The two kinds of decay /

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Main Author: Manguso, Sarah, 1974-
Format: Book
Published:New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
Edition:1st ed.
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Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In 1995, when Rome Prize-winning poet and fiction writer Manguso (Siste Viator) was a junior at Harvard, she suffered the first attack of a rare autoimmune disease called CIDP, which would turn her body against itself. CIDP attacks the myelin coating of the peripheral nerves. The result is increasing numbness, followed by paralysis spreading from the extremities inward, until the sufferer can no longer control his or her breathing, and dies. In short, lyrical chapters--the book free-associates between memories, while sticking to a rough chronological order--Manguso recounts the harrowing indignities of her treatments, frequent relapses, descents into steroid-induced clinical depression, crucial college sexual experiences had and missed, and trips back and forth between schools, hospitals and her parents' Massachusetts home. What makes this lightning-quick book extraordinary is not just Manguso's deadpan delivery of often unthinkable details, nor her poet's struggle with the damaging metaphors of disease, but the compassion she acquires as she comes to understand her pain in relation to the pain of others: "suffering, however much and whatever type, shrinks or swells to fit the shape and size of a life." (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Frank account of the autoimmune disorder that consumed the author in her 20s. The disease that plagued her in various ways for nine years had ravaging effects on Rome Prize winner Manguso (Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape, 2007, etc.), whose poetry and prose have never shied away from staring a subject in the face. In short chapters of slim paragraphs buffered by white spaces bearing as much emotive force as the poetic statements they insulate, she carefully unfurls the details of her eventual diagnosis of CIDP (chronic idiopathic demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy), akin to Guillain-Barr syndrome. Manguso's condition first manifested in February 1995 as a head cold that wouldn't quit; by March it had escalated to numb feet and almost complete paralysis. She landed in the hospital and underwent her first apheresis, a four-hour procedure that took her blood's plasma (whose "devil antibodies" were stripping the myelin from her peripheral nerves and causing paralysis), removed it and replaced it with the plasma of others. The author endured more than 20 of these vampiric procedures before a central line was surgically implanted in her chest and a new neurologist recognized that curative treatment didn't involve apheresis but steroid and gamma globulin therapy. Manguso's abundant analytic and compositional gifts are evident throughout this harrowing memoir, from her expressions of hard-won appreciation for the relativity of suffering to a nuanced account of how serious illness can alter one's conception of time, robbing the afflicted of both compassion and accurate recall. "I waited seven years to forget just enough--so that when I tried to remember, I could do it thoroughly," she writes. "There are only a few things to remember now, and the lost things are absolutely, comfortingly gone." A powerful, direct examination of memory and suffering. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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