I’m not a very emotional person, but Sarah Manguso picked up my emotions like a plastic sack of eggs and threw them against a brick wall. Reading this wonderful memoir, “Two Kinds of Decay,” (5 stars, btw) was a decision that would result in me crying (not literally, but I would have if I had an ounce of emotions) because it reminded me why I love reading so damn much.
While keeping her distance from an obviously horrendous and traumatic experience, Manguso tells an honest, quick paced, truthful, and emotional story of her life and the disease that interrupted it. At a young age, Manguso was hospitalized with chronic idiopathic demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (CIDP), a persistent form of Guillain-Barré syndrome: an autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system, causing spreading numbness and paralysis. If the disease wasn’t treated regularly with her blood being cycled, removing the bad blood (or plasma) with new, fresh, and clean blood, than it would have spread to her lungs and suffocated her. Instead, she was left with this half hearted, poor excuse for a ‘treatment,’ which really just left her in the hospital, often paralyzed, and unable to live a normal life.
The story is told in what can only be described as flash nonfiction essays strung together to create a memoir read like a novel. It is not in chronological order, which fits with Manguso’s hesitance to exist in space-time, but once read, you can get a decent overall picture of what her life was like in those years. You are able to see the empathy in the people around her, or really, lack there of. She makes clear the struggles, the successes, the metaphors, the fears, and the desires.
I don’t want to go further in fear of reducing this wonderful memoir to a simple blog post that does not do it justice, but let me just say this: you can read this in one sitting and you should. Then re-read it. Then take a break to dwell on what you just read. Then read it again.
Experience it because it deserves to be experienced.