Sarah Manguso: Striking Grief

Sarah Manguso: Striking Grief

The Guardians book cover Sarah MangusoPrize-winning poet and memoirist Sarah Manguso discusses her latest book, The Guardians, about the unexpected death of her best friend.


Zola: Denial is one of the book’s central themes. Do you think it’s always a bad thing? Can denial ever be useful?

Sarah Manguso: Of course.

Zola: New York City is essentially a character in the book. Has your relationship with the city changed since Harris died? If so, how?

SM: I wander less, without Harris. But of course I’m also five years older and busier.

Zola: There are many references to the supernatural in the book—dybbuks, Hawaiian ghosts and ghost dogs, an apparition in a hotel room, seeking out a psychic, and eerie coincidences. Did you have a strong connection to the supernatural before Harris’s death?

SM: No, I’d always been an empiricist. My wanting to talk to a psychic was a symptom of a character-deranging grief.

Zola: Did you read any books to help cope with your grief? Did any of them help?

SM: I found solace in many books, but Peter Handke’s short book about his mother’s suicide, A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, was particularly good to me, especially its last sentence: “Someday I will write about all this in greater detail.”

This article originally appeared on Zola Books.