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Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  2,566 ratings  ·  371 reviews
“[Manguso] has written the memoir we didn’t realize we needed.” —The New Yorker

In Ongoingness, Sarah Manguso continues to define the contours of the contemporary essay. In it, she confronts a meticulous diary that she has kept for twenty-five years. “I wanted to end each day with a record of everything that had ever happened,” she explains. But this simple statement belies
Hardcover, 104 pages
Published March 3rd 2015 by Graywolf Press
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  2,566 ratings  ·  371 reviews

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Vincent Scarpa
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"Time punishes us by taking everything, but it also saves us—by taking everything."

Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I adored this. When it arrived, I just wanted to have a peak at the first page and suddenly I was a third of the way through. There is just something hypnotizing about Sarah Manguso’s writing and I cannot wait to pick up more of her books.

This is a book about a diary, without any quotes taken from that diary at all. As such it is obviously an incomplete text – but some reason I cannot even put into words it spoke deeply to me. Sarah Manguso kept a diary, obsessively so, for years: “I wrote about
Leigh Stein
Apr 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“Nothing’s gone, not really. Everything that’s ever happened has left its little wound.” You will devour this book.
Julie Ehlers
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ongoingness is difficult to talk about, because the book is essentially a document talking about another document, so any review of it is a document talking about a document talking about a document. The farther one gets from the original document, the more abstract the whole thing becomes. I’ll do my best.

Sarah Manguso kept a daily diary for many years; then she stopped keeping one. This book is about both of those things. No excerpts from the diary are included--Ongoingness is simply about th
Lee Klein
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
So short and spare it felt good to read in a day and write a review, adding to my "2017-read" list. But it's so unspecific in its language (definitely hurt my estimation of it that I read this after KOK's perfectly descriptive, world-evoking, utterly more animated and alive Autumn) -- and for a book about memory (always fertile ground for literary agrarianism) it underwhelms (let's just say that the patron saint of memory, Monsieur Proust, compares favorably to this). Pregnancy brain bits were i ...more
Gretchen Rubin
More Manguso (I love her work!). I'm very interested in unconventional formats, so this was of great interest to me.
Sian Lile-Pastore
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Beautiful book about writing diaries, memory, loss, motherhood and time. Profound but also slight and short, reminded me a little of Rebecca Solnit - will be reading more.
Lucy Dacus
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
As a life-long compulsive journaler, this got to me. It's a short read, full of insight about time, motherhood, memory, love, meaning, aging, writing, all sorts of good stuff. I'll be revisiting.
Dec 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
I could have written this book. Not in the way that people claim that anyone can write a book, but in the sense that every word of this book felt as true and as real to me as if I had written them myself. Forty pages in and tears were rolling down my cheeks because I felt like I understood myself better than I ever had before, understood life like I never had before. "I knew I was grown up when I spent time with them and felt not just the weight of my old memories but the weight of theirs, from ...more
Elizabeth A
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016, essays, non-fiction
I'm a person who has kept a journal since I was a young girl, and I am convinced that to non-journal keepers, keeping a journal for long periods of time must feel like a Jedi Knight skill. It might well be, I don't know. I'm too close to the pages to be able to make an objective assessment. I know many people who struggle with keeping a journal, and personally I cannot imagine why they do. But then, I also cannot imagine why people who can read don't. All this means is a lack of imagination on m ...more
May 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm left a bit speechless. I couldn't stop reading, and I couldn't stop thinking "this is too much, you need to stop and think about some of these things".
Mar 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
I found this book shockingly short, given its subject matter. The author keeps an obsessively meticulous 800,000 word journal for 25 years, then writes a book about it that's only 100 or so pages long?

The author was fixated on the need to document every detail of her life, and seemed terrified about the passing of time and the chance that she might forget something.

I assumed she had some sort of mental disorder. I read on to discover what had finally allowed her to loosen her grip on the all-co
The striving to remember always amazes me, because I spend so much time trying to forget.
- ̗̀ amy ̖́-
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-stars, non-fiction, 2020
the main hook of this book for me was that it’s about manguso’s diary but she never once quotes it. it’s an interesting concept even though maybe it doesn’t sound that interesting. her writing is beautiful and well constructed and honest without taking itself too seriously. i need to read more from her!
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My first manguso... brilliant. I cannot wait to read more of her work. Read in one sitting. I wish to quote the whole book but instead I will leave you with this,

“Maybe the trouble is that the shape of life is elastic, that it can feel and be full at variable levels of fullness. Or maybe we’re poor judges of our own lives’ fullness. Or maybe the concepts of emptiness and fullness are poor metaphors for happiness, if in fact happiness is what we’re talking about.”

“I used to harbor a continuous
Apr 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shortly after the turn of the millennium, I read the diary from beginning to end. Finding nothing of consequence in 1996, I threw the year away.
I’d already shredded the volumes I wrote in high school—not to keep them from others but to keep them from myself. So it seems I didn’t want to remember everything.
I wanted to remember what I could bear to remember and convince myself it was all there was.

