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300 Arguments: Essays (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

In three sentences or less, she makes 300 statements about how she sees her world with both humor and profound depth. I've read this book a million times and something new always hits me.

— From Stephanie

February 2017 Indie Next List

“Sarah Manguso is a master of the minimalist form. She can do more with a sentence than many authors can do with an entire book. In this collection of brief ruminations, she covers everything from sex and mortality to ambition, mental illness, writing, desire, and motherhood. These 'arguments' are aphoristic gems in which a seemingly random thought has hardened into a bold, cutting, crystalline truth. There is no exposition. Manguso lets these minute statements stand on their own, and the reader is left with nowhere to hide from direct engagement with a most remarkable literary mind.”
— Keaton Patterson, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX

Top Ten

“I'm blown away by 300 Arguments, a wild, literary sleight-of-hand on par with the best of David Byrne or Jenny Holzer. Sarah Manguso packs so much feeling and genius into such compact little pieces. I keep watching, but I can't figure out how she does it.”
— Jamie Schwesnedl, Moon Palace Books, Minneapolis, MN

Winter 2019 Reading Group Indie Next List

“Honest, cathartic, witty, and unexpected, Sarah Manguso’s 300 Arguments is something between poetry and essay, observation and aphorism. It’s insightful on a deeply intuitive level, and marvelously necessary.”
— Jill Owens, Powell's Books, Portland, OR


“Jam-packed with insights you’ll want to both text to your friends and tattoo on your skin….A sweeping view of a human mind trying to make order of the world around us.”—Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere

There will come a time when people decide you’ve had enough of your grief, and they’ll try to take it away from you.

Bad art is from no one to no one.

Am I happy? Damned if I know, but give me a few minutes and I’ll tell you whether you are.

Thank heaven I don’t have my friends’ problems. But sometimes I notice an expression on one of their faces that I recognize as secret gratitude.

I read sad stories to inoculate myself against grief. I watch action movies to identify with the quick-witted heroes. Both the same fantasy: I’ll escape the worst of it.

—from 300 Arguments

A “Proustian minimalist on the order of Lydia Davis” (Kirkus Reviews), Sarah Manguso is one of the finest literary artists at work today. To read her work is to witness acrobatic acts of compression in the service of extraordinary psychological and spiritual insight.

300 Arguments, a foray into the frontier of contemporary nonfiction writing, is at first glance a group of unrelated aphorisms. But, as in the work of David Markson, the pieces reveal themselves as a masterful arrangement that steadily gathers power. Manguso’s arguments about desire, ambition, relationships, and failure are pithy, unsentimental, and defiant, and they add up to an unexpected and renegade wisdom literature.

About the Author

Sarah Manguso is the author of a memoir, The Two Kinds of Decay; books of poetry, Siste Viator and The Captain Lands in Paradise; and a short-story collection, Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape.

Praise For…

“This collection transcends any category to be something totally its own. . . . Manguso's captured the argumentative voice of a mindsifting through a problem, circling it, animated by sorting it out. . . . If this is poetry, it's the poems of quarrel. And if it's nonfiction, it's not the nonfiction of fact. Instead, it's the nonfiction which maps us to our own thinking. We enter Manguso's mind - her puzzle,pleased to be puzzled, too.”—NPR “All Things Considered”

“[300 Arguments] reads like you've jumped into someone's mind.”—NPR “Weekend Edition”

300 Arguments is a delectation, a book whose great precision and honesty constitute an irresistible incitement to think.”San Francisco Chronicle

“[300 Arguments is] inimitably Manguso, but, suddenly, wonderfully, universally, ours.”Washington Independent Review of Books

“This tiny gem of a book is jam-packed with insights you’ll want to both text to your friends and tattoo on your skin. It’s an intimate portrait of a woman at work, and a sweeping view of a human mind trying to make order of the world around us.”Omnivoracious

“[Manguso’s arguments] are pithy and wry, with a melancholy undercurrent that takes a beat to set in—like a vaccine whose pinch gives rise to a muscular ache.”The Nation

“Sarah Manguso paints a mostly opaque, but at times penetratingly clear, self-portrait of a female writer at work. . . . The narrator’stemper is mercurial; economical sentences range in tone from pithy and sardonic to tender and deeply empathetic. . . . But by theflip of a page, this wise and compassionate narrator descends into punchy one-liners that are darkly funny and sharper around theedges.”Hazlitt

300 Arguments is the book of aphorisms that I’ve been waiting for: trenchant, witty, and sometimes absurd. . . . Perhaps that’s whyI’m so drawn to it: each nugget of wisdom is something I’m tempted to share on social media or email to a friend. Sometimesbrevity is exactly what we need to make sense of the complicated world we live in.”—Michele Filgate, Literary Hub

“Perspective-altering. . . . The accumulation of these entries has a certain difficult-to-deny power. . . . I wanted to gift it to everyone Iknow, read it aloud to strangers on the bus, and transcribe it by hand in its entirety like a holy text.”—Joshua James Amberson, Portland Mercury

