing and tells me to blame everything else.

After I give a reading, a worried teenager asks, Do you think you’re a good writer?

People ask, What are you depressed about? But there is no about.

—p.22 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Only an idiot wouldn’t be depressed, I think, and it makes me smile.

Depression keeps me from writing and tells me to blame everything else.

After I give a reading, a worried teenager asks, Do you think you’re a good writer?

People ask, What are you depressed about? But there is no about.

—p.22 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago
23

A few years ago I had a headache after which I was a different person. It changed the way I thought about myself. Forever after, I’d know I had a limit. I don’t remember the pain, exactly, but I remember my certainty. I trust it.

—p.23 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago

A few years ago I had a headache after which I was a different person. It changed the way I thought about myself. Forever after, I’d know I had a limit. I don’t remember the pain, exactly, but I remember my certainty. I trust it.

—p.23 by Sarah Manguso 3 months, 2 weeks ago