What do you write?
I used to say book-length essays, but the inevitable follow-up question — essays about what? — would take me to another dodge, first-person narrative nonfiction… and seconds later I’d admit, I write about myself.
Now I just say the word: memoir.
I’m 38 years old and I’m working on my third memoir.
As I wrote in the first one, I have never shot heroin in an alley with a needle I knew was dirty, killed anyone by mistake or on purpose, spent even one night in jail, lost a limb, watched anyone burn to death, had to choose the child that would live, seen active duty, lost everything in a flood…
Which is to say: I have almost no story to tell, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that almost no story. A lot of thinking about almost nothing.
In that first memoir, during the seventh year of a remission, I tried to remember the experience of being chronically ill.
In my second memoir, during the third year after his death, I tried to remember my friend.
In the third one I seem to be trying to find a reason to stop (or to continue?) my ongoing 20-year, 800,000-word diary.
By the judgment even I would make of myself, if I didn’t know myself, I contain a malevolent, bottomless narcissism.
Read more of Sarah Manguso’s original essay for Powells.com here: http://powells.us/Zceahv