“Manguso’s prose is as succinct and revelatory as ever in this collection of aphorisms that quickly gathers momentum, becoming the self-portrait of a writer whose wisdom leaves one dazzled.”—Booksmith recommendation, San Francisco Chronicle

“[300 Arguments] beckons the reader to return, to read a sentence, and put it down again. . . . Her arguments . . . are crystallineand often walloping. . . . There is ambition leaking out of every page.”New Republic

“Manguso resuscitates the aphorism from its descent into maxim, bringing it back as a spur to thought. . . . Manguso’s unsettlingarguments deliver the world back to the reader at 300 different, jarring angles.”Literary Hub

“Manguso’s experience of life, in the little prose sachets that open and blossom page by page, are fragrant with undisclosed potentials. . . . Cosmos bloom and fold back up again, such that the work’s insights pulse line by line, and begin to hum. . . . The inherent volition of one epigram glides you into the next, transports you. . . . The Arguments has that rarer bird among the specimens: poignancy.”Third Coast Review

“This remarkable work of art is a masterpiece of compression, each section its own unique piece to a larger puzzle that eventually builds an entire universe, with lines that streak like comets through the space breaks, such as: ‘Bad art is from no one to no one’ and ‘Happiness begins to deteriorate once it is named.’”—Hannah Tinti, BookPage

“Manguso’s arguments speak to mortality, anxiety, depression, heartbreak, and motherhood. Her blatant truth-telling is addictive; readers will find it difficult not to devour these 90 pages filled with wisdom, witticisms, and humor in one sitting.”City Pages (Minneapolis)

“[300 Arguments] merits a wide audience. . . . Manguso writes powerfully about desire, [and]. . . offers a master class in a specific strain of desire: envy. . . . My field test for writing is like this: Does it produce a rueful inner smile or shudder of recognition? Manguso’s arguments do so many times.”Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

300 Arguments is a minimalist’s handbook: wisdom delivered in tiny doses.”San Jose Mercury News

“Part memoir, part advice, part laughter, and all unflinching honesty. . . . This is life experience and real wisdom distilled onto a few short pages.”Rain Taxi Review of Books

“A writer's life, solitary and complex, broken apart—not into shards but puzzle pieces. . . . A slim, poetic self-portrait that opens up as you read it and stays in the mind.”Kirkus Reviews

“Inventive. . . . All of life’s great subjects are here—love, relationships, happiness, desire, and vulnerability on the personal side; effort, luck, envy, and success vs. failure on the professional side—in one- and two-sentence nuggets of compressed insight. . . . It will require multiple rereadings to absorb the book’s rewarding wisdom.”Publishers Weekly

“Alternately insightful, humorous and thought-provoking, [Manguso’s] 300 Arguments offers enough variety, depth and substance torange from the deeply personal to the universally relatable. . . . 300 Arguments paints a vivid, intimately nuanced portrait of itsauthor in the way few long-form essays manage. . . . [It] should be required reading for all those experiencing crises of confidenceand the otherwise deleterious effects of the human condition.”Spectrum Culture

300 Arguments shook me. It’s dark, but the darkness comes from a refusal to look away. Its humor is wounded but present. Is it possibly a sort of novel? The writer says somewhere, ‘This book is the good sentences from the novel I didn’t write.’ The idea holds up when applied, and the attentive reader will intuit an encompassing narrative. Sarah Manguso deserves many such readers.”—John Jeremiah Sullivan

“A new book by Sarah Manguso is always a cause for celebration. She is a poet-philosopher of the highest order who combines a laser-sharp intellect with a lyric gift and a capacious, generous heart. She is one of my favorite writers, and with 300 Arguments she deepens her inquiry into the very essence of what it is to be human.”—Dani Shapiro

“If there were a literary equivalent of the debate as to who is the best pound-for-pound boxer currently fighting, then word for word, Sarah Manguso’s 300 Arguments—weighing in at a mere ninety pages—would surely emerge as one of the smartest and most stimulating books of recent years.”—Geoff Dyer

“It’s sometimes less important to know what we need to know than how we need to know it. 300 Arguments is an uncommon commonplace book of the everyday—a glittering reference book for life.”—Joanna Walsh, author of Break.Up

“Every era has its wise aphorist. Sarah Manguso is ours and joins Marcus Aurelius, Thomas à Kempis, Montaigne.”—Edmund White

“Aphorism has always given me a mixture of intense pleasure and pain. At its best—and Manguso’s work is, without doubt, at the pinnacle—it’s like someone looking you in the eye and seeing you for exactly who and what you are. The simultaneous fear and relief is dizzying. Every perfectly crafted sentence is replete with insight, self-knowledge, and—even in anger or self-accusation—a deep compassion which will have me re-reading her for the rest of my life.”—Luke Kennard, author of Transit

Product Details
ISBN: 9781555977641
ISBN-10: 1555977642
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Publication Date: February 7th, 2017
Pages: 104
Language: English