The Two Kinds of Decay

Acclaimed poet Sarah Manguso thought she was suffering from a weeks-long head cold during her junior year at Harvard in 1995, before tingling, numbness, and shortness of breath suggested something more mysterious -- and dire. She soon found herself in the intensive care unit of the local hospital, where they administered the first of 50 rounds of aphersis, an excruciating four-hour process of removing and replacing toxic components in the blood. Thus began Manguso?s nine-year battle with a disease so rare it has no name. Its closest approx-
imation is "chronic idio-
phathic demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy" -- in other words, her immune system was decimating her nervous system. With spare, precise prose, gallows humor, and piercing observation, Manguso seizes and artfully organizes shards of memories of paralysis, breathlessness, extreme pain, and terror. She "grew used to being sick and looking forward to recovering" only to become "used to having no prognosis at all, because with a mysterious disease, all things are possible." Manguso masterfully evokes her yearnings to indulge her 20-something appetites (e.g., sex and alcohol) while instead forced to confront mortality -- enduring misdiagnoses and interminable hospital stays, encounters with former classmates turned nurses, and the death of a former lover. The Two Kinds of Decay is an indelible meditation on remembering what one longs to forget, by a woman emerging from the exile of illness.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."