“Think of this as a short book composed entirely of what I hoped would be a long book’s quotable passages,” states Manguso in one of the 300 aphorisms and ‘arguments’ (as in ‘the argument of the story’ rather than a disputation) that comprise this enjoyable little book. Indeed the whole does feel as if it bears some relation to another considerably longer but nonexistent text, either as a reader’s quotings or marginalia, or as a writer’s folder of sentences-to-use-sometime or jottings towards a novel she has not yet written (“To call a piece of writing a fragment, or to say that it’s composed of fragments, is to say that it or its components were once whole but are no longer”). Many of the aphorisms are pithy and self-contained, often dealing with awkwardness and degrees of experiential dysphoria (so to call it), and other passages, none of which are more than a few sentences long, are distillates or subsubsections of stories that are not further recorded but which can be felt to pivot on these few sentences. Some of the ‘arguments’ reveal unexpected aspects of universal experiences (“When the worst comes to pass, the first feeling is relief” or “Hating is an act of respect” or “Vocation and ambition are different but ambition doesn’t know the difference”) and others are lighter, more particular (and, I'm afraid, a few do belong on calendars on the walls of dentists’ waiting rooms). Some of the arguments are just singular observations: “The boy realises that if he can feed a toy dog a cracker, he can just as easily feed a toy train a cracker” or “Many bird names are onomatopoeic - they name themselves. Fish, on the other hand, have to float there and take what they get.” To read the whole book is to feel the spaces and stories that form the invisible backdrop for these scattered points of light, and the reader is left with a residue similar to that with which you are left having read a whole novel.