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The Guardians: An Elegy for a Friend [Kindle Edition]

Sarah Manguso
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Macmillan
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Book Description

The Guardians opens with a story from the July 24, 2008, edition of the Riverdale Press that begins, "An unidentified white man was struck and instantly killed by a Metro-North train last night as it pulled into the station on West 254th Street." Sarah Manguso writes: "The train's engineer told the police that the man was alone and that he jumped. The police officers pulled the body from the track and found no identification. The train's 425 passengers were transferred to another train and delayed about twenty minutes."

The Guardians is an elegy for Manguso's friend Harris, two years after he escaped from a psychiatric hospital and jumped under that train. The narrative contemplates with unrelenting clarity their crowded postcollege apartment, Manguso's fellowship year in Rome, Harris's death and the year that followed--the year of mourning and the year of Manguso's marriage. As Harris is revealed both to the reader and to the narrator, the book becomes a monument to their intimacy and inability to express their love to each other properly, and to the reverberating effects of Harris's presence in and absence from Manguso's life. There is grief in the book but also humor, as Manguso marvels at the unexpected details that constitute a friendship. The Guardians explores the insufficiency of explanation and the necessity of the imagination in making sense of anything.

Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Sarah Manguso's prose elegy for a friend who died when he jumped onto the tracks as a Metro-North train pulled into the 254th Street station in Riverdale is odd, fragmentary, obstinately unbalanced, with a flatness of affect that speaks to the inadequacy of words. Manguso's embrace of rhetorical failure itself constitutes an unusual and strangely affecting lament. —Jenny Davidson


“Sarah Manguso’s The Guardians goes to hell and back . . . The book majors in bone-on-bone rawness, exposed nerve endings . . . With The Guardians, I did something I do when I love a book: start covering my mouth when I read; this is very pure and elemental, and I wanted nothing coming between me and the page.” —David Shields, Los Angeles Review of Books

“In The Guardians, Sarah Manguso holds up two kinds of love: the love for someone willfully at one’s side (the new husband) and the love for someone willfully gone (the dear friend, a suicide). The limitations and complexities of romantic love played out in the present are here haunted on all sides by the simple expansiveness of platonic love, especially as seen through the lens of mourning. The living cannot compete with the dead. But marriage has its rights before any friendship. The mystery of where Manguso’s heart will land propels us through this vivid meditation.” —Sheila Heti, author of How Should a Person Be?

“Sarah Manguso’s is a disarming and yet infectiously charming style, one that mixes intimate personal reflection with curiously distanced observations of the world. What this ends up feeling like while reading The Guardians is a tension that’s both inviting and simultaneously alienating, a wounded sort of intellect that wants to protect and yet expose itself to the reader. It’s a beautifully sad meditation—as exhilarating as it is devastating.” —John D’Agata, author of About a Mountain

Product Details

  • File Size: 216 KB
  • Print Length: 124 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0374167249
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (February 28, 2012)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00603TWEQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,654 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The death of a loved one, especially a suicide, brings clusters of people murmuring, "I don't know what to say." Manguso "waited what seems an arbitrary, meaningless length of time." This lyrical book is an eulogy in the best sense of the world. Manguso has consented to explore the range of her emotions on the subject, regardless of how they may reveal lovely, and not so lovely sides, of her grief. As the book admits, "I tried so hard not to notice Harris's death, I barely remember it."

Harris was her dear friend, who after three painful psychotic breaks, threw himself under a train. Her insights include her failure to be angry with him because she admits, " the possibility of unendurable suffering." At other points she admits the relief who are survivors and the magic thought that this addition of misery has protected her from her own suicide. "Victor had exhausted our tragedy quota. It would be a long time before anyone else would have to die."

She also paints a caring, but liminal, portrait of a friend haunted by extensive ghosts. The cameos flesh out a man who offered much to treasure to his friends. And she relives the instances of intimacy he did share with her. I am impressed with the wonderful and insightful prose which proves that a caring tribute may remain even years into the future.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Meditation on friendship and grief February 6, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I downloaded this book after seeing it recommended on Salon and want to recommend it to others. The Guardians is a deeply felt meditation on friendship and grief. Its nonlinear format fits the topic--the reader circles with the writer around the circumstances of her friend Harris's death and their friendship. The prose struck me as beautiful at times, but also honest. The book was spare and specific aspects of the deceased friend's life are not presented. Perhaps this was done purposefully out of respect for his family and friends. Nonetheless, its description of bereavement is powerful. The Guardians reminded me of the value of well-written memoir.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful April 18, 2013
By Jos
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A friend introduced me to Manguso's writing. I am so so glad she did. It's just like reading something delicious.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thanks January 24, 2013
By acb27
Poignant and deeply personal, grappling with the timelessness of emotions and randomness of memories......the insistence upon pointing the reader towards a medical/medication explanation of the choice (non choice really if medication was the culprit) only and needlessly detracts from the ultimate unknowable cause of her anguish.
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More About the Author

Sarah Manguso's book Ongoingness: The End of a Diary, is forthcoming on March 3, 2015. Her previous book, The Guardians (2012), was named one of the top 10 books of the year by Salon. Her memoir The Two Kinds of Decay (2008) was named an Editors' Choice by the New York Times Book Review and a Best Book of the Year by the Independent, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Telegraph, and Time Out Chicago. Her other books include the story collection Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape (2007), included in in McSweeney's One Hundred and Forty-Five Stories in a Small Box, and the poetry collections Siste Viator (2006) and The Captain Lands in Paradise (2002), which was named a Favorite Book of the Year by the Village Voice. Honors for her writing include a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Rome Prize. Her essays have appeared in Harper's, the New York Review of Books, and the New York Times Magazine, and her poems have won a Pushcart Prize and appeared in four editions of the Best American Poetry series. She grew up near Boston and now lives in Los Angeles.

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