Erica Schwiegershausen, Wag’s Revue: When I was thinking about what I wanted to talk with you about, I struggled a little with the idea that the difference between talking about writing about grief and simply talking about grief feels sort of slippery. Maybe because writing about grief seems particularly immersive, in that it requires, to some extent, that you re-engage with the grief?
Sarah Manguso: Well, assuming that we’re talking about my book The Guardians, I think immersive is a great word that I haven’t really used to describe the book but I believe I will from now on. And the experience of re-immersing in grief, or really just continuing to be immersed in grief, made the book somewhat different from the book that I published prior to that one. The first one, The Two Kinds of Decay, I wrote seven years after an experience was over, whereas The Guardians was written from within an ongoing experience, essentially: my grieving a friend. So, definitely the experience of writing it was different, and I’m told that the experience of reading the books is also different, probably just because of the points in time at which they were written.
ES: I’ve heard some writers of autobiography say that they end up remembering the book more than they remember the actual years of their life that the book is about.
SM: I can tell you one thing for sure — and this is true of both The Two Kinds of Decay and The Guardians. After the book became this object external to my brain, my memory engine, I forgot so much of it. Especially with The Two Kinds of Decay. It was reconstructed from memory; I didn’t research it.