As a faithful diarist since the age of 7, I read this little book quickly and with great interest.
Apr 30, 2018 rated it liked it
There are many words of wisdom in this book. Here are two thoughts:

"Perhaps all anxiety might derive from a fixation on moments--an inability to accept life as ongoing. . . . Then I came to understand that the forgotten moments are the price of continued participation in life, a force indifferent to time."

I've given the book only three stars simply because I didn't feel a deep-enough connectedness to this writing: I don't keep a diary, and I am not a mother. Both of these experiences are of grea
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Here are the circumstances of reading Sarah Manguso’s Ongoingness: I am in a mega-reading rut. Nothing looks good. Everything takes too long. I’m tired of buying new books, but I’ve already read at least half of all of the olds. I finished a graphic novel and had to use Wikipedia like Cliff Notes to get a sense of what had happened. I sent a friend an email to ask what she was reading. Seemed like we would have similar taste, but different enough to not end up with a recommendation that I was al ...more
Patty Gone
Oct 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Manguso's prose leans heavily on aphorism, rarely allowing anecdotes to spin out, bulge, or implode. Its neatness and reliance on interpretation rather than the description of events poses the book in stark contrast to the diaristic form, the aim of which, at least for Manguso, is to capture and store detail. The book’s subject is keeping a diary, and in its decision to never quote from Manguso's supposed 8000 page catalog of her life, becomes an anti-diary, an argument championing experience ov ...more
Many of us keep journals to record our thoughts and activities. We keep mood journals to record our moods. Some people scrapbook to have things to look back on at a later date. Remember all the concerts we went to. Remember the people we dated. Remember various decades, specific years, turmoil and triumphs. But is that the only reason we write things down. And does one keep the journal, keep recording or does one get rid of the journals? I found myself involved from the first page. It’s a gorgeo ...more
Michael Padden
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
I love this book. It's a fast read and a brilliant meditation on time, and how we perceive ourselves in the present and the past. I'm at a place in my life where I feel like I'm constantly striving for something and this keeps me feeling vaguely unsettled much of the time. Manguso does a great job of addressing these feelings and how they shift and change over time. I felt like I was getting some wonderful advice from a mentor or an older sibling, but it didn't feel like a self help book. She in ...more
Dec 16, 2015 added it
Shelves: read-in-2016
Is it possible to have a favorite book of 2016 on the 5th day of the year? A book you want to gift to everyone you know, and one which makes you realize that you love your friends more for knowing they would appreciate it?

This read like an essay version of Nayyirah Waheed's poetry. It is an unusual book in its content and its form, and one I treasured all the more for it.

Beauty, beauty, beauty.
Amar Pai
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was bummed when she has her kid (midway through the book) and then stops writing about anything else

Though I try to log only the first time he does yet another extraordinary thing, the diary is now mostly about my son

I found this very depressing.

Like when people set their profile picture on Facebook to a picture of their kid. UGH I find that depressing as well

It's as if your friends have been bodysnatched and replaced with their spawn
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
This little volume did nothing for me except think that the author was OCD.
Apr 15, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Depressing and painfully pretentious.
Aug 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I guess I like books about diarists and diaries (in addition to books set in/about airports). As a diary keeper myself, from a long line of diarists.

This was another ‘minimalist’ book. Kind of like reading a collection of greeting cards written by a diarist.
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Manguso's fixation with memories is something I can relate to. (Though, I am not as passionate about it as she was.) I think maybe it is something all diarists tend to do. We record and record our days and thoughts. It is this longing to never forget or to always go back to a former self.
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
I loved certain passages and ideas in this book, especially as someone deeply preoccupied with records and archives, but the writing felt too fragmented to understand and I would have loved to see the ideas developed further.
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A book about keeping a diary, about memory, about forgetting, about time, about the self, about motherhood. I'm sad I had a copy from the library because I just wanted to highlight almost the entire thing.
Ericka Clouther
I liked this book a lot. It's only a little bit about the author keeping a diary, it's actually about time, and life, death, and motherhood. It conjured up my horror at our our ceaseless march towards not just death but oblivion. I'm a complicated type of Christian that doesn't think the universe owes me eternity, but rather that I owe the universe a lot of sacrifice to others. So to me, as to many others, the oblivion is a real thing that makes it hard to justify the little daily acts, and losi ...more
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Sarah Manguso (b. 1974) is an American writer and poet. In 2007, she was awarded the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize Fellowship in literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her memoir The Two Kinds of Decay (2008), was reviewed by the New York Times Sunday Book Review and named a 2008 "Best Nonfiction Book of the Year" by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Her poems and prose have appeared in The

Articles featuring this book

We all have our reading bucket lists. James Mustich's 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die is bound to seriously expand that list...
111 likes · 55 comments
“Time punishes us by taking everything, but it also saves us — by taking everything.” 31 likes
“It was a failure of my imagination that made me keep leaving people. All I could see in the world were beginnings and endings: moments to survive, record, and, once recorded, safely forget. I knew I was getting somewhere when I began losing interest in the beginnings and the ends of things. Short tragic love stories that had once interested me no longer did. What interested me was the kind of love to which the person dedicates herself for so long, she no longer remembers quite how it began. ♦” 16 likes
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