The Aphorisms of Sarah Manguso

I just discovered Sarah Manguso, and I like her.

Austin Kleon, an author I like and follow, tweeted about her book, 300 Arguments. I downloaded the digital sample and read it. It’s basically a book filled with 300 aphorisms. I’ll admit that’s not a word that’s common to my vocabulary. I thought I knew what it was but I looked it up anyway, and I was pretty much spot on. Aphorisms are statements or thoughtful observations that contain a truth. And Manguso’s 300 are thoughtful indeed. Here are a few of my favorites:

What’s worse: Offending someone or lying to someone? Saying something stupid when it’s your turn, or not saying anything? Tell me which, and I’ll tell you your problem.

The trouble with comparing yourself to others is that there are too many others. Using all others as your control group, all your worst fears and all your fondest hopes are at once true. Your are good; you are bad; you are abnormal; you are just like everyone else.

Having a worst regret betrays your belief that one misstep caused all your undeserved misfortune.

You’ll never know what your mother went through.

I wish I could ask the future whether I should give up or keep trying. Then again, what if trying, even in the face of certain failure, feels as good as accomplishing? What if it’s even better? And here we are again.

I don’t write long forms because I’m not interested in artificial deceleration. As soon as I see the glimmer of a consequence, I pull the trigger.

I particularly like that last one. I don’t think I’m impressed by long form much these days either. There’s no desire in me to write another book. My daily blog posts are usually short. And I just shared with you flash fiction stories I wrote.

I’ve never been impressed much with books that are over 500 pages! (300 Arguments is just 104.) I just feel like our attention spans are getting smaller. I appreciate any author who can write a good juicy long book and keep the reader captivated, but that doesn’t happen often for me.

It’s kind of like joke writing in a way. Or sketches. I enjoy working on smaller pieces these days and find it much more rewarding.

If you are looking for some inspiration, of any kind, check out this book! I liked it so much I bought a hard copy.

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